Kurt Busch Starting 5th in Sunday's Sylvania 300 at NHMS

September 23, 2011

LOUDON, N.H. (September 23, 2011) – Today’s MASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying session required an hour more to complete than the average for the last three years here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch was more than willing to spend the extra time in the garage area.  Those additional minutes allowed all 45 drivers the opportunity to make qualifying runs and will see Busch start fifth in Sunday’s SYLVANIA 300 rather than way back in 32nd.

“I’m about worn out from all the drama here this afternoon and this is just qualifying day,” chuckled crew chief Steve Addington when today’s lengthy time trial session finally was completed.  “We got ourselves behind the eight-ball in practice, but Kurt and this Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team showed again what we are made of.  We never give up and never will.  I certainly go on record applauding all the officials in staying the course and doing everything they could in getting all the qualifying in here today.”

Busch, Addington and the “Double Deuce” Penske Racing Team brought a brand new car here this weekend – the “PRS-761” Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger.  To say that the team struggled in practice would be an understatement.  Fighting handling woes, Busch was able to make only one mock qualifying run (lap of 28.952 seconds/129.286 mph), which was only 32nd-fastest on the speed chart.

With the new qualifying procedure this season, Busch’s practice speed placed him 14th in the qualifying order and put him in a precarious position.  With rain moving into the area, Busch and crew had to sweat out the situation.  If weather forced officials to call qualifying at any time before all competitors had a chance to go against the clock, the field would be set by the practice speeds and Busch would have started near the rear of the field.

After changes were made to their Dodge between practice and qualifying, Busch took to the track and turned in a lap of 28.343 seconds (134.382 mph), picking up more than half a second from practice.  Under threatening skies, Busch wound up holding the provisional pole for car after car in the qualifying session.

“New car blues,” Busch said after turning in his qualifying effort.  “We're really just struggling finding the front-end, the settle point. We're either dragging the splitter or it's five feet off the ground, literally. It's just been a weird day with travels and the new car. We just had to go cold turkey at it. We threw the July qualifying setup at it. We ran a 28.30 in July. We ran a 28.30 again. I just don't know where that's going to put us.

“We know the sway bar arms and some other things were giving us issues and the bump stops,” added Busch.  “I mean it’s this wonderful splitter that we have and you got to battle around it some days.  When you have a new car you never know what travels you’re going to get sometimes.”

Brian Vickers and Greg Biffle were the only two drivers to better Busch’s speed when rain finally hit the track.  Only five drivers remained on the grid to make their qualifying runs.

NASCAR officials saw a “window” in the passing front and were able to get the session concluded and officially set Sunday’s starting field by qualifying and not the rule book.  Busch wound up earning his fifth top-five starting spot in the last six races on this 1.058-mile flat oval track.

Ryan Newman, the final driver to make his run (and the fastest driver in practice) claimed the Coors Light Pole Award with his fast lap of 28.213 seconds (135.002 mph).  Kasey Kahne, next-to-last out, turned in a lap of 28.263 seconds (134.763 mph) to claim the outside pole.  Vickers lap (28.287 seconds/134.648 mph) held up for third and Biffle’s circuit (28.300/134.587) earned him the fourth starting spot.

Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson rounded out today’s top-10 qualifiers.  Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski will start Sunday’s race from the 16th position after turning in a lap of 28.473 seconds (133.769 mph) in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge.

“Today’s run will get us a great spot on pit road,” said Addington.  “Hopefully, the weather breaks, we get to practice some here tomorrow and we’re able to get this new Shell-Pennzoil Dodge dialed in for Sunday’s race.”

Saturday’s action here at the “Magic Mile” includes practice sessions from 9:40 a.m. till 10:30 a.m. and from 11:30 p.m. till 1:00 p.m.  Sunday’s SYLVANIA 300 (300 Laps, 317.4 Miles) has a 2:00 p.m. EDT starting time.  Live coverage of the race will be provided by ESPN-TV and PRN Radio.