Kurt Busch Seizes Points Lead After Talladega Finish TALLADEGA, Ala (April 26, 2009) - Kurt Busch drove his Miller Lite Dodge to a sixth-place finish in Sunday's Aaron's 499 here at Talladega Superspeedway and saw his sixth top-10 finish of the...
Kurt Busch Seizes Points Lead After Talladega Finish
TALLADEGA, Ala (April 26, 2009) - Kurt Busch drove his Miller Lite Dodge to a sixth-place finish in Sunday's Aaron's 499 here at Talladega Superspeedway and saw his sixth top-10 finish of the 2009 season propel him up into the lead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings after nine races are in the record book.
"That's great (leading the points), but we're smart enough to not put that much into it," Busch said about leading the points for the first time since March 13, 2005. "There's just too much racing left to be done. But it does stand for something we can be awful proud of - that we finally are able to be consistently running up front at most of these tracks now and that's a great feeling for our Miller Lite Dodge Team and for everyone who has been working so hard at Penske Racing. That's a really cool feeling."
Busch started today's race from the 28th position and had already moved into the top-20 when Jeff Gordon got a nudge from Matt Kenseth and spun to trigger a massive crash on Lap 7. Some 12 cars were relegated to the garage and Busch's No. 2 Penske Dodge received substantial damage to the front end and left side. During the ensuing caution, the Pat Tryson-led crew tried to straighten out the bent sheet metal all they could and applied bear-bond tape to holes that were knocked into the body areas.
Busch was 17th on the restart, but was quick to show that his car still had the strength to be a contender. Drafting with Denny Hamlin, the "blue deuce" advanced to the front of the field, taking the lead for the first time on Lap 19.
An amazing performance by the 2004 series champ, who is incredibly still looking for his first career restrictor-plate race victory, saw Busch continuously fight back from adversity to run among the top-five competitors for more than half the race.
Damage done from being involved in the early crash, coupled with an aggressive shock absorber package saw the team struggle to get tires removed from the wheel wells during the pit stops. During a segment of the race when Busch and Kenseth teamed up to bump-draft with each other, the constant pounding that Kenseth applied knocked the bumper panel loose on the rear of Busch's car. The team eventually had to remove that sheet metal. When they did, many drivers were afraid to draft with Busch as they thought his car was too wounded to do any additional bump-drafting.
Perhaps the biggest scare of the day for Busch and crew came on Lap 60 when he was running 11th and making an outside move on rookie Joey Logano. Busch got out of shape and spun wildly down the track and through the infield grass to bring out the fourth caution period of the race. The crew was forced to make two stops under that yellow-flag period to change their flat-spotted tires and attend to broken and bent front-end splitter stays.
Amazingly, Busch continued to display his cool and calm demeanor that is an unusual trait he possesses in this brand of white-knuckled racing. He patiently worked his way back to the front once again and had the lead with 50 laps to go, thanks to drafting help from Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Busch hit pit road for the final time on Lap 147. Tryson's call for fuel only had him out of his pits in only 6.763 seconds and Busch was the leader on the restart with 38 laps remaining in the race.
Brother Kyle Busch was quick to break the single-file racing and started a lower lane to the inside of older brother, Kurt. A third lane evolved in the middle of Lap 169. That led to the eighth caution of the race, when Kyle spun to trigger another multi-car accident that swept up a strong Martin Truex Jr. on Lap 171.
Kenseth led on the Lap 175 restart, with Earnhardt second, Jeff Burton third and Kurt Busch fourth. In what was an unusual but frequent sight here today, a two-car tandem, made up this time by Ryan Newman and Hamlin, drafted to the outside of the lead group of drivers to take the point.
A Lap 179 incident involving the cars of Robby Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, David Stremme and others brought out the ninth yellow flag of the race and set up a four-lap battle to the finish.
"Like they say; the best defense is a good offense," Busch chimed in on his team radio just prior to the Lap 184 return to the green.
Newman led on the final restart, with Earnhardt second, Busch third, Jeff Burton fourth and Logano fifth. With two laps to go, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski shot up through the pack on the outside and cleared the former leaders for the first two spots.
Coming down to the line for the checkered flag, Keselowski tried a brief move to the outside and Edwards blocked. When Keselowski went back to the inside, Edwards' counter move to block sent him sideways up the track. Newman struck Edwards' lifting Ford at such an angle that it launched the car into the outside wheel fence. Amazingly, only a few spectators received minor injuries and no other competitors got caught up in the Edwards' mess. Edwards, in Hollywood fashion, actually climbed from the wreckage and ran across the finish line on foot.
At the finish line, it was Keselowski taking a shocking win in the James Finch-owned Chevrolet. Earnhardt was credited with a runner-up finish, with Newman third, Marcos Ambrose fourth and rookie Scott Speed fifth. Busch finished sixth, with Greg Biffle seventh, Brian Vickers eighth, Logano ninth and Burton 10th. Busch's Penske Racing teammates Stremme and Sam Hornish Jr. finished 31st and 34th, respectively.
"I felt like we put ourselves in position to win on the last restart, being third," said Busch, who was credited with leading the race five times for a total of 13 laps. "That's almost one of the best spots to be in for a restart. We just didn't get a run (push) from behind. Everyone was fanning out trying to get to a top five. No worries for us. We were definitely more competitive than we were at Daytona. (It was) A good effort to be sixth today. It's Talladega. I circled this one on the calendar to just try and survive. I'm glad that we did that. I'm glad our Dodge engine ran all day. That's such a good solid effort...to be eighth two weeks ago, a third and then a sixth today. That's what we have to do."
"It was a good run for us all day," Tryson added. "We had a shot. We just didn't have anybody pushing us there at the end. Unfortunately, we didn't get the help we needed, but it was a good day points wise. All in all, it was a good visit here to Talladega."
Busch's move into the points lead marked the first time for Penske Racing to claim the top spot since the 1-2 finish by Newman and Busch in the 2008 season opener at Daytona on Feb. 17, 2008.
After nine races, Busch leads Gordon by five points (1,299 to 1,294). Johnson (1,235) is third, with Tony Stewart (1,232) fourth and Hamlin (1,190) fifth. Kyle Busch (1,124), Edwards (1,119), Clint Bowyer (1,098), Burton (1,092), Biffle (1,081) David Reutimann (1,077) and Kenseth (1,063) round out the current top-12 in the standings. Stremme (899 points) holds down the 22nd position, with Hornish (775) 31st in driver points.
The Sprint Cup tour now heads to Richmond International Raceway for next weekend's Crown Royal 400. The 400-lap, 300-mile battle on RIR's 0.750-mile oval has a 7:30 p.m. EDT scheduled starting time next Saturday (May 2) and will feature live coverage by FOX-TV and MRN Radio.