Busch Bounces Back to Finish Sixth at Pocono LONG POND, Pa. (June 6, 2010) - Miller Lite "Vortex" Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Steve Addington-led Penske Racing "Blue Deuce" Team bounced back from adversity again today in the Gillette 500...
Busch Bounces Back to Finish Sixth at Pocono
LONG POND, Pa. (June 6, 2010) - Miller Lite "Vortex" Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Steve Addington-led Penske Racing "Blue Deuce" Team bounced back from adversity again today in the Gillette 500 here at Pocono Raceway, coming from a lap down to finish a strong sixth. Busch's eighth top-10 finish in the first 14 points-paying race of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup season moved him up into the top-five in the point standings for the first time this year.
"This is a day where we struggled and we made good of it," Busch said of his 144th career top-10 finish in 342 races. "It was an eventful day. I really don't know how we survived like we did. We really missed the setup big. It was one of those days when it wasn't pretty. To finish sixth, wow! We'll take it and go on to the next one. We had to go for broke because of our speed today. It was off, so we had to pit for the final time when we could make it to the end. With that green-white-checkered at the end, I was hoping there wasn't another one because we would have been very, very close on fuel."
Busch's incredible comeback capped off what was quite a bazaar race day here in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Scheduled to begin just after 1:00 p.m. local time, the race didn't get green-flagged until just after 3:00 p.m. The field of cars made their parade laps leading up to the original display of the green flag, but a storm front moved through the area and sent the drivers to pit road and the fans running for shelter.
Even when the drivers were called back to their cars after the track-drying was completed some 90 minutes later, they had to wait for officials to patch a huge hole at the exit of pit road onto the track before the event could be started. Since the rain had washed all the rubber off the track, officials opted to call a "competition yellow" 15 laps into the race.
Busch started today's race from the fourth spot and felt the wrath of an ill-handling race car almost immediately. By the time the "competition yellow" was displayed, he had fallen to 10th and had bounced his right-rear quarter panel off the outside wall. Busch's problems magnified when NASCAR officials made him return to pit road a second time during the caution period due to a missing valve stem cap on the right front.
Busch fell to 41st for the Lap 18 restart. With the handling issues and a lack of cautions, the "2 car" was put a lap down by leader Clint Bowyer on Lap 66. Crew chief Addington, team engineer Dave Winston and crew continued to massage their Dodge Charger's chassis during a long stretch of racing with green-flag pit stops.
When the second caution flag of the race flew on Lap 96, Addington called for Busch to stay out, take the "wave around" to return to the lead lap and then pit after the race had returned to green. That move allowed Busch to return to the lead lap and "buy time" for an additional yellow and the opportunity to make more adjustments on the Miller Lite Dodge.
Their time ran out on Lap 153, when leader Denny Hamlin got around Busch to again put him a lap down. However, a caution for debris during the very next circuit brought out the third yellow flag on Lap 154 and Busch received the "Lucky Dog" free pass to return to the lead lap.
Busch pitted on Lap 156 for four tires and fuel and was 24th for the Lap 157 restart. Casey Mears and Elliott Sadler had an incident the very next lap to bring out the fourth caution flag of the race. Addington called Busch down pit road again on Lap 160 for four tires and fuel. He immediately coached his driver to go into a fuel-conserving mode.
The "Blue Deuce" was 17th on the Lap 165 restart. Busch was able to do some spectacular driving in his maneuver to stay out of a Lap 166 crash that took out Jamie McMurray. During that yellow, all the cars in front of Busch hit pit road and he was able to pick up bonus points for leading the race.
After the Lap 170 restart, Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr., blasted around to take the lead on Lap 172. He continued to lead on Lap 174, when the sixth caution of the race flew, this also for debris. After the Lap 178 restart, the cars that had pitted two cautions earlier had made their moves back up through the pack. Busch had fallen to eighth on Lap 187, while Hamlin had passed second-place Tony Stewart and had his sights on leader Hornish. Hamlin passed Hornish's Mobil 1 Dodge for the lead on Lap 188, with Kyle Busch moving up through the field and into third.
Kurt Busch had fallen to 11th on Lap 199 of the scheduled 200-lap race, when contact from Kevin Harvick sent Joey Logano into a spin to bring out a final caution and set up a green-white-checkered finish. Hamlin lined up as the leader for the Lap 202 restart, with Stewart second, Kyle Busch third, Harvick fourth and Hornish fifth. Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya, Bowyer and Kurt Busch completed the top-10 drivers at the time.
Hamlin had already taken the white flag and made the race official when a horrifying multi-car crash took place in the Tunnel Turn area, taking out the cars of Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Martin Truex Jr. and several others. Fortunately, no drivers were injured.
At the finish, it was Hamlin claiming the win by 0.413 seconds over Kyle Busch. Stewart was third, with Harvick fourth and Johnson fifth. Kurt Busch came home with an impressive sixth, with Burton seventh, Montoya eighth, Bowyer ninth and A.J. Allmendinger 10th. Hornish had used up his tires earlier trying to hold off the Joe Gibbs cars and had to settle for 11th, with Carl Edwards, Logano, Ryan Newman, and David Reutimann rounding out today's top-15 finishers. Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski was credited with a 21st-place finish here today.
After 14 races have been placed into the 2010 record book, Harvick continues to lead the Sprint Cup point standings with 2,063 points. Kyle Busch remained second and has 2,044 points. Hamlin gained two spots and his 1,927 points. Matt Kenseth fell a spot to fourth and has 1,893 points. Kurt Busch climbed a spot to fifth and now has 1,881 points. Johnson (1,849) is sixth, with Jeff Gordon (1,827) seventh, Burton (1,803) eighth, Edwards (1,729) ninth, Biffle (1,727) 10th, Martin (1,711) 11th and Bowyer (1,686) round out the top-12. Kurt Busch now trails leader Harvick by 182 points and is 163 points behind his brother in second. He is only 46 points behind third-place Hamlin. Most important is that he is now 196 points ahead of 13th position (Stewart) with 12 races remaining before the Chase field is set.
"We were way off at the start of the race and don't understand why," Addington said after the battle had concluded. "When we get back, we'll go over the car and try to figure out what happened. We were trying to make the best out of a bad situation. We came in and topped off and got four tires and asked him to save fuel from that point on and it worked out for us. I'm just really proud of everybody hanging in there, especially Kurt. We got a sixth-place finish out of it."
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to the two-mile Michigan International Speedway for the next round of competition.