Kurt Busch Finishes Strong 4th in Advocare 500

September 7, 2011

HAMPTON, Ga. (Sept. 6) – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch finished a strong fourth in today’s weather-delayed AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway and officially clinched one of the 12 spots in this season’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.

"It’s great day for Penske and the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge team today,” said Busch, whose fourth-place finish here today was his sixth top-five finish and 13th top-10 in the 25 races now put into this year’s record book.  “It was a great run, a Chase-type effort. To come home fourth, Tony (Stewart) was coming out of nowhere. We somewhat surprised ourselves. We made great adjustments as the race went on. Good adjustments during the race and solid pit stops during the race. A great run for our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge. It's great to be locked into the Chase. Just all of our sponsors, AAA, Lennox, Snap-On, TAGHeuer and Coca-Cola. A good, solid season. Now it's go time. We've got Richmond as a buffer, but we've got 10 weeks ahead of us that are the most important 10 weeks of the season.

"Richmond was fun race last May, it was well documented,” said Busch, who won the initial Chase-format championship in 2004 and will compete in his sixth edition (of eight) of the Chase when it kicks off on Sept. 18 at Chicagoland Speedway.  “I can't have people not stop talking about it. Maybe we can bounce back and get that behind us and go and attack Chicago, one of my favorite race tracks, and go and get in the groove of the Chase. Every position counts. Everyone needs to click on all eight cylinders on our team. Just our Dodges are running so well right now and Keselowski's in. We're in. We're a two-team effort for Dodge and here we are with our Dodge Chargers running with the big boys. We're right in this mix. I feel really proud of my guys today."

Busch entered the Atlanta race with a 60-point “buffer” over 11th and needed only to emerge from the battle with a 49-point advantage.  His fourth-place finish today sees him heading into Richmond climbing to seventh in the standings and holding a 61-point lead over 11th.  Most importantly, he is now solidly in the Chase and can focus on doing what it takes to win at Richmond in order to get three additional bonus points.

Busch started today’s race from the 10th spot and fought a tight handling condition from the beginning of the race.  The Steve Addington-led “Double-Deuce” team worked with air pressure and wedge adjustments trying to remedy the situation.  The car went from too tight to too loose in just a matter of a pit stop and the first long green-flag run.

With a light drizzle forcing three different cautions and one red-flag period, Busch, Addington and crew utilized the time on pit road to finally bring their Dodge Charger to life at the end when it counted most.  Busch had been shown in the running order as high as sixth and as low as 21st during the first half of the race.  On a Lap 171 pit stop under the green, Addington called for a spring rubber to be pushed into the left-rear and that seemed to be the turning point for Busch’s charge back toward the front.

Busch was up to 11th for the Lap 247 restart after the seventh caution period of the day.  His Dodge would handle tight and the beginning of a run and then get progressively more competitive as the laps clicked off.  He entered the top-five for the first time during the race when he got around Martin Truex Jr. on Lap 260.  He passed Matt Kenseth for fourth seven laps later.  He got around Carl Edwards for third on Lap 272.

Busch made his final pit stop of the race under the green on Lap 284.  The 12.348-second stop helped keep him in the third position when the stops cycled around on Lap 288.  Busch held that position until the closing circuits when Stewart made his charge around to secure the third spot at the checkers.

Up front it was Jeff Gordon holding off teammate Jimmie Johnson to take the win by 0.598 seconds.  It was Gordon’s 85th career big league victory and snapped the tie he had with legendary drivers Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip.  Stewart finished third, with Kurt Busch fourth and Edwards fifth.  Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski finished sixth in his Miller Lite Dodge, with Kevin Harvick seventh, Denny Hamlin eighth, Kenseth ninth and A.J. Allmendinger rounding out the top-10.

Entering Richmond, Johnson is the points leader with 873.  Kyle Busch is second with 852, with Edwards third (835), Kenseth fourth (834) and Gordon fifth (830).  Harvick (819), Kurt Busch (789), Ryan Newman (786), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (753) and Stewart (751) round out the top-10.  Keselowski is 11th (with 728 points) and his three wins for the season insure that he will be a “Chase player,” regardless of the outcome at Richmond.

"It feels great,” offered crew chief Addington.  “Our first year with Shell-Pennzoil and get in the Chase. It's just a great effort by everyone that puts a hand on these race cars. I want to thank everyone back at Penske Racing who helps with the cars that work behind the scenes and don't come to the race track. They work their butts off to put us in this position.

"It was unbelievable,” Addington said of the challenges of keeping up with changing track conditions.  “The change the track went through today was incredible. How the car changed and the phases that it went through was really incredible. We just kept working on it trying to make it better as the race went on. I think that our race car got pretty good after the halfway point of the race. I have to thank everybody that supports us. Dodge gives us incredible support and everything that we ask out of them. We really appreciate those guys doing all the work behind the scenes and working with our engineering group to give us what we need to go racing. A great effort by everyone involved."

This weekend’s action at Richmond International Raceway will again feature a two-day format for the NASCAR Sprint Cup tour competitors.  Action gets under way with Sprint Cup practice on Friday from 12:10 p.m. 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 5:35 p.m. single round of Cup qualifying (live on ESPN2).  Saturday’s Wonderful Pistachios 400 (400 laps, 300 miles) Sprint Cup race has a 7:30 p.m. EDT starting time, with ABC-TV and MRN Radio presenting live coverage.