"Man, we had a good run and I'm real surprised by it," Busch said immediately after the race. "We mixed the 77 setup with the 12. We tested so poorly here with the Miller Lite Dodge ...we couldn't run what the 2 car had. It feels real good to have team communication and bring all this together.
"This is the first time for the new engine, the R6 in the top five," Busch continued. "We were pushing hard trying to get numbers on it (the new engine) for next year. It's just a big rebound from where we were in Kansas a few weeks ago. It feels really good for all of our sponsors, Mobil 1, Dodge and especially Miller Lite."
After adverse weather forced officials to scrap qualifying here on Thursday, Busch started tonight's race from the 19th starting spot. Fighting a tight-handling Dodge for most of the early portion of the race, he made progress but didn't crack the top 10 until a quick 12.489-second pit stop under the fourth caution period of the race placed him ninth for the Lap 108 restart.
Tire-changing strategy, quick pit work by Busch's Pat Tryson-led crew, coaching by team owner Roger Penske and a display of championship-caliber driving skills kept Busch in the mix for the remainder of the race.
Busch fought a tight handling condition for the majority of the race, but continuous minor massaging on the chassis kept Busch competitive throughout the race and in a position to strike when it counted the most.
The defining moment of tonight's race for Busch, Tryson and crew came under the ninth caution flag of the race on Lap 298, when Tryson called for right-side tires only with only a minor "half-round" adjustment to the chassis.
That propelled the 2004 series champ all the way up to fourth for the Lap 301 restart and allowed him to display his driving talent. He was able to pass Kasey Kahne for third on Lap 304, but Kahne regained that spot on Lap 313. With 10 laps to go, Busch was able to get around points-leader Jimmie Johnson for the third spot and he held on to finish there at the end.
Jeff Burton emerged with a 0.946-second win over Kahne at the checkered flag and pulled within 69 points of Johnson for the points lead in the "Chase" for the championship. Kurt Busch finished third, with Kyle Busch fourth and Jamie McMurray fifth. Johnson, Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and David Ragan rounded out tonight's top-10 finishers.
Busch's Penske Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Sam Hornish Jr. finished 21st and 22nd, respectively, here tonight.
"It was great to see the front and sniff a little bit of the lead of the race with 25 (laps) to go," Busch said in his post-race press conference. "It's a good feeling to know that it (race win) was right there and we ended up with a solid finish. Racing in the top five is something we haven't done as of late.
"Give credit to Penske Racing and the overall group effort," he added. "We put the 77 (car) setup in. We put some 12 car geometry in the front (of the car). We adjusted on it like the 2 car knows how to do. The Penske Racing effort is showing signs of communication and strength in moving forward. Secondly, this was only the second race for the R6P8 engine and I felt confident in it with the power that it gave me and the reliability that it showed me. It was an overall great group effort from Penske and I'm happy to finish third with the Miller Lite Dodge."
Busch maintained the 18th position in driver points with five races remaining in the 2008 NASCAR season. With 3,176 points, he trails 13th-place David Ragan by 502 points. He is 110 points behind 15th-place Newman and 101 points behind 17th-place Martin Truex Jr. He holds a 72-point advantage over 19th-place McMurray.