Kurt Busch Leads Penske Racing at Phoenix; Finishes Second
November 10, 2008
After grabbing the third starting spot in Friday's qualifying at the "Desert Mile," Busch led laps, was a top-three competitor the majority of the race and came home as the runner-up finisher. Racing with the new Dodge R6P8 power plant for the fifth time this season, Busch faced a major scare on Lap 168 when all the engine overheating lights went red on the No. 2 car. Debris was clogging the front grill area on the Miller Lite Dodge and the water temperature shot up to 270 degrees.
In a great display of teamwork, Busch worked through his spotter to have his teammate Newman, running laps down due to earlier tire and suspension problems, come to the rescue. Newman slowed to allow Busch to run right up on his rear bumper in order to suck the debris from the front of his "Blue Deuce." Once the grill opening was cleared, the temperatures immediately started decreasing and the red warning lights went off.
"I have to thank my crew and crew chief Pat Tryson," Busch said. "We made great adjustments all day. My guys did a tremendous job in the pits all race long; they were awesome. I love working for Roger Penske. The Miller Lite Dodge was fast. We really put up a fight. I was proud to finish second today."
With only next weekend's 2008 season finale remaining on the schedule, Busch remains 19th in the Cup Series point standings.
Newman and the No. 12 Alltel Dodge started sixth and appeared to have a car that would contend for a solid finish at Phoenix International Raceway, but a flat right-front tire and a subsequent broken sway bar at lap 71 derailed the run and led to a 34th-place finish.
"It was a tough race for the Alltel Dodge because I believe that our car was a top-10 car at worst," Newman said after the race. "We just haven't had much luck at Phoenix this year. The flat tire and broken sway bar just ended our day way too soon. Luckily, through attrition, we were able to pick up some spots, but it was not what I know this car was capable of."
Newman is 17th in the Cup Series driver point standings heading into next weekend's season finale in Miami.
An early-race incident unfortunately set the tone of the afternoon for Hornish as he battled an ill-handling race car for much of the race. Involvement in a second incident relegated the No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge team to a 33rd-place finish, five laps off the leaders.
Hornish still holds a slight lead in the battle to become NASCAR's 2008 Rookie of the Year, setting the stage for a dramatic finish to the season next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"Today was definitely a challenge," said Hornish after the race. "We just couldn't get a handle on the Mobil 1 Dodge and seemed to have bad luck out there after getting involved in two incidents. The guys did a really good job in the pits today and I'm proud of this team. We head into the final race of the season in a really close battle for Rookie of the Year honors. We're going to put this week behind us and focus on achieving that goal in Homestead next Sunday."
The No. 77 team remains 37th in the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner point standings, 101 points outside of the top 35.
The Penske Racing trio heads into the final race of the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Ford 400 will be televised live on the ABC television network on Sunday, November 16 at 3 p.m. EST. Coverage will also be broadcast on MRN Radio beginning at 3 p.m. EST.