Busch Guides Miller Lite Dodge to 12th-Place Richmond Finish

May 3, 2009

RICHMOND, Va. (May 2, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch finished 12th in Saturday night's Crown Royal 400 at Richmond International Raceway and dropped a spot to second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, trailing leader Jeff Gordon by 10 points.

"We were a solid top-five car with the Miller Lite Dodge until we messed with the track bar during a stop with just over 100 laps to go," said Busch, who started 17th and blasted through the field in the first 100 laps to lead on two occasions for eight laps. "We changed (our set-up) back, but it was too late because we fell out of contention with the guys who took on tires with 50 laps to go. At the end (of the race), we were sitting ducks trying to hang on to all we could. We just didn't have anything at all left for them."

The race began under questionable weather conditions, with the green and yellow flags displayed together. The event went full-green after six laps. Busch showed strength early, climbing up to 15th just after the first caution flag flew for Dave Blaney's spin on Lap10.

Busch was up to 13th on Lap 21, as he got around Penske Racing Teammate David Stremme and he cleared Jimmie Johnson for 11th on Lap 29. He moved into the top 10 when he got around David Reutimann for the 10th position one lap later.

The "Blue Deuce" continued the run toward the front, cracking the top five for the first time of the night on Lap 50, when he cleared brother Kyle for the fifth spot. The older Busch Brother was turning laps some two-tenths of a second faster than all competitors during the next 25 laps and Kurt blew by Jeff Gordon on Lap 75 to take the second spot behind leader Denny Hamlin.

Green-flag pit stops were the order beginning on Lap 90. Crew chief Pat Tryson made the call to leave the No. 2 Dodge out an extra lap in the effort to grab the five bonus points for leading a lap. When Hamlin pitted on Lap 95, Busch was credited with leading a lap before hitting pit road the next time around.

The pit stops cycled around on Lap 100, with Busch trailing Hamlin by 15 car lengths. Two caution periods that followed produced various pit strategies with Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer taking on only two tires and spending several laps leading the field. Busch still had a car strong enough to power his way back to the front, taking the lead again from Hamlin on Lap 145.

Facing a tight-handling condition in the center of the turns, Busch and crew went to work trying to make their car better. Initial changes that were limited to minor air pressure adjustments saw Busch continue to run among the top-seven drivers.

The seventh caution flag of the race flew on Lap 272 for debris. The ensuing pit stop saw the team vary off of doing just air pressure adjustments for the first time, as they also made a track bar change.

Busch was fifth on the Lap 278 restart, but immediately started to fall back. By the time the team could attempt to remedy the situation under another caution flag on Lap 306, Busch had fallen to 15th in the running order for the Lap 311 restart. With enough fuel to go the distance, the hopes were that the adjustments made to the car would bring back the strength the car had earlier in the race and the No. 2 car could make up the lost ground down the stretch.

While Busch did climb back as far as eighth in the running order, the whole complexity of the race changed when Bobby Labonte spun on the frontstretch on lap 345 to bring out the 14th yellow flag of the race. While many of the front runners, including leader Gordon, second-place Carl Edwards, along with Busch, stayed out, another group of drivers opted to hit pit road for fresh tires.

Getting the fresh rubber during that time certainly paid off down to the finish as those drivers continued to move forward, while the drivers on the older tires started a backwards slide. The exception to that rule was Kyle Busch. He was third on the Lap 350 restart, but cleared Gordon for the lead on Lap 352.

Kyle Busch held the lead for the remainder of the race to take a 2.752-second win over Tony Stewart, who took on tires during the late-race caution. Jeff Burton, who also took on fresh rubber at the same time as Stewart, finished third, with Newman fourth and Mark Martin fifth. Sam Hornish Jr. had an extremely impressive run here today to finish sixth, while Jamie McMurray, Gordon, Casey Mears and Juan Montoya rounded out the top-10 finishers.

Marcos Ambrose, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Hamlin and pole-sitter Brian Vickers rounded out the top-15 finishers.

"It was just a back-and-forth night for our Miller Lite Dodge," Tryson said from the garage after the race. "Track position was important, but so were tires. We didn't give up track position there at the end and probably should have come in and taken tires and that hurt us. We had a top-five car and just didn't come out of the race with the finish that reflected how strong our car was most of the night."

With Gordon finishing eighth and Busch 12th here tonight, Gordon reclaimed the points lead and now has a 10-point advantage over Busch (1,441 to 1,431) after 10 races. Here is the way the top 12 (current Chase-eligible drivers) shapes up:

1)#24-Jeff Gordon 1441 [1 win]
2) #2-Kurt Busch 1431 -10 [1 win]
3) #14-Tony Stewart 1402 -39
4) #11-Denny Hamlin 1321 -120
5) #18-Kyle Busch 1314 -127 [3 wins]
6) #48-Jimmie Johnson 1290 -151 [1 win]
7) #31-Jeff Burton 1257 -184
8) #33-Clint Bowyer 1212 -229
9) #99-Carl Edwards 1204 -237
10) #39-Ryan Newman 1198 -243
11) #16-Greg Biffle 1193 -248
12) #17-Matt Kenseth 1187 -254 [2 wins]

Kurt Busch has a 275-point advantage over 13th-place Reutimann with 16 races remaining to determine the Chase players for this season.

Penske Racing teammate Stremme holds down the 27th spot in the points with 948, while Hornish climbed to the 30th spot and has 925 points.

The Sprint Cup tour now heads back to the historical Darlington Raceway for next weekend's "resurrection" of the famed Southern 500. Next weekend's Darlington action gets under way on Friday with practice scheduled from 11:30 a.m. till 1:00 p.m. and from 1:30 till 2:30 p.m. Friday's 5:10 p.m. single round of qualifying will establish Saturday's 43-car starting field, with all cars impounded immediately after the session. Saturday's Southern 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.