LONG POND, Pa. (June 10, 2007) -- Sunday's 16th-place finish in the weather-troubled Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway wasn't exactly what Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch had hoped for, but considering the circumstances, he walked away with a smile...
LONG POND, Pa. (June 10, 2007) -- Sunday's 16th-place finish in the weather-troubled Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway wasn't exactly what Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch had hoped for, but considering the circumstances, he walked away with a smile on his face.
"We had hoped to finish better, but with the way the last month has gone for us, we'll take it and really bounce back at Michigan next week and Sonoma the next," said Busch, who finished second in both Pocono races last year. "Hopefully, we've paid our dues from last week, made amends like we needed to do and began to put all of that into the past. It was great, from our team's standpoint, to finally get through a race without any incident."
Busch entered this weekend's Pocono race 11th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings, but after receiving a penalty stemming from a pit road altercation in last Monday's race at Dover, Busch was docked 100 points and fell to 18th. His finish Sunday allowed him to climb two spots in the standings, but lose ground in his long-term goal to make it back into the top-12 and earn a spot in this year's Chase for the Championship.
"That just shows how tight it is there between like 12th and 18th, and the big thing is those are the guys we have to focus on beating every week for the next 12 weekends," said Busch, who now trails 12th-place Mark Martin by 132 points. "We can do it; we just have to have some great runs that I'm confident our Miller Lite Dodge team is capable of putting together."
It was a rather strange day in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains. With only a 20 percent chance of precipitation expected, two different shower cells played havoc with the massive 2.5-mile triangular-shaped track. The first weather front hit the track just over an hour prior to the scheduled 2:20 p.m. start of the race. As a result, the green flag wasn't displayed until the complete drying process was completed just after 5 p.m. EDT.
The second weather front hit just after 7 p.m. EDT, forcing NASCAR officials to call the race after 106 laps had been completed.
Jeff Gordon, a three-time Pocono winner entering Sunday's race, used great pit strategy and quite a dose of luck to win his fourth career race at Pocono and post his fourth win of the 2007 season. Gordon gambled by pitting for fuel earlier than the other drivers prior to the race's mid-point and held the lead when the adverse weather finally took its tool on the day's action.
Ryan Newman, Busch's Pence Racing teammate, was in the process of passing Gordon for the lead when the event-ending yellow flag flew for precipitation in the turn 1 area. Newman was credited with his second runner-up finish in a row.
"We were working our way up through there," Busch said of his team's performance. "At times we were as fast as the leader. At other time we weren't quite as quick. Track position is important and we kept getting a little bit at a time. We ended up 16th. We were a little tight in the tunnel turn. I think that's what hurt some of our momentum; otherwise, we were maintaining our pace.
"We can't wait for Michigan next week and Sonoma the following week. Those are tracks where we think we can really make some gains in our catching-up process."
The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup tour now heads to the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway for next Sunday's Citizens Bank 400. The race [400 miles/200 laps] has a 2 p.m. starting time with live coverage provided by TNT and MRN Radio beginning at 1:30 p.m. EDT.