TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 7, 2007) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch finished seventh in Sunday's UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Superspeedway and climbed to seventh in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings. After the satisfying effort, Busch ...
TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 7, 2007) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch finished seventh in Sunday's UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega Superspeedway and climbed to seventh in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings.
After the satisfying effort, Busch proclaimed it, "a great teamwork day, perhaps the best the 2 and 12 have ever had and hopefully, one of many more to come."
Busch started Sunday's race from the 41st spot after his Friday qualifying lap was thrown out because his Dodge Avenger's front end was too low.
"End of discussion. We paid their penalty by starting at the rear," crew chief Pat Tryson said of the infraction. "We were fine in the pre-qualifying inspection, but low on the front after we made our run. The best we can figure out is that we maybe had a shock malfunction. Anyhow, we don't expect any further action on it."
Busch, Tryson and the crew's game plan was to hover around the rear of the field since they expected an early crash triggered by so many of the front-of-the-pack cars running suspected qualifying setups in the impound race scenario.
Under the day's first caution period, brought out by John Andretti's lap 18 crash, Busch opted not to pit until the last moment, hoping to stay out and lead a lap to get the five-point bonus. That would not happen and Busch hit pit road on lap 21.
They stuck with that plan through the day's second caution period, running as far back as 40th on lap 49. During a series of green-flag pit stops between laps 55 to 60, Busch's two-tire and fuel stop on lap 60 had him up to 14th.. Greg Biffle and David Gilliland got into each other, sending Biffle spinning on lap 63 to bring out the second of nine caution flags.
While several other drivers and teams stuck by their "stay-at-the-rear-and-stay-out-of-trouble" strategies, Tryson set his driver loose.
"If you want to get on up there, go ahead," Tryson radioed Busch on lap 72, as Busch was up to ninth and looking to make his way to the front.
Busch certainly heard that suggestion as he hung with the lead draft for the remainder of the race. As strange as it seemed, there were several instances where the entire field was running single file during the race's midpoint, as drivers using RCR/DEI engines were falling by the wayside. Jeff Burton's Chevrolet blew his engine on lap 93, Martin Truex Jr. lost his motor on lap 113 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. exited the race after 136 laps.
Busch avoided almost certain disaster on lap 145. While running sixth, Bobby Labonte, running directly in front of him, lost control of his Dodge, shot down the track and then back up, collecting 10 cars in the process.
"The 43 just busted loose right in front of us," Busch radioed after his near miss. "That is damned frightening right there."
With the Penske Racing cars of Busch in fifth and Ryan Newman in fourth for the lap 151 restart, the two drivers talked on their two-way radios during the yellow flag laps and discussed their strategy.
Newman and Busch drafted with Tony Stewart for the top three spots on lap 153, just as Ken Schrader crashed in turn 4 to bring out the race's seventh caution flag. Only five laps after the lap 157 restart, Kyle Petty crashed in the same area to cause the race's eighth yellow flag.
With 20 laps remaining, it was Stewart leading, with Newman second, Busch third, Juan Pablo Montoya fourth and Kasey Kahne fifth. Several drivers, who had been laying back the entire race, including the Hendrick cars of Jimmie Johnson, Casey Mears and Jeff Gordon, were now making the move toward the front.
Stewart made a move to the inside to block Johnson's move for the lead and then darted the full width of the track to attempt to get back in line in front of Newman on lap 175, only to see the Newman-Busch tandem cruise by for the top two spots. Just after that happened, a four-car crash involving Greg Biffle, Michael Waltrip, Elliott Sadler and Tony Raines slowed the field for the ninth time.
The race was restarted on lap 181 with eight laps remaining. The single-file restart saw Newman with the lead, Busch in second, Montoya third, Johnson fourth and Kahne fifth. Mike Wallace, Stewart, Mears, Carl Edwards and Reed Sorenson rounded out the top 10.
Newman and Busch led the pack for the first three laps after the restart before the dicing began. The inside lane again cranked up with the Hendrick cars leading the way. Stewart split the pack up the middle and was up to third on lap 184, as Johnson and Gordon made the inside line work. Newman and Busch controlled the outside line, but were momentarily relegated back to sixth and eight in the three-wide pack.
Johnson continued to have the edge until the final lap when Stewart moved again to the outside and Dave Blaney shot up the center. Gordon got help from the rear by Stewart and a great side draft from Blaney to pass teammate Johnson exiting the final turn.
At the checkered flag, it was Gordon taking the win and leading only the final lap. Johnson finished second, with Blaney third, Denny Hamlin fourth and Newman fifth. Mears finished sixth, with Busch seventh and Stewart eighth. Raines and Reed Sorenson rounded out the top-10 finishers, respectively.
"It was interesting," Busch said of the action produced by the new COT cars on the 2.66-mile track. "The cars like to be nose to tail as far as drafting. It seems like the side draft was not as affective, so the rear wing allowed the air to escape off the decklid. That is why I saw more nose-to-tail racing. I did my best to push Newman to victory there at the end.
"Our day was great. We survived and finished in the top 10. We didn't quite lead a lap. It would have been nice to get the five bonus points for that. All-in-all, we consider this a big success. You want to win every race you can, but if you can't, you need a top-10 finish. It was a case of the 2 and 12 making an agreement to work with each other through thick and thin and we were right there helping each other all the way to the checkered flag."
With six Chase races remaining, Busch is now up to seventh in the point standings with 5,475 points. Gordon leads with 5,690 and Johnson is second with 5,681. Busch trails fifth-place Kevin Harvick by only 13 points and he is only 61 points behind fourth-place Stewart.
The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup tour now heads back to Lowe's Motor Speedway for Saturday night's Bank of America 500.
This weekend's schedule at Lowe's Motor Speedway calls for practice on Thursday from 3-4:30 p.m. The single round of qualifying on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. will allocate all 43 starting positions for Saturday night's race. Friday's schedule features practice from 3-3:50 p.m., with the final "Happy Hour" session scheduled from 6:20-7:20 p.m. Saturday's Bank of America 500 has a 7:30 p.m. EDT starting time and the 334-lap, 501-mile race features live coverage by ABC and PRN radio.