Busch 12th At Darlington; Climbs In Standings

May 11, 2008

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 10, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch ran among the top-five for much of the Dodge Challenger 500 at Darlington Raceway and actually led a lap during a green-flag pitting sequence. However, mechanical problems with the right-front suspension caused a disastrous pit stop with less than 100 laps remaining and the team had to mount a valiant charge to finish 12th.

The end result saw Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champ, climb two spots to 22nd in the point standings and, most importantly, close the distance to 12th - and Chase eligibility - from 222 points to 194 points.

"The Miller Lite team did a great job tonight," Busch said, appearing relieved to bounce back from a five-race streak of finishing no better than 23rd which has seen him plummet in the point standings. "The Charlotte test paid dividends. With this right sides being the same as Charlotte here at Darlington, we just kept the same frame of mind for four days straight which really helped us. It will be nice to do that again at the All-Star race and the (Coca-Cola) 600 and try to stick with the same tire and give our team some continuity and hopefully we'll benefit from it."

"It was definitely a bittersweet run for us here tonight," said crew chief Pat Tryson. "It was definitely gratifying to see us up there running competitively again and Kurt raced his tail end off. The bad thing is that we had at worst a top-five car and we didn't get the finish we deserved.

"Kurt had told us earlier in the race that he was having a serious vibration up there in the right front area," Tryson explained. "We were running sixth when we came in for the pit stop with about 90 laps left. The bolts holding the right-front hat had sheared, leaving the wheel spacers loose and not sitting properly. When we went to put the right front tire on, the wheel wouldn't fit flush. By the time we were able to get it on there right, it had taken its toll.

"We fell back as far as 20th or so and Kurt raced his guts out to get back up there to 12th," Tryson added. "What's so disappointing is that for about a quarter of the race Kurt had the fastest car out there. We have to get better overall. Kurt knows that and we all know that. We have to have the equipment capable of getting the job done. Rest assured that we're all trying the best we can to see that we are doing that week in and week out."

Busch started fifth and ran among the top five in the early going. He had slipped to 10th when the first round of green-flag pit stops cycled around on Lap 71, but was credited as leading Lap 60 during the pit stop sequence. After continuously adjusting on the Miller Lite Dodge for a persistent tight chassis condition, Busch had fallen back as far as 13th in the running order prior to the Lap 144 restart after the third caution period of the race.

The serious vibration was first reported by Busch on Lap 168, yet Busch soldiered on. He was running 12th at the race's midpoint (Lap 184) and was fifth on the Lap 240 restart after the fifth yellow flag of the race had flown.

The Miller Lite Team opted to pit for fuel only during the sixth caution, brought out when Brian Vickers spun in Turn 4. The fuel strategy plan was nullified On Lap 279 when the seventh yellow flag of the race flew, this one for debris on the backstretch.

It was during the ensuing trip to the pits under caution that disaster struck Busch, Tryson and crew. Discovering the problem with the right-front suspension components and remedying the situation produced a 29.542-second pit stop, dropping the No. 2 Dodge from sixth to 19th on the Lap 285 restart.

Busch fell as far back as 20th for the Lap 307 restart after the eighth yellow flag and mounted his charge back up to 12th during the remaining laps that went caution-free till the checkered flag fell.

Up front, it was another impressive performance by Kyle Busch as he picked up his third victory of the 2008 season and padded his points lead in the process. The younger Busch Brother spent much of the first third of the race swapping the lead up front. But during a Lap 140 pit stop, a missing lugnut forced the No. 18 Toyota to return to pit road. He had a strong enough car to come from 23rd on the restart to pass Jeff Gordon for the lead on Lap 270.

Kyle Busch came home the winner by 3.115 seconds over runner-up Carl Edwards. Gordon finished third, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. fourth and David Ragan fifth. Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Travis Kvapil, Dave Blaney and Jeff Burton rounded out the top 10. Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex and Clint Bowyer rounded out tonight's top-15 finishers.

Kyle Busch now leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings by 79 points over Jeff Burton (1,690 to 1,611). Earnhardt is third (1,556), Hamlin fourth (1,500) and Bowyer fifth (1,490).

The tight battle for the 12th and final Chase-eligible spot got even tighter. Ryan Newman's 37th-place finish here tonight dropped him to 13th in the standings and allowed Ragan to move into the top 12. Only two points separate 12th and 13th after 11 races have been put into the 2008 record book.

Kurt Busch is now 22nd in the standings with 1,072 points. He now trails 12th-place Ragan by 194 points with 15 races remaining to see who qualifies for the 2008 Chase for the NASCAR Championship.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup tour now heads to Lowe's Motor Speedway for the next two weeks of racing. On tap next week is the Sprint All-Star Race. The action at LMS begins on Friday with practice set for 1:30 p.m. till 2:45 p.m. Qualifying on Friday evening at 6:15 p.m. will feature the unique format of three laps under the clock with a four-tire pit stop thrown into the equation. Saturday's Sprint All-Star Race will begin after the conclusion of the NASCAR Sprint Showdown "last chance" race at approximately 9:00 p.m.