Busch Looks Continue Solid Finishes at Richmond RICHMOND, Va. - It has gone largely unnoticed, but Kurt Busch and his Steve Addington-led Miller Lite Dodge Team have quietly climbed from 14th to seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings...
Busch Looks Continue Solid Finishes at Richmond
RICHMOND, Va. - It has gone largely unnoticed, but Kurt Busch and his Steve Addington-led Miller Lite Dodge Team have quietly climbed from 14th to seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings after the last two races. Busch, Addington and their No. 2 Penske Racing Team are entering this weekend's "Crown Royal Presents the Heath Calhoun 400" at Richmond International Raceway with a budding level of confidence after recording unlikely finishes of a fourth at Texas two weeks ago and an eighth at Talladega last Sunday. "We've been pulling them out and that's the sign of a solid race team," Busch said of the recent string of strong finishes. "We were running between eighth and 12th most of the day at Texas and we stepped it up at the end to finish fourth. When you stop and think about our run at Talladega last Sunday, you have to be pretty impressed. We got crashed early, I got busted for my dumb move of speeding on pit road and we went a lap down late in the race. But somehow, there we were at the end bumping and gouging out an eighth-place finish.
"Sometimes it's good to be like the 'stealth' and fly under the radar screen," Busch said of his climb back up to seventh in the point standings. "The big goal is to be there in the top-12 in the points after 26 races and having performances like we've had in the last couple of races are important in getting us there.
"We're certainly heading into Richmond this weekend hoping to have a strong and solid race from beginning to finish and not having to play 'catch-up' like we've been having to do," said Busch, whose Richmond career record boasts one win, two top-five finishes (finished second there last September) and six top-10s in 18 races. "But, it's a real confidence-builder when you know you are capable of facing the adversity like that head-on and come out of these races with the strong finishes. The 48 team (Jimmie Johnson) has been able to consistently turn potential bad days into good finishes. If we expect to be up there running neck and neck with them when we get back to Richmond for the fall race, we have to be able to do that, too.
"I really think that the last couple of races have been a true statement as to the quality of leadership and level of ability that Steve Addington has as a crew chief," said Busch, as he enters his 10th race with Addington atop the team's pit box calling the shots this weekend at Richmond. "He never gets rocked when bad stuff happens to us on the track and always remains so even-keel. He has a calming effect that just rubs off on everyone around him. He's always calculating, whether it's a situation of getting ahead or playing 'catch-up.' Our team is more solid than it's ever been and Steve is due so much of the credit for that."
Busch started the April 19 Samsung Mobile 500 from the 11th spot, but handling issues had him running 20th near the 100-lap mark. A combination of pit strategy, great work by the "Blue Deuce" over-the-wall gang and effective chassis adjustments worked to get Busch back up in the mix. Four-tire strategy during the final pit stop of the race with 18 laps remaining helped Busch advance from eighth up to fourth during the final laps.
The amount of adversity Busch, Addington and crew overcame at Talladega last Sunday would be enough to fill a full chapter of a book. The "Blue Deuce" started ninth and was a staple among the top 10 cars until Kyle Busch triggered an accident that sent Johnny Sauter's Chevy slamming hard into the side of the elder Busch's Dodge. The team did an incredible job of patching up the damage, but the incident dropped the 2004 champ back to 33rd in the running order.
Busch climbed back as high as 13th before getting slapped with the speeding penalty in exiting the pits after a Lap 146 green-flag pit stop. The violation under the green cost Busch 19.290 seconds in distance to the leader and by Lap 158, the pack had passed and put him a lap down. He was shown as 32nd in the running order, a full lap off the pace. The Miller Lite Dodge Team was able to hang tough and chase the "lucky dog" free pass until getting it when the sixth caution flag of the race flew with six laps left in regulation play. The caution proved to be a huge boost to Busch, Addington and crew in that it not only allowed them to get back on the lead lap, it also provided the opportunity to hit pit road for four fresh Goodyear Tires and remedy a vibration that began shortly after the last pit stop.
Busch displayed his keen survivor abilities during the ensuing three attempts at a green-white-checkered finish. He was 29th and the final car on the lead lap for the first restart. He had climbed to 18th when Joey Logano hit Ryan Newman to trigger another accident and force the second attempt. Busch's evasive move to avoid a Johnson crash after the field went back to green was spectacular as the field went back to caution for one last time. Busch lined up 13th on the third and final attempt of the green-white-checkered finish and managed to gain five spots to finish eighth at the end.
"Kurt has shown why he's a champion driver over the last few weeks and we're having a lot of fun out there," Addington said. "It's the days like we've had the last two weekends that make for title contenders and championship seasons. I'm so proud of Kurt and our Miller Lite Dodge Team for being able to hang on and get all we can out of these races."