Dominant Kurt Busch Has To Settle For Ninth At Kansas

June 5, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Kans. (June 5, 2011) -- Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 22 AAA Dodge was dominant in today's STP 400 here at the Kansas Speedway, but fuel issues relegated him to a ninth-place finish.  Busch started from the pole and led four times for a whopping 152 of the 267 laps., but at the end it was Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski stretching his mileage and coming home the winner in his Miller Lite Dodge.
"I'm proud of the way that this team has run," Busch said immediately after climbing from his car in the garage area after the race.  "To have a car to lead laps today and be very competitive, I was all smiles.   I felt coming into the weekend that if we could pace ourselves, have good team communication, we would be competitive.  It was great.
"There was always something in the back of my mind today that we weren't going to win, but I'm glad that Brad Keselowski got this win for those Miller Lite guys, for Dodge," said Busch, who remained sixth in the Sprint Cup point standings after 13 races have been put into the 2011 record books.  "We're really happy to keep AAA up front all day today.  It's just one of those days where you're on the right side, sometimes you're not.  For all my guys, we'll take this one and the points.  I'm not discouraged at all."
Busch started from the pole today, but a tight handling condition saw him drift backwards from the drop of the green flag.  He fell back as far as fifth before his car's handling started coming around.  He was able to mount a charge back up to take the lead on Lap 18.
Busch fought minimum chassis evils for the remainder of the race, with slight air pressure and wedge adjustments keeping his new "PRS-754" Dodge Charger competitive all race long.
Hampering Busch, crew chief Steve Addington and the "Double Deuce" team for much of the race was a flaw in their dry-break fueling system.  The team first discovered the problem during a 16.548-second pit stop on Lap 45.  NASCAR mandates teams to run a special plastic decal around their fueling plug-in area.  While the tire-changing procedures on stops went smoothly, the time on pit road was lengthened due to plastic impeding the flow of fuel.  Gasman Chris Williams was finally able to clear the plastic midway through the race.
Busch fell back as far as eighth in the running order because of the fueling problem slowing the pit stops.  But after restarting third after the fourth caution period on lap 157, Busch dove under Denny Hamlin to take the lead on Lap 160 and appeared unstoppable.  He enjoyed a comfortable 2.022 second lead over second-place Jeff Gordon on Lap 222 (with 45 laps remaining), but that's when the fuel mileage question came into play.
With the final restart coming on Lap 166, that meant that more than 100 of the final laps were run under the green and created a mad scramble for the best fuel mileage at the end.
Busch had last pitted under the green on Lap 205.  Several cars had opted to pit on the prior caution on Lap 161; seven laps after Busch had pitted and chose to stay out as the leader.
That set up two sequences of stops during the waning laps.  After Busch pitted on Lap 205, it wasn't until Lap 216 that the stops cycled around to show the No. 22 back into the lead.  Busch had stretched his lead to 4.302 seconds over second-place Gordon with 22 laps remaining when Gordon hit pit road for two tires and fuel.
At Lap 255, with 12 laps remaining, Busch was leading with teammate Keselowski (who had pitted on Lap 210 and was nursing his fuel mileage) running second.  Crew chief Addington called Busch down pit road on Lap 258 for right-side tires and fuel.  The quick stop was nullified when Busch returned to the track and the fuel pickup failed to devour the new supply of gas.  Busch temporarily slowed and had to hit the apron to get his Dodge back up to power.  The time lost was later calculated as the difference between a potential third-place finish and the ninth that Busch was credited with.
Keselowski was able to get 57 green-flag laps out of his final tank of fuel and take the win by 2.813 seconds over runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Hamlin came home third, with Gordon fourth and Carl Edwards fifth.  Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Busch and Greg Biffle rounded out today's top-10 finishers.
After 13 races have been put into the 2011 Sprint Cup record book (halfway mark to determine this year's 12 Chase drivers), Edwards continues to lead in the points with 485 points.  Johnson is second with 445; Earnhardt third with 444; Kevin Harvick fourth with 442; Kyle Busch fifth with 425; Kurt Busch sixth with 414; Matt Kenseth seventh with 412; Tony Stewart eighth with 393; Clint Bowyer ninth with 391; Ryan Newman 10th with 382; Hamlin 11th with 381 and Biffle 12th with 377.
Keselowski added a huge feather to his cap in winning a race and jumped four spots up to 21st in the standings.  With 324 points, the "Blue Deuce" Dodge driver is only seven points out of the top-20.
"I just did an interview with Nicole (Briscoe) of ESPN and like I was telling her, this is a super day for Penske Racing, but I will be leaving here with an empty feeling," said Addington.  "It's rare these days to have a car as strong as this 22 team had here today.  We went back and forth on the race setups and Kurt, Dave (Winston, team engineer) and I finally went back to one we had tried and questioned.  It was a day that we showed how strong we can be.
"We overcame the issue with the fueling system only to get bit by fuel mileage.  Just like some other things that have happened to us over the last month or two; we'll look at it as disappointing now, but good things will come out of it down the road.  The Penske Racing Teams are headed back in the right direction and I'm happy about that.  I'm heading down to Victory Lane and congratulate Paul (Wolfe, crew chief) and his guys on the big win.  I'll bet they'll even have a cold Miller Lite ready for me."
The NASCAR Sprint Cup tour now heads to Northeast Pennsylvania for next Sunday's Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway.  This weekend's Pocono Raceway action gets under way on Friday with practice sessions set from 12:30 p.m. till 1:55 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. till 5:00 p.m.  Qualifying for all 43 starting positions is set for Saturday at 11:10 a.m. (live on Speed-TV).  Sunday's Pocono 500 (200 laps, 500 miles) is scheduled to get the green flag just after 1:00 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by TNT-TV and MRN Radio.