Kurt Busch Finishes Runner-Up in 5-Hour Energy 500 at Pocono

June 13, 2011

LONG POND, Pa. (June 12, 2011) – After winning the Coors Light Pole and leading a considerable amount of laps for the second consecutive week along the NASCAR Sprint Cup tour, Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch is beginning to believe that his Penske Racing Team is headed in the right direction.  Busch finished second here at Pocono Raceway today in the 5-Hour Energy 500 and (at minimum) maintained his sixth position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings.

"They're a great two weeks," Busch said of his ninth-place finish at Kansas last week and his best finish of the season here at Pocono today.  "I feel like we've got what we need to continue to move forward.  It's not all there.  We still need to have A-pluses in all areas of our team; whether it's the motor department, aerodynamics, pit crew, crew chief-driver communications.  To run for the win the last two weeks in a row and have two poles, it's pretty solid."

Busch won the pole and was able to lead today's race on three occasions for a total of 37 laps before having to settle for a runner-up finish, crossing the line 2.965 seconds behind winner Jeff Gordon.

"We're excited with this finish," Busch said of his third top-five finish and eighth top-10 of the 2011 season.  "We put up a good fight with our Shell/Pennzoil Dodge.  We gave it all we had.  I'm proud to finish second.  My guys worked hard to get that.  To bring this Shell/Pennzoil Dodge home in second is a good feeling.  Even though it's a backup, it was a strong car today.  We were working it hard today.  I'm thankful to have good equipment and thank Roger Penske and the Dodge team.  We were good enough to win today.

"The old boy Jeff Gordon had it in him today," Busch said.  "We ran him strong, we ran him hard.  I'm real proud of our Shell/Pennzoil Dodge today, our team, and our teamwork.  We were in a back-up car, so we didn't know what to expect, but we ran it as hard as we could.  I shifted every lap.  I overworked it, but it made it through the 500 miles.  This Dodge was great for us today.   It's all about teamwork when you have to work from a back-up car.  I thought we were better after about lap 15 on a run, but we just couldn't close it there at the end."

Busch led as late in the race as on Lap 156 when the final yellow flag of the day flew.  Gordon picked up the lead on the restart on Lap 160 and led 37 of the remaining laps, losing it only during a final pitting sequence for fuel and tires.

The victory marked Gordon's 84th career win, placing him in a tie with NASCAR legends Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for third on the all-time win list.  Busch was asked about Gordon's accomplishment.

"It's impressive to see what he's done over his career, not just in this decade, not in the 2000s, back all the way to the 90s," Busch said of Gordon.  "He's a true legend in our sport; a four-time champion.  When I came in as a rookie, I set the bar to try to compete with him, to race against him the best I could.  We've had our good and tough battles on the track.  Today, I wanted more.  I wanted to get up there and race with him hard, show him that he's going to have to work harder to get these wins in the latter part of his career.  But he's Jeff Gordon, he's that good.  The team is solid.

"It's amazing to see that accomplishment, that he's done that here in the current age.  It seems like all the guys that have got those 200, 105, and 84 wins, those all came in the mid portion of how our NASCAR series developed, not the early portions of the ‘50s and ‘60s, but ‘70s, ‘80s and 90s," Busch said.  "For Jeff to have made such an accomplishment in modern day NASCAR racing is pretty mind-boggling."

Busch started today's battle from the pole and led the first lap to guarantee him the bonus for leading laps.  A loose-then-tight-then-loose handing scenario saw him bounce between the top four positions until he finally regained the lead by passing Juan Pablo Montoya with a daring outside move after a restart on Lap 117 of the 200-lap race.

Busch led until pitting on Lap 140 and was in the lead again when the stops cycled around on Lap 144.  Montoya took only two tires during the fourth (and final) caution of the race and lined up as the leader for the Lap 160 restart.  Gordon was second on the restart and immediately got around the No. 42 car for the lead.  Busch quickly jumped into the second spot and the chase to catch Gordon ensued for the remainder of the race.

"I think we had a car that could have won the race today," crew chief Steve Addington said after the race.  "I messed up on the call on that last pit stop.  I didn't want the 24 team to hear me tell the spotter that we wanted Kurt on pit road this lap, but the 4 car shot underneath and it jumbled everything up.  We ended up making the stop the same lap as the 24.  If we had stopped a lap earlier than the 24 and got out in front of him, we would have won the race.  I want everybody to know how far this team came from Friday to today. We led laps and ran up front all day long; no farther back than fourth.  I'm proud of them.

"Kurt drove his heart out today and showed why he is the best," Addington added.  "My hat goes off to everybody on this Shell-Pennzoil Dodge team for all the extra effort they put in and double thanks to our driver for always giving us 110 percent every time we get out there."

Kyle Busch crossed the line third here this afternoon, but post-race inspection found his No. 18 Toyota to be too low on the left front.  Penalties reflecting monetary figures and points reductions are expected to be announced by NASCAR on Tuesday.

Jimmie Johnson finished fourth here today, with Kevin Harvick fifth.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished sixth, with Montoya, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. rounding out the top-10 finishers.

After today's race, the 14th points-paying battle of the 2011 season, Carl Edwards (who had engine problems and finished 37th today) leads the points with 492.  Johnson is second and only six points back (with 486).  Earnhardt is third (482), Harvick fourth (481) and Kyle Busch (pending penalty) fifth (467).  Kurt Busch holds down the sixth spot (457 & 35 points out of the lead), with Kenseth (448) seventh, Clint Bowyer (419) eighth, Tony Stewart (417) ninth) and Ryan Newman (417) 10th.

Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski looked to have another strong top-10 run going here today before shock absorber issues relegated him to a 23rd-place finish.  Keselowski is now 22nd in the standings.  With 345 points, he is 13 points behind 20th-place Truex.

The Sprint Cup tour now heads to the Irish Hills Area of Michigan and the 2.0-mile Michigan International Speedway oval for next weekend's running of the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400.  This weekend's Michigan International Speedway action gets under way on Friday with practices set from 12:30 p.m. till 1:50 p.m. (live on Speed-TV) and from 3:30 p.m. till 4:50 p.m. (live on Speed-TV).  Qualifying for all 43 starting positions is set for Saturday at 1:10 p.m. (live on Speed-TV).  Sunday's Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 (200 laps, 400 miles) on the 2.0-mile track is scheduled to get the green flag just after 1:00 p.m. EDT.  Race No. 15 of 36 points-paying events on the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule will feature live coverage by TNT-TV and MRN Radio.