Kurt Busch Starting 20th on Sunday at Martinsville

March 29, 2008

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 28, 2008) - After turning in the ninth-fastest lap in practice Friday at Martinsville Speedway, Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch of Penske Racing had high hopes of recording his best qualifying effort of the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. But, he turned in a official lap of 19.968 seconds (94.832 mph) in qualifying and his Pat Tryson-led team will have to settle for starting 20th in Sunday's Goody's Cool Orange 500.

"We actually thought that we might have a small shot at winning the pole here today, but when we saw that (Jeff) Gordon put a 66 (19.666-second lap) on the board, we knew we should just be hoping to be able to back up our practice lap and get a good top-10 starting spot," Busch said after making his qualifying effort. "We might have been able to accomplish that, but we didn't get the brakes heated up on the warm-up lap and I couldn't get into the corners like we needed to.

"Hey, at least we're not starting 36th like we have been," said Busch. "When the clouds rolled in this afternoon, we all looked at each other and said, ‘Man, if it rains, we'll still start 10th here this weekend.' It's just been a big relief to get through the first five races and get back here under normal conditions."

"It's a lot my fault and I really feel bad about it," said crew chief Tryson. "I didn't get on the radio and warn Kurt to get his brakes warmed up when he went out. If we'd turned in just what we ran in practice (19.933-second/94.998 mph lap), we'd be starting several more spots up the ladder. Qualifying was just that tight here today."

Tryson certainly was correct about just how close the competition was during Friday's session. Less that one-tenth of a second separated 13th-place Ryan Newman of Penske Racing from 26th-place starter Elliott Sadler. In three different situations, three different drivers turned in the exact same qualifying times.

Even at the back of the field, it was unbelievably tight. Dario Franchitti and Kyle Petty, two of the "go-or-go-home" drivers, turned in the exact same times. Franchitti got the 43rd and final starting spot, while Petty had to load up and go home. The deciding factor resorted back to the 2008 points.

Gordon will start on the pole here on Sunday, after turning in the fastest lap of 19. 666 seconds (96.288 mph). Denny Hamlin starts second (19.775/95.957), Aric Almirola (19.780/95.733) goes third, David Ragan fourth (19.814/95.569) and Jamie McMurray starts fifth (19.830/95.492). Kasey Kahne, Ken Schrader, Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson round out Sunday's top-10 starters.

Positions 11-20, in order, will be Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Newman, Travis Kvapil, David Reutiman, Michael Waltrip, Bill Elliott, Dave Blaney, Greg Biffle and Busch.

Saturday's activity at Martinsville Speedway includes morning practice which is scheduled from 11:30 a.m. till 12: 15 p.m. (live on SPEED-TV) The final "happy hour" practice session is scheduled from 12:50 p.m. till 1:50 p.m. (live on SPEED-TV). Sunday's Goody's Cool Orange 500 has a scheduled 2:00 p.m. EDT starting time here on the scenic little .526-mile paper clip-shaped oval. FOX-TV and MRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action beginning 30 minutes prior to race time.