Kurt Busch Starting Fifth In Saturday's Dodge Challenger 500 At Darlington

May 9, 2008

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 9, 2008) - Kurt Busch and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Team turned in their best qualifying effort of the 2008 season at Darlington Raceway, taking the fifth starting spot for Saturday night's Dodge Challenger 500.

"It's great to finally have something positive happen for our team," said Busch, who was out 33rd in the qualifying order and turned in an official lap of 178.665 mph (27.478 seconds). "I don't mean to sound greedy but we really had a shot at the pole. We ran a (27.) 47 on our first lap when Pat (Tryson, crew chief) came on the radio to give me the first lap time. I crossed the line on the first lap thinking that I left about a tenth (of a second) on the table.

"On the first lap, I thought I had a great lap in Turns 1 and 2 and that I left some down there in 3 and 4," Busch explained. "I didn't get the first lap time until I was down in the apex of 1 and 2. I did all I could to pick up time in 3 and 4. The bottom line is that if we could have combined 1 & 2 of the first lap and 3 and 4 of the second lap, it would have been a good tenth (of a second) faster. Biffle (Greg, pole winner) beat us by seven-hundredths (of a second). You can do the math.

"Like I said, though, it's just great to have something positive happen to us for a change," said Busch. "We'll take it and at least start the race with smiles on our faces. The goal for our team here tomorrow night is to still be smiling at the end of the race."

Busch's effort was the team's best of the 2008 season and Saturday's race will mark the first time the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge has started in the top five since last November in the 2007 season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a race where Busch finished second.

"I know that it's just qualifying, but there has to be something along the way that turns the tide; there always is it seems," said Tryson. "The great thing about qualifying well here is that it'll mean we'll get a good spot on pit road and we should have excellent track position at the beginning of the race.

"With the new asphalt here, the speeds have risen so much that track position is at a premium because passing will be so difficult," said Tryson. "It's pretty treacherous and has already taken its toll on a lot of teams. Our car still doesn't have a scratch on it. A perfect night for our Miller Lite Dodge Team would be to match that top-five start with a top-five finishing spot. Kurt loves racing here and we're looking forward to tomorrow night's race."

Tryson is certainly correct about the track taking its toll on the competitors. When Sprint Cup time trials were completed here this afternoon, ironically with Robby Gordon smacked the wall in Turn 2. Since practice started here yesterday afternoon, between the Sprint Cup teams and the Nationwide Series teams, there had been 35 different cars that had made significant contact with the wall, with many teams having to resort to backup cars.

Biffle, a two-time winner here on this 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval, picked up his first career Darlington pole. Going out 13th in the qualifying order, Biffle put down a fast lap of 179.442 mph (27.405 seconds).

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fifth to take to the track here this afternoon and his lap of 179.357 mph (27.418 seconds) earned him the outside pole for Saturday night's race. Jimmie Johnson, who crashed in practice and went to a backup car, was a late qualifier and his 179.206 mph (27.441 second) lap earned him the third starting spot. Tony Stewart was 28th in the order and his 179.076 mph (27.461 second) lap grabbed the fourth starting spot. Kurt Busch starts fifth, with Kyle Busch sixth, Elliott Sadler seventh, Jeff Gordon eighth, Scott Riggs ninth and Bobby Labonte 10th.

Busch's Penske Racing rookie teammate Sam Hornish Jr. starts 23rd (176.581 mph/27.849 seconds) and Penske teammate Ryan Newman will start his Alltel Dodge 32nd (175.666 mph/27.994 seconds).

Just how fast is the new asphalt here at Darlington Raceway? The top 38 starters all broke the old track qualifying record here of 173.797 mph set by Ward Burton here in 1996.

"With the brand new pavement and the faster speeds, it will definitely be the ultimate challenge here tomorrow night," said Busch. The speeds just add to it all. That's just part of the equation, because you've always had to apply a mental focus to each and every lap. You really do race the racetrack lap after lap in hopes of being there up front to race the other competitors in the final few laps. Being there at the end will be harder than ever. We just hope we're fortunate enough to do that."

Saturday's Dodge Challenger 500 (367 laps, 501.3 miles) has a 7:20 p.m. EDT starting time and features live coverage by FOX-TV and MRN Radio.