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Kurt Busch Finishes A Strong Sixth At Atlanta

October 27, 2008

Photo courtesy of Steve Rose



HAMPTON, Ga. (Oct. 26, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Penske Racing No. 2 Team continued to flex their muscle along the intermediate tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup tour, finishing a strong sixth in today's Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"We felt like the run we had at Charlotte was a good place to start," Busch said of the chassis setup his team used in finishing a strong third at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Oct. 11. "We made changes based on the track being different here at Atlanta rather than Charlotte. All in all, that was the core setup. We polished on it from there. There are a couple of things that we're thinking about right now that we would have liked to have had. That's better than normal. Most of the time, we're scratching our head because we're so far out of the box.

"It was a really good run with the Miller Lite Dodge," Busch said. "We led laps; we were competitive. I think that's the key word that (car owner) Roger Penske likes to use - we were competitive. No matter if we won or if we finished 10th, we had a good day today and brought it home in sixth."

With adverse weather conditions taking its toll here on Friday for the 10th time this season, Busch started today's race from the 19th starting spot. When Scott Riggs spun out of Turn 4 to bring out the second caution flag of the race on Lap 34, quick pit work by the "2 Crew" had Busch up to 11th for the Lap 39 restart.

A daring outside move on Lap 40 saw him clear the cars of "Chasers" Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick, catapulting Busch up to the eighth spot. He would never look any further back for the remainder of the race.

Points-leader Jimmie Johnson had led early in the race, but he fell back during the first long stretch of green-flag racing. Busch passed the No. 48 Chevy for the fifth spot on Lap 75.

Busch, Tryson and crew fought a loose condition during the entire afternoon, using air pressure, wedge and track bar adjustments in their attempt to get the car additional grip on the worn racing surface.

Green-flag stops were the order beginning on Lap 83. A quick 12.332-second stop on Lap 87 helped Busch climb from fifth to second when the stops cycled around on Lap 91. Carl Edwards had the lead, with Busch second and Matt Kenseth, who had just come off pit road to complete the cycle, running third.

Kenseth passed Busch on the following lap for the second spot. Busch continued his impressive run, holding down the third spot. Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray and Juan Montoya rounded out the top-10 drivers at the time.

During the third caution of the day, which came out on Lap 110 for debris, Busch lost spots in the pits for the only time during the race. The NASCAR official assigned to the No. 2 team's pit area stood too close to the right-front corner of the car, obstructing the tire-changing process. The resulting 13.452-second pit stop dropped Busch back to fifth for the Lap 114 restart.

Johnson had been tagged with a speeding penalty and was attempting to get his lap back, running up front on the restart with the top five of Kenseth, Edwards Gordon, Earnhardt and Busch. When Kasey Kahne spun out of Turn 4 some 15 laps later, the fourth caution flag of the race was displayed and Johnson earned the "lucky dog" free pass back onto the lead lap.

The loose handling condition saw Busch slap the wall twice - on Lap 159 and again on Lap 173 - but he sustained only minor sheet metal damage and was able to soldier on.

Another round of green-flag stops were the order beginning on Lap 183, with Busch hitting pit road on Lap 185 for four tires, fuel and air pressure and track bar adjustments. He remained third, running behind leader Kenseth and second-place Edwards when the stops cycled around on Lap 188.

A caution flag for debris down the backstretch on Lap 208 saw the Miller Lite Dodge pit crew really show their mettle. Even with a potential time-consuming wedge adjustment thrown into the mix of getting four tire and fuel, the over-the-wall gang produced an incredible 11.659-second performance, which sent Busch from third into the lead for the Lap 215 restart.

Busch was able to lead Laps 211 through 221, before Kenseth's Ford closed in. The two drivers swapped the lead during the next few laps before Kenseth took control of the point on Lap 224.

"With all the changes we've gone through, it's made us ‘pushy-loose' now," Busch radioed on Lap 248. "We've gotta' get the rear to hook up better."

Five laps later, Busch got trapped on the high side behind the lapped car of Tony Raines entering Turn 1, allowing Hamlin to take the low line and the second spot in the running order.

A caution for debris came out the following lap, sending all the leaders back to pit road for fresh tires and fuel. The 12.844-second stop for tires, fuel and air pressure and wedge adjustments kept Busch in third for the Lap 257 restart. Fast work by the No. 11 crew had Hamlin leading for the first time during the race.

Edwards quickly got around Busch the lap after the restart, as Busch radioed, "the rear's not hooking up any better."

Michael Waltrip's spin out of Turn 2 on Lap 288 set up what could have been the final pit stop of the day in order to go the distance (325 laps). Busch and crew opted for four tires, fuel and a two-round track bar adjustment. Even with a 12.762-second stop, the "blue deuce" could not avoid getting caught up in a precarious situation exiting the pits. Montoya darted to the outside of Busch, forcing him to hold more of an inside line than he anticipated. Earnhardt was exiting his pits and contact was made.

Hamlin led on the Lap 293 restart, with Kenseth second, Busch third, Montoya fourth and Edwards fifth. Earnhardt, Kyle Busch, Harvick, Johnson and Gordon rounded out the top-10 drivers at the time as 17 cars were still running on the lead lap.

A Lap 298 caution for debris, displayed immediate after Edwards cleared Busch for third, slowed the field down again and allowed Ryan Newman, Busch's Penske Racing teammate, to get the free pass and return to the lead lap.

While most of the leaders stayed out, lead-lap drivers running from 10th on back chose to hit pit road for fresh rubber. Hamlin, Kenseth, Edwards, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch made up the top five on the restart with 23 laps remaining.

A multi-car crash between Turns 3 and 4 involving Montoya, Burton, Joe Nemechek, Reed Sorenson, Dave Blaney and others brought out the ninth yellow flag of the race on Lap 303. Kyle Busch had managed to pass his older brother just before the field was put under the caution.

The Lap 309 restart saw Hamlin lead, with Edwards up to second, Kenseth third, Kyle Busch fourth and Kurt Busch fifth. There were 17 cars that remained on the lead lap. Hamlin's car spun its tires on the restart, allowing Edwards to take the lead and break away from the pack.

The 10th caution period of the race flew on Lap 314 for debris. While the majority of the top-10 drivers opted to remain on the track, Johnson and his Chad Knaus-led crew made the gutsy call to come in for fresh tires.

The lineup for the Lap 317 restart saw Edwards with the lead, Hamlin running second, Kenseth third, Kyle Busch fourth and Kurt Busch fifth. Earnhardt, Truex, Gordon, McMurray and Casey Mears rounded out the top 10. Johnson, now with fresh tires, lined up 11th.

The final eight laps were fast and furious, with Johnson making an amazing charge up through the field to clear Hamlin on the final lap and finish 2.684 seconds behind winner Edwards. Hamlin was third, with Kenseth fourth and Kyle Busch fifth. Kurt Busch drove his heart out in holding off the Roush due of McMurray and David Ragan to take the sixth finishing spo