Kurt Busch Finishes 21st In Sunday's Brickyard 400

July 31, 2011


-Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Hampered By Handling Issues & Damage From Incident; Now 6th In Points-

 INDIANAPOLIS (July 31, 2011) – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch had to settle for a 21st-place finish in today’s Brickyard 400 here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after his effort was hampered by handling issues and getting caught up in an incident with 40 laps remaining.  The result here today dropped Busch to sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, yet his deficit to first grew by only seven points and is now at 18.

 “The car was tight most of the race; when we put on right-side tires only, that’s when our Shell/Pennzoil Dodge came to life, “said Busch.  “We lost track position when the 51 car (Landon Cassill) crashed and we had to go through the grass.  We had to come down pit road three times to make repairs.

 “The temp (water temperature) was pegged,” said Busch.  “That put us the last car on the lead lap, but it had us close to our fuel window.  Hitting the grass did extensive damage underneath the car and it got tighter and tighter as the laps went on.  We were fortunate that we had the fuel to make it to the end, but with the damage, we just couldn’t maintain the track position like we needed to.  We might could have had a top-15 finish if the handling didn’t get messed up like it did when we had to hit the grass to avoid getting in the crash back there.

 “Our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge was good in practice, we qualified well and we were making changes that helped the handling,” said Busch.  “We didn’t need to get caught up in that mishap.  Hopefully it doesn’t affect the points that much.”

 Busch started today’s race from the fourth position and immediately detected a different feel with his Dodge than he had expected.  “It’s tighter than I ever imagined,” Busch radioed after only five laps.  Busch had started dropping back and crew chief Steve Addington was already on top of changes to make the “Double-Deuce” better.  Working with air pressures under the first green flag stop of the day, Busch still held the eighth spot when the stops cycled around on Lap 30.

 Varying pit strategy already was coming into play when the first caution of the race flew on Lap 34 for debris.  A two-tire stop with adjustments on Lap 35 dropped Busch to 14th for the Lap 38 restart.  A four-tire stop with more adjustments on Lap 51 dropped him to 20th for the Lap 54 restart after the second yellow.

 Busch’s brand new Dodge Charger was lightning fast when in clean air, but “super-tight” when he was trying to pass cars.  He was back solidly in the top-15 when the third caution of the race flew on Lap 95 for debris and was up to 12th for the ensuing restart on Lap 98 after another two-tire stop.

 The fourth yellow flag of the race flew on Lap 113 for debris.  While the top-four cars stayed out and several others went with only two tires, Busch took on four tires with additional adjustments and a fill of fuel.  He was 21st on the Lap 117 restart, but was looking at only having to stop for a splash of fuel to go the distance.

 When Cassill crashed on Lap 120, Busch took evasive action and dove through the inside grass.  The turf bent his splitter and stuck in the grill area, choking off the air.  The water temperature immediately soared and Busch was forced to hit pit road three straight laps.  The team utilized the “water buffalo” machine to purge cold water through the cooling system and finally got the engine cooled down.  They also addressed the spoiler damage and additional damage to the right-rear quarter panel.

 With 34 laps remaining after the restart, what appeared to be a negative looked as if it might be beneficial as Busch was now close to making it on fuel, while all the cars in front were looking at having to stop for a final splash.  However, the damage his Dodge sustained created a car so ill-handling that the cars that pitted for fuel were running laps 1.5 seconds faster.

 Busch climbed as high as 12th in the running order with 20 laps remaining, but the cars that pitted for fuel eventually caught up and passed and several of those cars in front manipulated their fuel supplies to make the distance.

 In what has become almost commonplace along the Sprint Cup tour this season, fuel mileage determined the outcome and it was Paul Menard able to stretch his final fuel load and claim his first career series victory.  Menard crossed the line 0.725 seconds ahead of runner-up Jeff Gordon (who pitted for fuel and had to play catch-up in the waning laps).  Regan Smith stretched his fuel to finish third and Jamie McMurray did likewise to finish fourth.  Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch concluded today’s top-10 finishers.

 “It was pretty bizarre out there,” offered Addington.  “This fuel mileage aspect has really taken the spotlight in winning the races, it seems.  After we got caught up in the overheating issue after hitting the grass like we did, we did the best job we could in turning that negative into a positive.  We looked to still be about one lap shy on the fuel, but Kurt did a great job on saving all he could.  The car was just so tight because of the damage done.  Guys were catching us too fast from the rear and I couldn’t believe there were like eight guys in front of us who made it on fuel without having to pit.  The way it has become out there, it’s almost like we’re looking at applying the road course strategy at so many more of these tracks.”

 After 20 races have been placed into the record book…and with only six races remaining to determine this year’s 12 “Chasers,” Carl Edwards continues to lead the points with 682.  Jimmie Johnson is second with 671 and Kevin Harvick is third with 670.  Kyle Busch (666) and Kenseth (666) round out the top-five.  Kurt Busch (664), Gordon (630), Ryan Newman (618), Stewart (609) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (606) complete the top 10.

 The Sprint Cup Series now heads back to Pocono Raceway for next Sunday’s 500-mile battle on that 2.5-mile “Tricky Triangle.” Action gets under way on Friday with practice set from 12:00 noon till 1:30 p.m. and a final practice session from 4:00 p.m. till 5:30 p.m.  Saturday’s 10:40 a.m. single round of qualifying will award the Coors Light Pole Award and establish the 43-car starting field.  Sunday’s Good Sam Insurance 500 (200 laps, 500 miles) is set for a 1:00 p.m. EDT start with live coverage being provided by ESPN-TV and MRN Radio.