After Strong Chase Start, Busch Optimistic Heading to Dover

September 22, 2009

DOVER, Del. (Sept. 22, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch enters this weekend's AAA 400 still looking for his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup win at Dover International Speedway, but he thinks his victory drought on the "Monster Mile" could come to an end on Sunday.

"I'm super optimistic about our chances heading back to Dover for this weekend's race," said Busch, whose sixth-place finish at Loudon, N.H., last Sunday sees him currently fifth in the Sprint Cup point standings. "We've really been looking forward to this race since our last visit back in the spring when we finished a strong top-five.

"We finished fifth at Dover in that race, but we feel like we probably had a car capable of winning," Busch said of his Pat Tryson-led team's performance in the May 31 Autism Speaks 400 on the high-banked one-mile oval. "We had to play catch-up for much of that race and weren't able to show how strong our car was till almost the very end of the race.

"We started back around 20th (started 19th) and it took us the first 100 laps or so to work our way up into the top-five," explained Busch, the 2004 Sprint Cup champ who is now 65 points behind leader Mark Martin. "We wound up having a flat right-rear tire and had to pit under the green. Like our luck normally runs, about five laps later the yellow came out for debris on the track. All the lead lap guys were able to pit under the yellow.

"So we went from running in the top-five to running on the tail end of the lead lap and just in front of the leading 48 car (Jimmie Johnson) in just a matter of a handful of laps," said Busch. "The 48 car had been strong all day long and we had quickly gone from chasing him down to trying to stay in front of him and running for our lives.

"It seemed like an eternity running lap after lap out there in front of the leader. We finally caught a break when the caution finally came out. We took the spring rubbers out of the left-rear and came from the rear all the way back up to fifth when the laps ran out."

Busch was 21st on the Lap 159 restart and made steady progress back up through the field. At the halfway point (Lap 200), Johnson held a 5.3-second lead over second-place Denny Hamlin, but Busch had his No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge "on a rail," running lap times two-tenths of a second faster that any other car on the track.

Busch had climbed back to eighth when Hamlin made contact with the wall to bring out the fifth caution on Lap 231. A 12.899-second pit stop under the yellow by Busch's "over-the-wall unit" had him up to sixth for the Lap 236 restart. Busch cleared Tony Stewart for fifth on Lap 237 and he got around Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the fourth position on Lap 257.

The "Blue Deuce" had climbed to second with 40 laps to go and had cut the deficit to leader Johnson from 2.2 seconds to 1.4 seconds in a matter of 20 laps. However, another debris caution flew with 37 laps to go. While Busch, Tryson and crew went the conservative route of taking on four tires and fuel, Greg Biffle, Stewart, Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne all took on only right-side tires and lined up in front of Busch, dropping him back in the field for restart.

Busch struggled with his last set of Goodyears, but was able to hang on till the end. At the line, it was Johnson taking the win by 0.861 seconds over runner-up Stewart. Biffle finished third, with Matt Kenseth fourth and Busch holding off Kahne for the fifth spot.

"There were many periods of that race where we had the fastest car out there," said crew chief Tryson. "That's why we're so pumped about getting back to Dover again. If we can qualify a little better and not get hit by the bad luck like we did there in the spring race, we can win the race there this weekend.

"The run we had at Bristol last month gives us more reason to be enthusiastic about our chances this weekend at Dover," said Tryson. "It's the only other high-banked concrete race track we run on. We got him behind on a pit stop (loose lug nuts that saw Busch drop to 22nd on a restart with 30 laps to go) and he raced his tail end off to finish seventh in that one.

"The biggest thing is that we've been able to put a really competitive Miller Lite Dodge under Kurt in the first Dover race and again at Bristol," said Tryson. "If we can do that again this weekend, we know that he can get the job done there on Sunday."

Busch, Tryson and crew will be debuting their brand new PRS-700 Miller Lite Dodge Charger this weekend at Dover. It is the first of the latest series (500, then 600 and now 700) of race cars produced at Penske Racing's Mooresville, N.C., racing headquarters.

This weekend's action at Dover International Speedway gets under way with Sprint Cup practice on Friday from 11:00 a.m. till 12:30 p.m. Sunday's 43-car starting field will be determined in Friday's 3:10 p.m. single round of Cup qualifying. Saturday's action on the "Monster Mile" includes practice sessions from 12:30 p.m. till 1:15 p.m. and from 1:50 p.m. till 2:50 p.m. Sunday's "AAA 400" (400 Laps/400 Miles) has a 2:00 p.m. EDT starting time. Live coverage of the race will be provided by ABC-TV and MRN Radio.