Kurt Busch Finishes 36th at Martinsville
October 20, 2008
"Just a total bummer day," Busch said in describing his eventful encounter with this tough old .526-mile flat asphalt bullring.
"Two out of the last three races, we've had part failures and the one race we didn't, we finished in the top-five...that's pretty much a statement for our season," Busch said. "Today, it was the right rear brake system. I don't know exactly what happened, but something in the bleeder was off when we pitted. I felt the brakes get really spongy and when we pitted, fluid was spewing everywhere.
"NASCAR wouldn't allow us to cap off the line and sent us to the garage to repair it before we could go back onto the track," Busch continued. "So we looked at the rest of the race as a test session trying big changes.
"Like a lot of guys, we had right-front tires problems. I popped two right-front tires and had to pit under green twice. That just drove the dagger through the heart as far as today's race goes. The way the fronts (tires) were popping, I was ready to park it after the second time. We were probably running too much camber as usual."
After Friday's action was rained out and today's lineup was set by the rule book, Busch started 19th on the grid. When the team was disappointed with their effort during yesterday's two practices sessions, they chose to race the setup that Penske Racing teammate Ryan Newman practiced with.
At the drop of the green, it appeared that the move was a smart one. Busch steadily moved forward and looked to be heading into the top 10. A promising day soon turned ugly during the second caution period of the race that began when Kasey Kahne's car stalled on the frontstretch.
Only a few laps earlier, Busch had reported that he felt potential brake problems coming on. Brake issues surfaced during the team's pit stop under the yellow on Lap 63.
When the Miller Lite Dodge came to rest in the pit box, smoke billowed from the right-rear wheel area. It was determined that brake fluid was spraying freely.
Historically, teams could temporarily remedy such a situation by "capping off" the line and rely on three-quarter braking power. But in NASCAR's effort to increase safety, Busch was relegated to the garage to fully repair the right-rear braking components.
After the repairs were made, Busch returned to the action running nine laps down to the leaders. Little did he know at the time that his problems here today were far from being over.
The strategy had turned to trying to utilize the remainder of the race as a huge test session, with Busch suggesting the team try "major changes to really learn some things."
So, instead of "half-pound" and "half-round" changes, the adjustments were two whole pounds and two whole rounds.
After a Lap 105 spin saw Busch go around without making any contact, the flat-spotted tires forced the team to pit for four fresh Goodyears on Lap 119 under the fifth caution period of the race.
Several competitors, including brother Kyle, had already experienced problems with their right-front tires, when the first of two "popped" tires hit Busch on Lap 349. The team lost an additional three laps then.
Newman had right-front tire problems only a handful of laps later. When the No. 2 Dodge lost another right-front tire with 100 laps remaining and was forced to pit yet again, safety concerns saw crew chief Pat Tryson pledge to run no more than 40 laps in between tire changes due a possible "over-cambering" setup.
Three cautions during the final 30 laps kept the 13 cars remaining on the lead lap bunched up and, at the end, forced a green-white-checkered finish.
Jimmie Johnson had shown to have the strongest car for the majority of the race. At the end, he emerged with a 0.708-second win over runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr. Carl Edwards finished third, with Jeff Gordon fourth and Denny Hamlin fifth. Casey Mears, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out today's top-10 finishers. Brian Vickers, Greg Biffle and David Ragan were the other drivers on the lead lap at the finish.
Busch completed 470 (of the 504) laps and was credited with a 36th-place finish. Newman was the highest-finishing Penske driver, taking the 23rd and completing 501 laps. Rookie Sam Hornish Jr. finished 34th, completing 473 laps.
The Miller Lite Dodge driver maintained the 18th spot in driver points after today's race. With 3,231 points, Busch trails 13th-place Ragan by 571 points and is 181 points behind 15th-place Vickers. He is currently 73 points ahead of 19th-place Jamie McMurray.
As for the Chase for the NASCAR Championship, here's how the points shape up with only four races remaining:
UNOFFICIAL Chase Driver Points Standings [after Martinsville race 32 of 36]:
1) #48-Jimmie Johnson 6073 [6 wins]
2) #16-Greg Biffle 5924 -149 [2 wins]
3) #31-Jeff Burton 5921 -152 [2 wins]
4) #99-Carl Edwards 5875 -198 [6 wins]
5) #07-Clint Bowyer 5831 -242 [1 win]
6) #29-Kevin Harvick 5817 -256
7) #24-Jeff Gordon 5798 -275
8) #20-Tony Stewart 5735 -338 [1 win]
9) #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr. 5694 -379 [1 win]
10) #17-Matt Kenseth 5665 -408
11) #11-Denny Hamlin 5653 -420 [1 win]
12) #18-Kyle Busch 5628 -445 [8 wins]
The NASCAR Sprint Cup tour now heads back to the lightning-fast Atlanta Motor Speedway for next weekend's running of the Pep Boys Auto 500. The 500-mile/325-lap battle is scheduled to start at 2:00 p.m. EDT next Sunday and features live coverage by ABC-TV and PRN Radio.