RICHMOND, Va. (Sept. 8, 2007) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch locked up his spot in this year's Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship with his ninth-place finish in Saturday's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International ...
RICHMOND, Va. (Sept. 8, 2007) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch locked up his spot in this year's Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship with his ninth-place finish in Saturday's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
The top-10 finish placed Busch 10th in the regular season point standings. He is now seeded fifth for the beginning of the 10-race battle for the 2007 championship title.
"It's great to be back and to hear that we finished 10th overall after the first 26 races," Busch said in the RIR media center after the race concluded. "That's a little feather in the cap. It's a nice little note to know that we did a good job over the first 26 races, especially as of late with Pat Tryson coming aboard.
"Since the beginning of July [when Tryson joined the team] it's felt like a very solid race team. We're poised to be a threat in this deal. We have fast race cars. We have consistency and we have patience. And the best thing is we have that experience. Pat has been in the Chase as a crew chief every year that it has existed. I took a year off last year to get the team built up. But here we are and we're ready to go.
"It's great that we've positioned ourselves and got a couple wins to be fifth overall. That's how you have to work the system. Bonus points move you up when the Chase starts, so you better have some wins. For us at Penske Racing, it's great to put one car in. It's great to have one Dodge in the Chase, but we want to have more Penske cars in there and more Dodges next year. So I know those guys will go to work. We're looking forward to it."
Busch started Saturday's race from the 14th spot and was a fixture in the top 10 from lap 50 on. The evening's biggest scare came on lap 242 when Penske Racing teammate Ryan Newman was spun on the frontstretch, collecting some five cars in the incident. Busch slowed and attempted to avoid the melee, but was plowed from the rear by Juan Pablo Montoya, who also received a ram from the rear. The damage proved to be mostly just sheet metal and Busch was able to continue the race with a competitive car.
"Definitely (was a time for concern)," Busch said of that incident. "I saw my teammate get loose or spun by the No. 17 [Matt Kenseth]. Smoke everywhere. The best thing I could've done was just stop and hunker down and wait for the impact. So I held the wheel pretty tight and when you do that you get hit from behind; when you stop like that. Our heart was beating at thousand miles per hour after that cause I figured the rear bumper cover was flapping in the wind or there might be material dragging on the tires. Luckily, there was a red flag at that point. We checked the car out and everything was OK. Our car was a little loose after that. After the crush panels got tore out of the back, the downforce just didn't seem to be there.
"To come home ninth, it's just a testament to what this team is doing. While we stopped on that accident, we were running sixth behind Kenseth and Newman. Since we stopped for the wreck, they decided that we were part of the wreck, I guess. So we lost five spots when we went back green, because they pushed other guys in front of us. So we just didn't gain the track position back, but overall it was a good day."
Busch continued to bounce between eighth and 12th for the remainder of the race and was pleased with his ninth-place finish.
"Man, when I got out of the car after the race and saw all the damage done from that crash, I was totally shocked," Busch said. "I'm sure it looked a lot worse than it really was, as for structural damage of the car. But if I'd been able to see the car from where I was sitting, I would have probably thought that there would be no way we'd be able to run as competitive as we did for the remainder of the race.
"Right there is another example of what Pat Tryson brings to the table. He is so calm under pressure and he stays on top of everything. He kept assuring me that we still had a very competitive car and we were able to get everything we possibly could out of the night."
Jimmie Johnson made it two consecutive victories by taking the win over Tony Stewart by a 3.007-second margin. Rookie David Ragan finished an impressive third, with Jeff Gordon fourth and Johnny Sauter fifth. Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Busch and J.J. Yeley rounded out the top-10 finishers, respectively.
The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup tour now heads to New Hampshire International Speedway for next Sunday's Sylvania 300. The 300-lap, 317.4-mile battle has a 2 p.m. starting time. It will be televised by ABC and broadcast by MRN Radio.