Just "One of Those Bad Days" for Kurt Busch at Martinsville

March 30, 2008

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 30, 2008) - Perhaps Miller Lite Dodge crew chief Pat Tryson best summed up the day for Kurt Busch and the No. 2 Penske Racing Team in Sunday's Goody's Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

"I've been around long enough to see that sooner or later you have one of those just really bad days on the track and today we had ours," Tryson said of Busch's 33rd-place finish Sunday which dropped the 2004 NASCAR champ back to 16th in the Sprint Cup point standings after six of 36 races along the 2008 schedule. "Even though we struggled most of the day, Kurt and the guys never gave up. You just have to look at it as a day of learning what we could about this new car, putting the day behind us and now turning the focus toward Texas.

"We have a test scheduled this week at Kentucky Speedway and it really couldn't come at a better time," Tryson added. "We'll use it to prepare for the Texas race next weekend and it'll give us a little bounce-back time from our disappointment here this weekend. It was a frustrating day, but we'll be okay."

"Let's just mark it down as a day we're not too proud of," Busch said as he changed clothes after the race. "There's not too much you can say after a race like we had today. We can only hope that we learned some things that will make us better. We're all frustrated, but we'll keep getting after it. Today is over and we'll go on from here. It'll be okay."

After Saturday's final practice session, when his car was, "rated at about a 12 tight on a scale of 1 to 10," Tryson and crew made changes to loose the chassis up for today's 500-lap battle on this .526-mile scenic little short track.

Although the team didn't point at the adverse weather conditions here today as a big problem (temperatures only reached low 40s and the low-level clouds produced a continuous dampness throughout the race), they certainly faced most every other hurdle.

Busch found the car to be way too loose from the drop of the green flag and the team immediately started taking measures to address the situation. "We have to get the sway bar disconnected," Busch suggested on the team radio on Lap 41, after sliding from his 20th starting spot back to 29th.

The "Blue Deuce" Dodge received minor damage in the first skirmish of the race on Lap 21 when Kurt accidentally got into the back of a fast-fading No. 18 Toyota of brother Kyle. He also sustained some damage in a Turn 4 incident when Robby Gordon and Mike Skinner spun on Lap 43.

Track bar and air pressure adjustments weren't enough and the team went to work unhooking the rear sway bar after the fourth caution period. A multi-car crash involving J.J. Yeley, Skinner and Sam Hornish Jr. on Lap 105 and the No. 2 crew went to work. But when they were able to cut the chain during their Lap 108 pit stop, Busch was slow getting out of the pits and was only 10 car lengths in front of leader Jimmie Johnson after the restart. At Lap 113, Johnson cleared Busch to put him down a lap.

The crew did unhook the sway bar during the next caution period and Busch was able to restart the race in the 39th spot, running only one lap down on Lap 123. The familiar "loose in, tight in the center and loose off" condition that has plagued the vast majority of the competitors with this new car became the major handling problem for the remainder of the day.

While fighting the handling issues, other problems began to take their toll. When Ken Schrader spun in Turn 4 on Lap 214, Kevin Harvick got into the back of Busch, causing him to spin and flat-spotting his four Goodyear Tires. Hoping to replace the rubber during the "quickie yellow" that ensued, the team switched from a four-tire stop to right-sides-only and the confusion equated to Busch going down a second lap to leader Johnson on Lap 247.

Overheating problems hit the team after the Lap 277 restart from the 10th caution period of the race. Busch was forced to hit pit road on Lap 286 to cool the engine down. "It wasn't the radiator, it was in all the duct work...that was the problem," Tryson later radioed Busch.

Busch fell back as far as 41st in the running order with 200 laps remaining, but due to the teams determination to finish today's race and the attrition rate in the last 100 laps, the No. 2 car was credited with a 33rd-place finish, running seven laps down to the leader.

Up front, it was yet another race this season where Hendrick Racing dominance did not yield a victory. After Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. paced the field for much of the day, it was Virginia native Denny Hamlin taking the lead on Lap 427 and cruising to a win, breaking a 24-race streak without a win since last summer at New Hampshire.

It was a tight battle to the end behind Hamlin, however. Jeff Gordon passed Jeff Burton for second on Lap 494. Burton finished third and took the Sprint Cup points lead because Kyle Busch struggled all day and wound up 38th. Jimmie Johnson finished fourth with Tony Stewart fifth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. sixth. Casey Mears was seventh, putting all four of the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets in the top seven. Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer rounded out Sunday's top-10 finishers.

After six races, Burton is now the points leader with 915 points and leads second-place Kevin Harvick by 39 points. Busch fell to 16th in the standings, with 669 points. He is 246 points out of the lead, trails fifth-place Kyle Busch by 52 points and is 77 points behind 10th-place Johnson. He is 71 points behind 12th-place (Chase cut-off spot) Bowyer.

Next Sunday's Samsung 500 (334 laps/500 miles) on the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway has a 1:00 p.m. CDT starting time and features live coverage by FOX-TV and PRN Radio.