Kurt Busch Finishes 12th At Bristol; Still 10th In Points

March 17, 2008

BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 16, 2008) --   As has been common this year, Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch again came from deep in the starting field to post a strong top-15 lead-lap finish in Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.  Sunday's performance helped Busch maintain his 10th-place position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings after five races have been completed during the 2008 schedule.

"That was all we had here today, so we'll take it and go on," said Busch, after he changed clothes in his team transporter and was ready to depart the track after the race.  "To have started back in the field like we did, that's not all bad.  We made our way toward the front from the drop of the green flag and kept a consistent run going.  We were in the lead lap during the entire race for a change.  It was a promising run for us."

Busch started 36th in the 500-lap battle around this demanding .533-mile oval, but by exercising patience and avoiding getting caught up in the five caution periods during the first 200 laps, he was able to stay on the lead lap and move his way into the top 15.  Busch was able to make it up as far as eighth in the running order before handling issues ended his forward progress.  He fell as far back as 14th before rallying back to finish 12th.

"We just fell back into that cycle that's been so common this year of being loose in, tight in the center and loose off," said Busch.  "At the end, that was just all we had for them here today.  It should be a decent points day for us and we weathered the storm with us making the points swap.  I'd say that all is well in the Penske camp and all three teams can go forward and look positively toward the remainder of the season."

Crew chief Pat Tryson was pleased with his team's performance here today and was relieved that the fifth race of the year is now in the record books.

"Thank goodness that we'll be back on an even playing field during the next race at Martinsville in two weeks," said Tryson.  "Sam (Hornish) and the 77 team is in the top 35 in the points and will be locked in the field when we get to Martinsville in two weeks, so that is mission-accomplished as far as that goes.  But the points-swapping deal cost us practice time here this weekend and put us in a less-than-ideal spot on pit road during the race.

"But as usual, Kurt drove a smart race and the entire team did a fantastic job," Tryson said.  "When we get to Martinsville, the clock goes back to zero and we'll be back up there again.  Kurt and all the No. 2 team members deserve pats on the back for getting through these first five races, keeping it together and staying as strong as we are.  We're making some strides with this new car and learning each and every week.  We'll enjoy next weekend off and be ready to take a brand new car on to Martinsville and get back after it."

Tony Stewart led the most laps in Sunday's race and looked to have the car to beat in the waning laps.  Brian Vicker's collision with the Turn 2 wall with 11 laps remaining brought out the ninth caution flag of the race and bunched the field back up.  While Busch and most of the 15 cars remaining in the lead lap opted to pit for tires during the yellow, Stewart and a few others chose to stay out for track position.

Stewart led on the restart and was cleared by Denny Hamlin for the lead on Lap 497.  Then a hard-charging Kevin Harvick drifted up into Stewart on the following lap, sending the No. 20 car spinning into the Turn 2 wall.  That set up a green-white-checkered finish.

On the restart, Hamlin led with Jeff Burton second, Harvick third, Clint Bowyer fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fifth.  Hamlin's car did not get up to speed when the green flag was displayed again, allowing five cars to get by before the No. 11 car got going again. 

At the finish, it was Burton taking a 0.589-second win over teammate Harvick, with Bowyer making it a 1-2-3 Richard Childress Racing finish.  Greg Biffle finished fourth and Earnhardt finished fifth.  Hamlin was sixth, with Kasey Kahne seventh, Aric Amariolo a surprising eighth, David Gilliland ninth and Matt Kenseth 10th. 

Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Stewart rounded out the top-14 finishers, all the drivers who completed the full distance of 506 total laps here today. 

After five races, Kyle Busch leads the point standings with 782 points.  Biffle is second, trailing the younger Busch brother by 30 points.  Kurt Busch maintains the 10th spot in the standings with 605 points.  Kurt is only a single point behind ninth-place Bowyer in the standings.

The NASCAR tour hits Martinsville Speedway for the Goody's Cool Orange 500 on Sunday, March 30.