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Kurt Busch Fights Engine Problems to Finish 21st at Talladega

October 6, 2008

Photo courtesy of Steve Rose



TALLADEGA, Ala (Oct. 5, 2008) – Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch led today’s AMP Energy 500 here at Talladega Superspeedway for two laps before engine problems sent him behind pit wall.  But the Pat Tryson-led Penske Racing team was determined to return to action if at all possible.

Busch, Tryson and crew’s persistence paid off as the No. 2 car returned in the 39th spot after losing some 10 laps behind the wall.  But after two of “the big ones,” the multi-car crashes that are typical with the restrictor-plate races held on this massive 2.66-mile Alabama track, took their toll on the 43-car starting field, Busch was able to bounce back and pull out a 21st-place finish for the day.

“We definitely did the right thing in repairing the car enough to get back out there and log the laps,” said Busch after the race.  “I would never have imagined that we could have made up that many positions.  It’s just the nature of this brand of racing, though.

“Our car was strong enough to stay in the lead lap and by playing our cards right, we hooked up with Brian Vickers and led for two laps,” Busch continued.  “But with him pushing us out front, it must have pegged the rev meter and we just put too much strain on the engine.  So we were out front leading one lap and two laps later we’re behind the wall.  I’ve never had such a thing happen before.

“It was a good comeback for us, but the big problem is that we should have been stronger than that in the first place.  If you want to run up front consistently out there today, you have to be strong as possible in every area and we just seem to have the weak links.  Today is was the engine that ended a possible strong run”

Busch started 33rd here today, but became a fixture among the top 10 after only 10 laps.  After two cautions for debris had kept the field in a tight three-wide and four-wide group the first 50 laps, Busch and Vickers teamed up to pull away from the pack with Busch at the point on Lap 52.

But only two circuits later, the engine in Busch’s mount began skipping, forcing him to back off and fall out of the draft.  A lap later, Jeff Gordon and David Reutimann were involved in an altercation that brought out the third yellow flag of the race.

After at first attempting to diagnose the problem on pit road, Busch returned to the track and took the green on the Lap 58 restart.  Thinking the problem might be as serious as teammate Ryan Newman’s fatal engine woes only a few laps earlier, the team went behind the wall on Lap 60.

That move allowed them to avoid the first “big one” of the day, when Vickers blew a right-front tire, careened into the outside wall and bounced back into oncoming traffic.  That incident involved some 14 cars and produced the first re-flag period of the race.

When the red flag was pulled some 20 minutes later, Busch’s crew created a “temporary fix” to the problem, allowing him to return to competition and attempt to finish the event on seven cylinders.

Busch was 39th when he returned to the track on Lap 70.  The initial goal was to try to log enough laps to finish ahead of all the cars taken out in the first melee.  As the attrition rate accelerated, the team chose to log as many laps as possible.

When Carl Edwards made contact with Roush Racing teammate Greg Biffle on Lap 174, the second “big one” of the day eliminated another nine cars from the race, including three of the Roush “Chase” competitors.  Another red flag period was necessary to clean up the wreck.

The finish here today came down to a green-white-checkered battle with Tony Stewart leading on the restart.  The DEI Racing trio of Regan Smith, Paul Menard and Aric Almirola lined up immediately behind Stewart.

Stewart held the point all the way through the first lap and was the leader under the white flag.  He continued to hold off the others all the way through the final turn on the last lap.  Smith attempted to mount a charge to the inside coming down to the checkers and was able to inch ahead at the line.  The scoring monitors first showed Smith as the winner, but moments later NASCAR officials ruled that Smith was under the yellow line in making the pass and the advancement was deemed against the rules.

Controversy became almost pandemonium as there were arguments that Stewart had forced Smith below the line.  Some argued the case that such a rule does not hold merit on the final lap of the race.

At press time, NASCAR had posted Stewart as the winner and Smith 18th, the last car on the lead lap as a result of the penalty at the finish.  Menard was listed as second, with David Regan third, Jeff Burton fourth and Clint Bowyer fifth.  Bobby Labonte, Scott Riggs, Robby Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Elliott Sadler rounded out the unofficial top-10 finishers.

Kurt Busch was shown as the 21st-place finisher, completing 177 of the 190 laps.  Newman was shown as 43rd, completing 48 laps.

Unofficially, Johnson is shown as the leader in the “Chase” for the NASCAR championship with 5,718 points, leading second-place Edwards by 72 points.  Biffle is third and 77 back, while Burton is fourth and 99 points behind and Bowyer is up to fifth and 152 points out of the lead.

Kurt Busch is shown as 18th in the standings with 3,011 points.  He has a 28-point advantage over 19th-place Bobby Labonte and trails 17th-place Martin Truex Jr. by 140 points.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup tour now heads back to Lowe’s Motor Speedway for next Saturday night’s running of the Bank of America 500 on that 1.5-mile tri-oval located in Concord, N.C.