Kurt Busch Finishes 11th in Heluva Good Dips 400 At Michigan

June 19, 2011

BROOKLYN, Mich. (June 19, 2011) – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch started from the Coors Light Pole Position in today's Heluva Good Dips 400 here at Michigan International Speedway, but he was unable to turn his great starting spot into the top finishing position he was looking for.  Even though Busch led two times for nine laps and was a staple among the top-five drivers for the majority of the race, he had to settle for an 11th-place finish when the dust had settled.  He dropped a spot from sixth to seventh (tied with Matt Kenseth with 491 points) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings.

"It was a really up and down day for us," said Busch, who had claimed his third consecutive Coors Light Pole Award here in yesterday's qualifying session.  "It's always tough when you earn a pole position and can't take advantage of it during the race.  Our Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger was just too inconsistent today to contend for a race win.  We were a solid top-10 race car, but just couldn't get (it) dialed in enough to run with the leaders.  We ran 198 laps inside the top 10, finished 11th after getting nudged out on that last restart.

"It was really a seesaw day for us," Busch added.  "It seemed like our car would be good for the first five laps of a green flag run, and then once the track would rubber-in, we just couldn't get the grip we needed.  Our first lap was awesome; the last 199 were a challenge.  You have to be rock-solid on these two-mile race tracks.  You need a good race car, solid pit stops and good changes to keep up with the track and we just were too inconsistent today.  A solid points day for us and that's important in the big picture."

Busch started on the point here this afternoon and controlled the lead until pitting under the first caution period on Lap 9.  The team opted for right-side tires and a track bar adjustment.  Busch quickly got around Ryan Newman to regain the lead on Lap 12, but tight handling issues immediately took their toll.  Greg Biffle got around for the lead only one lap later.

Crew chief Steve Addington called Busch down pit road again under the second yellow flag period on Lap 28.  A 14.291-second stop for four tires, air pressure and track bar adjustments had Busch fourth in the order for the Lap 30 restart.  A "tight in and loose off" condition saw the team try numerous adjustments during ensuing pit stops without getting much relief.

Busch was still running in the third spot at the race's mid-point (Lap 100), but as the laps were logged and rubber pounded into the racing groove, the "Double-Deuce" Dodge became a handful.  Attempting to remedy the situation with a wedge adjustment backfired and saw Busch fall to sixth with 75 laps remaining.

Busch had fallen to 11th on Lap 158, when Juan Pablo Montoya spun down onto the infield grass to cause another caution.  Busch's crew spent 15.434 seconds on pit road for a four-tire stop with wedge, track bar and air pressure adjustments.  Extra time was spent to make sure the fuel cell was packed.

The "Double-Deuce" Dodge was ninth on the Lap 163 restart, but was "good to go" on fuel to make the distance should the race remain under green-flag conditions.  The chatter up and down pit road was that almost half the cars in front of Busch would have to pit for fuel during the final laps.

The fuel-mileage aspect went out of the equation when Dale Earnhardt Jr. got into the wall with nine laps remaining to bring out the final caution flag.  Busch was eighth on the final restart with five laps remaining.  He got shuffled into a three-wide battle for ninth with two laps remaining and fell to 11th when Brian Vickers got around for the final top-10 finishing spot on the last lap.

At the finish line here today, it was Denny Hamlin picking up his first win of the season by 0.281 seconds over runner-up Matt Kenseth.  Kyle Busch finished third, with Paul Menard fourth and Carl Edwards fifth.  Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin and Vickers completed today's top-10.

"We were just off a little in every area here today," said Addington.  "We have to get better with our adjustments made during the race and we need to be able to capitalize better on having that pit spot up there at the end of pit road.  Rest assured that we'll already be talking about it on the plane ride home.  We'll analyze everything that happened here this weekend and try to learn from it and improve from it."

After 15 races have been placed into the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup record book, Edwards holds a 20-point lead over Kevin Harvick in the point standings, 523 to 512.  Earnhardt is third with 505, Kyle Busch fourth with 503 and Jimmie Johnson fifth, also with 503.  Kenseth and Kurt Busch both have 491 points, but Kenseth's two wins earn him the tie-breaker.  Newman is eighth with 456, Hamlin ninth with 455 and Bowyer 10th, also with 455.

Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski started deep in the field, but proved to have a rocket ship early in today's race.  At times, the Miller Lite "Blue Deuce" Dodge was the fastest car on the track.  However, tire issues on Lap 84 sent Keselowski into the outside wall and the Detroit area native had to hang on for a 25th-place finish.  He is currently shown in the 22nd position in points, trailing 20th-place Martin Truex Jr. by 12 points.

The Sprint Cup tour now heads out to Infineon Raceway near Sonoma, Calif., for the first of two road course races during the 2011 season.  This weekend's Infineon Raceway action gets under way on Friday with practice set from noon till 1:30 p.m. (live on Speed-TV).  Qualifying for all 43 starting positions is set for Friday at 3:40 p.m. (live on Speed-TV & PRN Radio).  Saturday's schedule calls for practice from 9:30 a.m. till 10:15 a.m. (live on Speed-TV) and from 10:45 a.m. till 12 noon (live on Speed-TV).  Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 (110 laps) on the 1.99-mile scenic road course is scheduled to get the green just after 12:00 noon PDT.  The race will feature live coverage by TNT-TV and PRN Radio.