Determined Busch Rallies to Finish Seventh at Bristol

August 23, 2009

BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 22, 2009) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch put his short-track prowess on display in tonight's Sharpie 500 here at Bristol Motor Speedway, making up 15 spots in the final 50 laps to finish seventh. Busch's 13th top-10 finish of the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup season kept him sixth in the point standings, but increased his "Chase buffer" to 192 points over the 13th position with only two races remaining to determine this year's playoff contenders.

"I thought we had a car that could win," said Busch, a five-time winner here, who posted his 10th top-10 finish in 18 career Bristol starts here tonight. "We managed to finish seventh with it due to some loose lug nuts. It was a good top-five car. It was good to run that well with the COT; we haven't done that since we started using that car at Bristol."

Busch started tonight's race from the 13th spot, but he began showing the strength of his Miller Lite Dodge from the drop of the green flag. He cracked the top 10 after only six laps and was up to ninth at Lap 8. He was up to sixth on Lap 23 and joined the top-five drivers on Lap 26.

Great pit work on a Lap 66 stop under the second yellow-flag period of the race allowed him to line up third for the Lap 69 restart. A 12.871-second stop on Lap 137 under the third caution helped place Busch in second and beside leader Mark Martin for the Lap 144 restart.

Although the 2004 series champ was never officially credited with leading a lap, he pressured Martin for the lead on the track and also exiting the pits. Busch would remain a fixture among the top-five drivers until after a pit stop on Lap 423, during the sixth caution period of the race.

Busch had reported a slight vibration a few laps earlier and speculated that it could have been due to worn brakes. But after lining up fifth for the Lap 130 restart, he knew something was seriously wrong with his Dodge Charger immediately after the race returned to green.

"It's vibrating out of control," Busch said on the team radio as his car drifted high on the track and he dropped back through the field. Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick crashed on Lap 439 entering Turn 1 and Busch got a tap from the rear to join that fracas.

Busch had fallen to 18th in the running order when the seventh caution flag of the night was displayed. But after making numerous trips to pit road to repair the sheet metal damage and work on the front splitter, NASCAR officials forced the No. 2 Dodge to restart from the very rear of the field. The 21 other cars on the lead lap were separated from Busch by every other lapped car that was still running.

A spin in Turn 4 by Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr. on Lap 457 brought out the eighth caution of the race and gave Busch the break he needed. After pitting under the yellow on Lap 459, he was able to line up double-file with the lead lap cars on the Lap 463 restart.

Busch proceeded to put on a clinic during the final circuits of the race, passing cars inside and outside lap after lap. He had climbed all the way back up to 10th when Martin Truex Jr. slapped the frontstretch wall to bring out the ninth caution of the night on Lap 478.

Busch had made it up to seventh on Lap 491 when Michael Waltrip and Bowyer were part of a multiple-car crash in Turn 4 to bring out the 10th caution flag of the race. NASCAR officials displayed the red flag for 10 minutes after 492 laps so proper cleanup could be done.

Starting in the inside-fourth-row spot (seventh) on the Lap 496 restart, Busch lost spots to the favorable outside line the following two circuits, but charged to claim them back during the final two laps.

Up front, Kyle Busch held off Martin by 0.098 seconds to post his fourth win of the season - which tied him with Martin for most this year. His finish allowed the No. 18 car driver to move back into 13th place in the standings - 34 points behind Matt Kenseth, who holds the 12th and final spot for the Chase.

Marcos Ambrose finished third, with Greg Biffle fourth and Denny Hamlin fifth. Ryan Newman used his outside-row spot on the restart to get around Kurt Busch for sixth, with the "Blue Deuce" finishing seventh, Jimmie Johnson, also hampered during the race with a loose wheel, eighth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ninth and Kenseth 10th.

Penske Racing Teammates David Stremme and Sam Hornish Jr. finished 20th and 35th, respectively.

While facing the setback with the vibration problem which was due to a loose wheel, Busch said some things on the team radio that he later regretted. "I'll never give up on you guys," Busch said over the radio during the red flag period. "I'm sorry I yelled at you. I love you guys. I just get fired up. We live together, we die together."

"The Miller Lite Dodge was good all night," said crew chief Pat Tryson. "We just had a little problem on pit road and then had a problem there when we got collected in that wreck which put us behind. Kurt did an awesome job getting us back up there and got us some of the positions that we lost.

"It was a good comeback," Tryson added. "Kurt did an awesome job. It's just a shame it happened (loose lug nut). It's all part of the game. You don't always have a perfect night. We salvaged a good finish out of it. We had a good car; that was the biggest thing...a big improvement over the spring."

With only the races at Atlanta and Richmond remaining to determine the 12-car Chase field, Busch (with 3,103 points) maintained the sixth spot in the point standings. He trails leader Tony Stewart by 461 points, but is only 20 points behind fourth-place Hamlin and seven points behind fifth-place Carl Edwards. Most importantly, Busch now has a 192-point "Chase buffer" over 13th. He is currently 132 points ahead of 10th-place Martin.

Here is the way the current top-15 point standings look after 24 races have been put into the record book. Shown are points position, car number, driver, points, points behind, 2009 season wins and tonight's finish here at Bristol:

1) #14-Tony Stewart [3 wins], 3564, finished 33rd
2) #48-Jimmie Johnson [3 wins], 3344, -220, 8th
3) #24-Jeff Gordon [1 win], 3310, -254, 23rd
4) #11-Denny Hamlin [1 win], 3141, -423, 5th
5) #99-Carl Edwards, 3110, -454, 16th
6) #2-Kurt Busch [1 win], 3103, -461, 7th
7) #39-Ryan Newman, 2995, -569 (+84 ahead of 13th), 6th
8) #16-Greg Biffle, 2986, -578 (+75), 4th
9) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya, 2975, -589 (+64), 25th
10) #5-Mark Martin [4 wins], 2971, -593 (+60), 2nd
11) #9-Kasey Kahne [1 win], 2963, -601 (+52), 28th
12) #17-Matt Kenseth [2 wins], 2945, -619 (+34 ahead of 12th), 10th
Contenders for the top-12/chase:
13) #18-Kyle Busch [4 wins], 2911, 34 points out of 12th, 1st
14) #83-Brian Vickers [1 win], 2906, -39, 12th
15) #33-Clint Bowyer, 2833, -112, 21st

Hornish (2,234 points) currently holds down the 27th spot, while Stremme (2,083 points) is shown as 31st in the standings.

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