Kurt Busch Finishes 41st In Dickies 500 At Texas
November 3, 2008FORT WORTH, Texas (Nov. 2, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Penske Racing No. 2 Team finished 41st in today's Dickies 500 here at Texas Motor Speedway after engine problems relegated them to the garage area early, accounting for their fourth DNF (did not finish) of the 2008 season.
"It was a really tough day out there for our Miller Lite Dodge," Busch said. "It reminded me a lot of our race at Kansas from a handling standpoint. We were either way too loose or way too tight. We got a lap down about halfway through the race, but hung close to the 99 (leader Carl Edwards) trying to get the "lucky dog" and get back on the lead lap. The caution flag came out and the 20 got the break that we needed and wanted.
"We got to start up front on the restart and the car really took off," Busch said. "I felt really good out there with the clean air and all. But just like at Chicago, we had the same thing happen here with the engine."
Busch was quick to point out that the engine problem was not in any way connected to the fact that the team was using the new Dodge R6P8 power plant for the third time during the closing races of the '08 season.
"We just ran it so hard running out front to get out lap back that it took its toll on the engine," Busch explained. "We dropped a cylinder about 30 laps later and ended up just running on six (cylinders). We went back to the garage to patch her up so that we could get back out there and run enough laps to pass the 42 and 38 cars.
Busch was understandably disappointed after the race, especially having finished a strong third at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Oct. 11 and an impressive sixth at Atlanta Motor Speedway last Sunday.
"After running so strong at Charlotte and Atlanta, we were hoping for another good run here for our Miller Lite Dodge, but it just wasn't meant to be," Busch concluded.
Busch started today's race from the 40th position. He cracked the top 20 after the first round of green-flag pit stops cycled around on Lap 54. He was running in 18th at that time and progressed up to 16th before his move forward stalled.
Fighting loose, tight and loose conditions throughout the race, the crew varied from air pressure changes, to wedge and track bar adjustments, to the removal of spring rubbers during the course of the race, attempting to get the car handling to their driver's liking.
Leader Carl Edwards was able to get around Busch on Lap 129 to put the "2 car" a lap down, but Busch fought valiantly to keep pace with the leader in hopes of catching a caution flag and getting the "lucky dog" free pass back onto the lead lap. Edwards had just cleared Tony Stewart to put him in the position of being the lead car running a lap down, when the second caution of the race flew on Lap 143. Stewart got the free pass while Busch was forced to come back for another try.
After the Lap 148 restart, Busch took the inside line up front with the other cars running a lap down to the leaders. He scampered out to a healthy lead over the field for some 18 laps before Edwards got back around. He had a 6.4-second lead over Denny Hamlin, his nemesis for the "lucky dog" 40 laps later, still hoping for a caution.
The yellow flag did not fly and another round of green-flag stops were the order beginning on Lap 198. Even after the round of pit stops, Busch still held a 4.4-second lead over Hamlin. The potential to get the free pass ended on Lap 216 when Edwards passed Jeff Gordon and then started picking off other lead-lap cars.
Busch's night started heading for the early ending on Lap 233 when he reported that he had dropped a cylinder. The team soldiered on and checked out the plug wired situation on Lap 240 during the third yellow of the day that flew for debris on the track.
When Busch reported that he had dropped another cylinder on lap 254, the team headed for the garage to get a good analysis of the engine problem. When Juan Montoya and David Gilliland had an incident leading to Montoya crashing out of the race and Gilliland being parked for the evening, Busch returned to the track to log enough laps to climb from 43rd to 41st in the finishing order before parking the car for good.
The race up front for the win here today came down to a fuel mileage gamble that paid off for Edwards as he rolled to his eighth win of the season. After leading more than 200 laps in the first 400 miles of the race, a late-race caution saw teams attempt to overcome his dominance by utilizing pit strategy.
While Edwards went with four tires and fuel during his final stop under the yellow, six cars beat Edwards' back onto the track, some of them getting two tires. After the leaders cleared pit lane, NASCAR waited until the crashed Montoya's car was out of the way to let the lapped cars pit.
The race restarted on Lap 270 with Jamie McMurray leading Clint Bowyer and Edwards all the way back in seventh.
When the caution flag never flew again, teams were forced to hit pit road one final time during the waning laps for additional fuel, with most taking on another two right-side tires. Edwards nursed his final fuel load for 69 laps - 103.5 miles - to rally after falling behind on pit strategy and won for the second straight weekend.
Edwards' victory - combined with Jimmie Johnson's finish in 15th, one lap down - allowed Edwards to whack 77 points off Johnson's lead in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings. Johnson now leads by 106 points with two races remaining.
Pole-winner Gordon used similar fuel-mileage strategy to finish second here today. McMurray was third, with Clint Bowyer fourth and Greg Biffle fifth. Kyle Busch was sixth, with Kevin Harvick seventh Martin Truex Jr. eighth, Matt Kenseth ninth and David Reutimann 10th. Penske Racing's Sam Hornish Jr. finished 23rd and Ryan Newman came home in the 28th finishing spot here today.
Busch fell to 19th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings. With two races remaining this season, he has 3,426 points. He is 648 behind 13th-place David Ragan, 245 behind 15th-place Truex and 48 behind 18th-place McMurray. He has a 96-point advantage over 20th-place Casey Mears. Newman is currently 16th in the standings with 3,654 points, while Hornish, the leading 2008 rookie, is 35th in the driver point standings with 2,459.
The Sprint Cup tour now heads back out to Phoenix International Raceway for next weekend's Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 weekend. Next Sunday's 500-kilometer, 312-mile, 312-lap battle has a scheduled 1:45 p.m. local starting time (Mountain Standard Time) on the 1.0-mile speed plant known as the Desert Mile. ABC-TV and MRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action.
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