Kurt Busch Is The Big Winner In Toyota/Save Mart 350 At Infineon

June 26, 2011

SONOMA, Calif. (June 26, 2011) – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch drove from an 11th-place start to win today's Toyota/Save Mart 350 here at Infineon Raceway.  It marked the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champ's first career victory on a road course and now with 23 career wins, he is tied with Ricky Rudd for 23rd on the NASCAR All-Time Win list.
"It was one of those unbelievable days where having a game plan going in – we weren't questioning it – and it was just old school on how we were going to make it on two stops," Busch said of the race and the strategy laid out by crew chief Steve Addington and his Penske Racing engineering support staff.  "With the pace dropping off like we saw in practice, it was going to take one of those perfect efforts to make sure that we maintained out lap time throughout the run to be able to make it on the stops and not be worry about tires as well as the fuel strategy side of it.
"It was great calculations by the guys," Busch added.  "Saving fuel is one thing, but having Shell on the hood is another.   When you have those good omens, it's great to put together a solid effort in the pits, in the strategy department and out on the race track as well. The car drove itself and I have all my guys to thank.   Anybody who watched the race today, hopefully they're inspired by what they saw out of a Dodge Charger to go to the showroom floor and check their SR/T 8 models."
Perhaps it was Addington's post-race comments that put today's race in the best perspective.  "It was a flawless day and you don't enjoy too many of those in our sport." Busch's veteran crew chief said.  "We had a game plan and everyone from the driver to the pit crew, the great spotters we have – everyone on this Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team – executed just unbelievably well.
"I know Kurt well enough now that he don't even have to say stuff and I know what he's thinking," said Addington.  "He wanted to keep that pole streak he had going here on Friday.  When that didn't happen, I think he may have been a little too hard on himself.  I told him that the poles hadn't led to race wins, so maybe starting back there in 11th might just be a cool place to start and win the race.
"When the green-flag dropped, you could tell right off that he was on a mission.  In my mind, it will go down as one of the best overall performances I've ever seen any driver pull off."
Busch did start 11th here this afternoon, but it was steady progress toward the front from the drop of the green flag.  He had cleared four cars on the first lap around this winding 1.99 road course.  He had cracked the top-five on Lap 4.  Busch got around pole-winner Joey Logano for third on Lap 9 and was under Jamie McMurray for second on Lap 10.
He trailed leader Denny Hamlin by 2.5 seconds at that time, but his forward surge saw him sweep by Hamlin for the lead on Lap 13.  Busch would go on to lead four times for 76 laps en route to his 2.685-second victory over runner-up Jeff Gordon.
Busch, Addington and the "Double-Deuce" crew had a pre-race strategy of pitting only twice during the 110-lap race and it paid off.  A 14.384-second pit stop on Lap 32 saw Busch trail Hamlin when the stops cycled around.  But after a Lap 36 restart, Busch cleared the No. 11 car easily and set sail.  Busch pitted for the final time on Lap 72 and was firmly in the lead again after a Lap 91 restart following the fifth caution of the race.
After the final return to green, Busch was able to jump out to a healthy lead and only had to pace himself to keep a safe buffer over second.  Addington was "spot-on" with his light coaching and continuous feeds of the separation back to second-place.
"We stuck to it," Addington said of his team's effort after the race.  "We had a game plan and Kurt said that he was going to get a couple positions there at the start.  To gain a couple of positions, I was thinking, alright, we're starting 11th and we'll get to seventh, eighth.  We drove by them and took the lead.  That made it easier on me and my guys to make the decision to go to our lap.  We felt like we had the speed in the car to go to our lap and it didn't matter what anyone else was doing.  We were paying attention to what was going on, but we didn't vary from what we had planned,  That has worked out the best for me at road course races – hit those laps that we had planned.
"That was the key," said Addington, "when he got the lead from the 11 car, we set the pace and I was watching the car on TV, we weren't jumping curbs and stuff like that.  We're not absolutely pushing the car to the limit, that's what I was thinking to myself.  I just felt, we'll do our thing.  These guys are pitting.  It makes you nervous.  You're stomach gets all knotted up.  You feel like you're getting behind.  I felt like the car was good enough if we did get caught behind after what he did at the beginning of the race, as smooth as he drove that car all day long, we could get it back if we gave up anything.  Like I said, it was just a flawless day at the race track for Kurt and our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team."
For Busch, it was quite the sentimental side that showed during his post-race interviews.  The former NASCAR Southwest Tour champion has long credited his victory here more than a decade ago as being a key factor for him getting a shot at the big league of stock car racing.
"I love the grass?roots racing, and the way that Infineon has supported that," said Busch.  " Back in the days when I ran the Southwest Tour race, that is the Saturday support race, teams and crew chiefs and driver/owners are watching to see what's going on out on the track, who is passing where.  I raced here '98, placed third, and won it in '99.  I always knew I could win on a road course.  It took me a few years to get it together on the Cup side.  Even in 2002, I might have had a top?five finish when I was with Roush Racing.  I've always loved road racing.  I've just struggled to put it together at the end of the race, whether it's run?ins with other drivers or running out of fuel.  But I've even had the chance to stand on the podium at Daytona during the Grand American Rolex Series 24?Hour race.  I love road racing.  It's fun.  I've done drag racing.  I definitely want to stick with the NASCAR side of it as long as I can."
Carl Edwards came home third here today, with Clint Bowyer fourth and Marcos Ambrose fifth.  Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski rounded out today's top-10 finishers.
Busch's win here today bumped him up to fourth in the Sprint Cup point standings.  After 16 races, Busch has 539 points and trails leader Edwards by 34 points.  He his only nine points behind second-place Harvick and one point behind third-place Johnson.
Penske Racing teammate Keselowski's top-10 finish here today sees him 22nd in the point standings, but now only 12 points out of 20th.
The Sprint Cup tour now heads back to Daytona International Speedway for next weekend's running of the Coke Zero 400.  The 17th of 36 points-paying races is scheduled to get the green flag just after the 7:30 p.m. EDT broadcasts by TNT-TV and MRN Radio begin.