Kurt Busch Finishes 34th in Sunday's Pure Michigan 400

August 21, 2011

BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 21, 2011) – For the second consecutive week along the NASCAR Sprint Cup tour, Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch was not around at the finish due to a crash that resulted from a blown tire.  Today’s late-race incident relegated Busch to a 34th-place finish in today’s Pure Michigan 400 here at Michigan International Speedway.  With three races remaining to determine this year’s 12 Chase competitors, Busch is now 77 points out of the lead, but holds a 52-point “Chase buffer” over 11th-place Clint Bowyer.

 “We blew a right front tire with three laps to go -- running just outside the top 10 and making a strong run during the final laps to get us a top-10 finish,” said Busch.  “The impact wound up rupturing the radiator, so that was it for us today.

 “It’s just so typical of how a lot of our races on this type of track have gone lately,” added Busch.    “We’re good for about the first 15 laps in a run and then the handling starts going away.  We started really tight, adjusted on it and it went too loose -- so loose that I got into the wall about a third of the way into the race.  We were lucky not to have cut down a right-front tire after it happened.

 “We thought if we went with rights only on one stop that it would give us track position and tighten up the car.  We got up to third before the handling started going away.  There were just way too many mood swings with our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge out there today.”

 Busch started 13th here today and mounted a strong charge toward the front from the drop of the green flag.  He was already in the top-10 after only two laps and cracked the top-five on Lap 7.  He got up to fourth on Lap 9 and held that position when the first yellow flag flew for debris on Lap 29.

 The Steve Addington-led “Double Deuce” crew went with wedge and air pressure adjustments during the four-tire pit stop under the yellow and was sixth on the Lap 35 restart.  Busch was able to charge up to third on Lap 40 and was turning the fastest lap times on Lap 45, before his car’s first “mood swing” from being too tight to being too loose occurred.

 The crew continued to make adjustments throughout the race that would offer only temporary improvement with the handling.  Busch was fighting a loose condition on Lap 71 when he got into the wall.  He slowed dramatically, thinking that the impact had cut down the right-front tire.  He fell to 11th before hitting pit road on Lap 86 for fresh tires and giving the crew time to address any bent sheet metal.

 The third caution of the race flew on Lap 102 for debris and saw the team go with right-side tires only and that normally works to tighten up the handling.  Busch was fifth on the Lap 108 restart and charged quickly up to third.  Because he “couldn’t lean any on the right-rear tire,” he started losing ground only eight laps into the run.

 Busch had fallen all the way back to 16th when he pit road on Lap 136 for four tires and adjustments.  The green flag stops cycled around on Lap 140 and Busch was running 16th.  He had fallen to 18th when Dave Blaney’s stalled Chevy brought out the fourth caution flag of the race on Lap 167.  With only 33 laps remaining, that took the potential fuel mileage battle to the finish out of the equation.

 The call was for four tires and fuel, with air pressure and wedge adjustments.  Busch was 20th on the Lap 173 restart, but shot up to 11th only one lap later.  He wavered between 11th and 14th for the next 20 laps.  He was running 12th and making a bid to move toward a top-10 finish when the blown right-front tire sent him hard into the outside wall with only three laps remaining.

 Busch’s crash caused the final caution and sent the race into overtime.  Kyle Busch came home the winner by 0.568 seconds over Jimmie Johnson at the checkers.  Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski brought the Miller Lite Dodge home in third, with Mark Martin and Ryan Newman rounding out the top-five finishers.  Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top 10.

“Momentum means a lot in our sport and we’ll be looking to get it back at Bristol next weekend,” offered crew chief Addington.  “We went a year without a single DNF and here we have two in a row.  We crashed with just three laps to go and that produced a swing of more than 20 points we have on 11th.  The good thing is that we have some good tracks coming up for Kurt and this Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team.  We’re confident that we can string together some great finishes and have the momentum back in the right direction come Chase time.”

 After 23 races have been put into the 2011 record book, Kyle Busch leads the points with 799.  Johnson is second with 789, with Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards both at 760 and Kenseth fifth with 759.  Gordon (739), Newman (725), Kurt Busch (722), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (700) and Stewart (694) round out the top-10 points players.

 Keselowski and his Paul Wolfe-led “Blue Deuce” team may just have the most momentum going of any team out there at this point in the season.  Coming off a win, a second and a third in the last three races, Keselowski has climbed 10 spots in the points during the last six races.  He is up to 12th in the standings with 642 points.  Although he trails 10th-place Stewart by 52 points, he is in the catbird seat for the “wild card” advancement into the Chase by virtue of his two victories this season.

 The Sprint Cup tour now heads back to Bristol Motor Speedway for next Saturday night’s battle under the lights.  The BMS action gets under way with Sprint Cup practice on Friday from 12:00 noon till 2:00 p.m.  The final practice for the Sprint Cup cars is set from 2:45 p.m. till 3:30 p.m. on Friday (live on SPEED).  Saturday night’s 43-car starting field will be determined in Friday’s 5:10 p.m. single round of Cup qualifying (live on ESPN2).  Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race (500 laps, 266.5 miles) Sprint Cup race has a 7:30 p.m. EDT starting time, with ABC-TV and PRN Radio presenting live coverage.