Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kurt Busch Looking To Be Good At Pocono This Week Rather Than Lucky

The record book shows that Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch started fourth and finished sixth in the June 6 Gillette Fusion 500 at Pocono Raceway. The 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion and 22-race winner is quick to point out that looking at just the numbers can be quite deceiving.

“I know that looks pretty good on paper when you look back and see that we finished sixth at Pocono when we raced there last back in June,” offered Busch, a two-time winner on the “Tricky Triangle” in 19 prior races entering this weekend’s Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500. “But some times the figures aren’t very representative of what actually went down. That was certainly the case for our Miller Lite Dodge in the June race at Pocono.

“The truth is that we really struggled there in the first race and we were super fortunate to come out of there with that sixth-place finish,” said Busch, now fifth in the Sprint Cup point standings and only two points out of third. “We didn’t run good enough to deserve that finish. We missed the setup big-time; it was one of those days when it wasn’t pretty. But I’m fine with taking it, though, because most of the time it’s a case of us running better than the figures show.

“The bottom line is that we’re heading back to Pocono knowing that we could be in trouble this time around if we don’t have a stronger package,” said Busch, who now holds a 274-point “Chase buffer” over 13th-place Mark Martin with six races remaining to determine this season’s 12 Chase players. “We know that we need to be good instead of lucky there this weekend and we’re definitely looking for a stronger all-around performance.”

In the June Pocono battle, Busch claimed the fourth starting spot in Friday’s qualifying session with his lap of 168.963 mph (53.266 seconds) around the 2.5-mile triangular-shaped track. Busch was only 20th on the speed chart during Saturday’s final “Happy Hour” practice session, turning in a lap of 161.399 mph (55.096 seconds) on the first of the 25 laps he logged.

June’s race start was delayed by two hours due to a storm front that moved through the area. The race was delayed for a period later to allow the track crew to patch a hole at the end of pit road.

Busch’s day in the race began equally as dismal. By the time a “competition yellow” was displayed, he had fallen to 10th and had bounced his right-rear quarter panel off the outside wall. Busch’s problems magnified when NASCAR officials made him return to pit road a second time during the caution period due to a missing valve stem cap on the right front. Busch fell to 41st for the Lap 18 restart. With the handling issues and a lack of cautions, Busch was put a lap down by leader Clint Bowyer on Lap 66. The Steve Addington-led crew continued to massage their Dodge Charger’s chassis during a long stretch of racing with green-flag pit stops.

When the second caution flag of the race flew on Lap 96, Addington called for Busch to stay out, take the “wave around” to return to the lead lap and then pit after the race had returned to green. That move allowed Busch to return to the lead lap and “buy time” for an additional yellow and the opportunity to make more adjustments on the Miller Lite Dodge. Their time ran out on Lap 153, when leader Denny Hamlin got around Busch to again put him a lap down. However, a caution for debris during the very next circuit brought out the third yellow flag on Lap 154 and Busch received the “Lucky Dog” free pass to return to the lead lap.

Busch pitted on Lap 156 for four tires and fuel and was 24th for the Lap 157 restart. Casey Mears and Elliott Sadler had an incident the very next lap to bring out the fourth caution flag of the race. Addington called Busch down pit road again on Lap 160 for four tires and fuel. The “Blue Deuce” was 17th on the Lap 165 restart. Busch was able to do some spectacular driving in his maneuver to stay out of a Lap 166 crash that took out Jamie McMurray. During that yellow, all the cars in front of Busch hit pit road and he was able to pick up bonus points for leading the race.

After the Lap 170 restart, Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr., blasted around to take the lead on Lap 172. He continued to lead on Lap 174, when the sixth caution of the race flew, this also for debris. After the Lap 178 restart, the cars that had pitted two cautions earlier had made their moves back up through the pack. Busch had fallen to eighth on Lap 187, while Hamlin had passed second-place Tony Stewart and had his sights on leader Hornish. Hamlin passed Hornish’s Mobil 1 Dodge for the lead on Lap 188.

Busch had fallen to 11th on Lap 199 of the scheduled 200-lap race, when contact from Kevin Harvick sent Joey Logano into a spin to bring out a final caution and set up a green-white-checkered finish. Hamlin lined up as the leader for the Lap 202 restart and led down to the wire. Hamlin had already taken the white flag and made the race official when a horrifying multi-car crash took place in the Tunnel Turn area, taking out the cars of Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Martin Truex Jr. and several others. Fortunately, no drivers were injured.

At the finish, it was Hamlin claiming the win by 0.413 seconds over Kyle Busch. Stewart was third, with Harvick fourth and Johnson fifth. The “Blue Deuce” driver came home an impressive sixth, with Burton seventh, Montoya eighth, Bowyer ninth and A.J. Allmendinger 10th.

Kurt Busch Press Release - TRPR

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