"It was the most emotional highs and lows that I've experienced since I've been racing here at Talladega," said Busch, after emerging from the infield care center when the race had concluded. "Early in the race, I was bump drafting with the 83 and had contact which pushed in our right-rear quarter panel and ended up cutting down our right-rear tire. We came to pit road which put us down two laps, but caught a break when the next caution came out. We decided to stay out and take the wave around, even though we were seven laps shy of our fuel window.
"Then another yellow flag came out when we were racing the 44 for the lucky dog position. We got the break which gave us the pass and put us on the lead lap. After the restart, we fought our way all the way from 35th to ninth when we cut a left-rear tire on lap with seven laps to go. That set us back again. We had to pit and amazingly enough, we caught another break when the 39 and 47 got together and the big wreck happened. We started ninth on the green-white flag restart and hoped to make a push to the front when I got tapped from behind again that sent our Miller Lite Dodge into a spin and into the infield wall. Just a really strange race and I'm ready to call it a day."
Busch started sixth Sunday afternoon and moved up to lead on lap 2. He was a staple among the top-10 until a round of green-flag pit stops were the order beginning on lap 41. After pitting on lap 44 for two tires and fuel, Busch returned to the track in the middle of the second pack of cars. He radioed in that he had gotten bump-drafted so hard that he had a right-rear tire rub.
Exiting Turn 4 on lap 51, Busch's tire cut down and he brushed the outside wall before careening down the track and into the tri-oval grass to bring out the caution flag. He was able to struggle through the muddy sod and make it to pit road. There were two cars yet to pit in making a full cycle on the stops and with the team having to take time to repair the damage to the car, Busch was two laps down and running in 35th on the lap 56 restart.
Busch was able to ride it out for the next 50 laps, until a debris caution slowed the field again. While Greg Biffle was able to get the lucky dog free pass around to return to the lead lap, Busch stayed out on the track, did the wave around the pace car and returned to being just a single lap down to the leaders.
When Denny Hamlin blew an engine on lap 136, Busch was able to pick up the lucky dog free pass and return to the lead lap. He was 35th on the lap 143 restart, but was back in the top 20 only five laps into the run. With the typical three-wide-and-10-rows-deep racing coming back into play during the final 25 laps of competition, Busch was on the move.
Another hard bump-draft caused the left-rear tire to go flat on Lap 181 and Busch was forced to bring his Miller Lite Dodge down pit road. But by the time the field had gone down the backstretch, Marcos Ambrose tapped Ryan Newman heading into Turn 3 and Newman flipped and spun wildly into the infield grass to bring out another yellow flag and later a red-flag period. Newman escaped without injury.
Busch benefitted from the timing of that crash and was able to stay on the lead lap. The fuel taken on during that stop insured them that they could go the distance. Such was not the case for many of the teams.
When the red flag was lifted and the race finally went to a green-white-checkered finish, Busch was ninth on the restart. Running the top lane and coming down for the white flag, Busch got contact from the rear by rookie Brad Kesolowski, causing the "Blue Deuce" to get out of shape and triggering the final massive pileup of the day, ending the race under the yellow.
Jamie McMurray came home the winner, with Kasey Kahne second, rookie Joey Logano third, Biffle fourth and Jeff Burton fifth. Johnson, Michael Waltrip, Keselowski, Elliott Sadler and Bobby Labonte rounded out the top-10 finishers.
Penske Racing teammates David Stremme and Sam Hornish Jr. finished 22nd and 40th, respectively, here today.
"That was really disappointing out there today," offered crew chief Pat Tryson. "Kurt kept on fighting back from everything that happened. To get taken out like that just was such a tough deal. He's still one of the best out there in this brand of racing, but you can't help it when you get run over. Kurt will keep it up and finally win one of these things and there'll be plenty more wins here and at Daytona in the future for him. I've just really enjoyed being able to be up there on the box the last three years watching him do his stuff out there in this type of racing."
With only three races remaining in the 2009 season, here is the way the top-12 point standings look. Shown is position, car number, driver, '09 wins, points, deficit to 1st and finishing position in today's race:
1) #48-Jimmie Johnson [6 wins], 6248, finished 8th
2) #5-Mark Martin [5 wins], 6064, -184
3) #24-Jeff Gordon [1 win], 6056, -192
4) #42-Juan Montoya, 6009, -239
5) #14-Tony Stewart [4 wins], 5969, -279
6) #2-Kurt Busch [1 win], 5936, -312
7) #16-Greg Biffle, 5908, -340
8) #39-Ryan Newman, 5846, -402
9) #9-Kasey Kahne [2 wins], 5834, -414
10) #99-Carl Edwards, 5811, -437
11) #11-Denny Hamlin [3 wins], 5800, -448
12) #83-Brian Vickers [1 win], 5692, -556
The Sprint Cup Series now heads back out to Texas Motor Speedway for another intermediate-size track battle next weekend. Friday's practice from 12:00 Noon till 1:30 p.m. (TV: ESPN2) kicks off this weekend's action at Texas Motor Speedway. Qualifying to establish the starting grid for Sunday's battle is set for Friday at 3:40 p.m. local (live on ESPN2 and PRN Radio). Saturday's morning practice is scheduled from 8:45 a.m. till 9:30 a.m. and the final "happy hour" practice session is scheduled from 10:00 a.m. till 11:00 a.m. (TV: ESPN2). Sunday's Dickies 500 (334 laps, 501 miles) has a scheduled 2:15 p.m. local starting time on the 1.5-mile Dallas/Fort Worth Area speed plant. ABC-TV and PRN Radio (locally heard on KLLI-FM 105.3 FM) will provide live coverage of all the action.