JOLIET, Ill. (September 19, 2011) – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch showed winning potential early in today’s GEICO 400 here at Chicagoland Speedway, faded late in the race, but was able to pull out a sixth-place finish at the end. The strong start to this year’s 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship sees the 2004 series champ up to fourth in the point standings with nine races to go.
“It was a good point’s day for our Shell/Pennzoil Dodge,” Busch offered after the race. “We had speed in the car early, but just didn’t keep up with the track. We were a top-10 car all day. We led a bunch of laps early. We just struggled with making adjustments as the race went on.
“The key for us late in the race was fuel mileage,” Busch added. “I knew that we were short. A lot of guys were short. I told Steve to pack it full and that I would do the rest. To get a sixth-place finish to start the Chase is a good step. We still want those race wins.”
Busch started today’s race from the third position. Strong from the start, he maneuvered into the lead for the first time on Lap 41. He went on to lead two times for 64 laps and earned the additional bonus point for leading the most laps.
As the laps winded down, Busch’s No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge got tighter as the track “rubbered in” and he began to lose the strength he had during the first half of the race. Busch was eighth on the Lap 217 restart after the sixth caution of the day. The tight condition saw him slip to 12th on Lap 239 when Penske teammate Brad Keselowski got around.
Crew chief Steve Addington was already “preaching” fuel conservation after the team’s final pit stop and Busch did a miraculous job of getting all he could out of his tank. As it would turn out, the race turned into a dramatic fuel battle in the final laps, and Busch was able to jettison from outside the top 10 up to sixth on the final circuit. Some five cars ran out of fuel on the final lap and Busch was able to gain several spot just from Turn 4 to the finish line.
At the line, it was Tony Stewart picking up the win by 0.941 seconds over Kevin Harvick. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third, with Carl Edwards fourth and Keselowski fifth. Busch, Clint Bowyer , Ryan Newman, Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson rounded out today’s top-10 finishers.
“It seems like we can get our cars tightened up, but can’t free them up at all and we struggled with that,” said Addington. “I’m disappointed that we led a lot of laps today and should have had a better showing with the Shell/Pennzoil Dodge. We just couldn’t stay on top of the race track like we needed to once the track got rubbered-in. I’m disappointed in myself.”