TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct.23, 2011) – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch was the victim of a late-race crash in today’s Good Sam Club 500 here at Talladega Superspeedway which relegated him to a 36th-place finish. The 2004 Sprint Cup Champion is now 52 points out of the lead with only four races remaining this season and he says that deficit is just too much to overcome.
“We were doing really well all day, running with Regan Smith and there in the crash, we just had nowhere to go,” said Busch. “The 47 got flung by Michael Waltrip, he went low, we went high, and he was starting to come back up when I was zigging and zagging. Our championship hopes are done just because of this two-car Talladega draft.”
Busch started 14th here this afternoon in what became another episode of the two-car tandem style of racing common on the restrictor-plate tracks over the last few years. Busch and Smith ran in tandem all afternoon long. During a sequence of pit stops under the second caution period of the race, Busch stayed out to lead Lap 69 and gain the bonus point for doing so.
Busch was among the top-10 competitors for much of the mid-portion of the race. After pitting for tires, adjustments and enough fuel to make the distance on Lap 164 under the seventh yellow flag period of the race, Busch was 19th on the Lap 168 restart. He was “pushing” Smith’s car when the Labonte/Waltrip tandem had their problems immediately in front and collected the “Double-Deuce” Dodge.
The battle for the race win race came down to a green-white-checkered finish, with Clint Bowyer passing teammate Jeff Burton in the final turn of the last lap to take the victory. Dave Blaney came in third, with Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski bringing the Miller Lite Dodge home fourth and Brian Vickers fifth. Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Michael Waltrip and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top-10 finishers.
With only four races remaining to determine the 2011 series champion, Carl Edwards (who finished 11th here today) leads the point standings with 2,237 points. Matt Kenseth is second and 14 laps back. Keselwoski continues to turn heads as he is third and only 18 laps out of the lead. Tony Stewart is fourth and 19 points out of the lead and Kevin Harvick stands fifth and 26 points behind. With 2,185 points, Busch is eighth in the standings and is 52 points behind leader Edwards.
“You never throw in the towel as long as there is a chance,” said crew chief Steve Addington. “But you have to be realistic when you look at the big picture. Everybody on this Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team has worked so hard. We will just have to play the spoiler these next four races and see how far back up the ladder we can climb. There are still races to be run and ground to be gained. We have a full month of racing remaining and we’ll be out there after everything we can get.”
The Sprint Cup tour now moves from the largest track on the circuit, Talladega, to the smallest track, Martinsville Speedway, for this weekend’s running of the TUMS Bring It On 500. This weekend’s schedule gets under way with Friday’s practices from 12:30 p.m. till 2:00 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. till 5:00 p.m. (live on SPEED-TV). Coors Light Pole Award qualifying to establish the starting grid for Sunday’s 500-lap battle is set for Saturday at 12:10 p.m. local (live on SPEED-TV). Sunday’s TUMS Bring It On 500 has a scheduled 1:30 p.m. local (EDT) starting time at the 0.526-mile flat track with tricky inside curbing in the corners. ESPN-TV and MRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action.