Kurt Busch Finishes Third at Pocono

August 8, 2011

LONG POND, Pa. (Aug. 7, 2011) – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch finished a strong third in today’s Good Sam Insurance 500 here at Pocono Raceway and climbed to fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, now trailing leader Carl Edwards by only 14 points with only five races remaining to determine this year’s Chase field.  Even more importantly, the 2004 series champ increased his buffer to 11th-place in the standings to 88 points, virtually assuring him a spot in the 12-team playoffs.

 Today was a huge day for Penske Racing as teammate Brad Keselowski drove his Miller Lite Dodge to his second win of the season.  Now inside the top-20 in points (currently 18th), Keselowski is in the catbird seat to gain one of the wild card spots into the Chase.  Keselowski is 10 points ahead of 20th-place Joey Logano and he trails 10th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 83 points.

 “Today was definitely a hard-fought battle,” said Busch.  “Early on, we were able to benefit from our good qualifying position and run up front, exchanged the lead back and forth with (Joey) Logano and (Denny) Hamlin.   Running right there, third, fourth or fifth and just clicking away laps.  We always start off good when the track is fresh and then we just started to slide more and more when the track rubbers-in.”

 Busch led two times for nine laps in the early going.  While going with right-side tires only during an early pit stop worked to help tighten up Busch’s loose Dodge, the same move backfired on the Steve Addington-led “Double-Deuce” team later in the race.  During the third caution of the day, Logano, Ryan Newman and Busch went with two tires, while the rest of the leaders opted for four.  Busch was third on the restart, but faded to 10th as rain came into the picture.

 Busch and Keselowski hit pit road when the raindrops began to fall for four tires and fuel.  “We were struggling; just kind of hanging on to a top-10 spot and the rain came,” Busch said of the scenario.  “We pitted right before the rain.  At the time, I thought my crew chief was crazy.  That would have trapped us 26th if we didn’t get it back under way.  But luckily we did.   And it looked like the Penske guys were the smartest guys when it came to a rain delay, because we came out 1-2 after the restart.”

 The rain that came halted the event for almost one hour and 40 minutes, but Mother Nature allowed the remainder of the race to get completed entirely.   When the race did return to green, Busch was able to lead on two more occasions for 29 additional laps.

 “Our car just took off on a fresh race track that wasn’t rubbered in, and then the race track rubbered up really quick those last 60, 70, 80 alps and we were hanging on to it in the end, brought it home third,” Busch offered.  “A good hard-fought battle for us, rooting for those two in front of me, my teammate and my younger brother, to wreck each other, but not to wreck each other.  Of course I wanted both of them to win and I wanted to win, anybody but the 48 (Jimmie Johnson).  And us three, we came home up front.”

 When the race had concluded and second through fifth-place finishers stopped on pit road to do their post-race media opportunities, Johnson immediately came over to Busch’s Dodge and confronted him even before he could get out of his car.

 “We were fast on a fresh race track and then we’d fade,” said Busch.  “I was racing Jimmie (Johnson) hard there at the end.  I was racing, flat out.  You want to race, let’s race.  I didn’t know we were supposed to pull over when it came down to five to go.  I raced him hard.  I raced him smart.  I raced him clean and he wants to come over here and bitch about it.  Hey, he came off the turn and did a jab to my left; I did a jab back to the right.   Why can’t we race each other like this and put on show for the fans and not have a problem with it?  I don’t know.”

 Keselowksi’s advantage over Kyle Busch at the finish was 0.791 seconds in posting his third career Cup victory.  Newman rounded out the top-five finishers, with Jeff Gordon, Edwards, Greg Biffle, Earnhardt Jr. and Paul Menard rounding out today’s top-10.

 “I had made up my mind that we were going to try and win the race, but we had to get our track position back,” said Addington after the dust had settled.  “We lost it there on the two-tire call with us and the 20 car.  The 20 retained track position, we didn’t.  We had to do something and take a chance.  I’ve been real conservative; don’t take a lot of chances I guess.  I thought I could gamble on it and could live with the outcome.  When it started raining, Paul (Wolfe, crew chief for Brad Keselowski) and I, both of us started yelling hit pit road.  It was a gamble, but we thought the rain would stop and we could finish the race.  It worked out for us.  I’m glad for the whole Penske organization, two cars in the top three here at Pocono.  From where we were last year to finish first and third here, we’ve come a long ways.”

 After 21 races, Edwards continues to lead the points with 720.  Johnson is second with 711.  Kyle Busch (709), Kurt Busch (706) and Kevin Harvick (700) round out the top-five.  Matt Kenseth (694), Gordon (668), Newman (658), Tony Stewart (642) and Earnhardt Jr. (641) complete the top-10.

 The Sprint Cup tour now heads to Watkins Glen International for next weekend’s final road course race of the season.  Busch won the June race at Infineon Raceway and will be looking for a road course “sweep” in this weekend’s battle in the Finger Lakes Region of New York.

 This weekend’s action at Watkins Glen International gets under way with Sprint Cup practice on Friday from 12:00 noon till 1:50 p.m. and from 4:10 p.m. till 5:30 p.m.  Sunday’s 43-car starting field will be determined in Saturday’s 11:40 a.m. single round of Cup qualifying.  Sunday’s Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen Sprint Cup race has a 1:00 p.m. EDT starting time, with ESPN and MRN Radio presenting live coverage of the 90-lap, 220.5-mile battle.