Kurt Busch Goes From 40th To 23rd At Phoenix

April 13, 2008

AVONDALE, Ariz. (April 12, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch started 40th in Saturday night's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, ran as high as third in the running order, but came home with a 23rd-place finish. The results from the race saw the Penske Racing driver fall two spots to 16th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, yet cut his deficit to 12th almost in half, from 111 points to 58.

"We started the race really loose and got the car way too tight when we went to adjusting on it," said Busch. "We stayed out during one of the cautions to gain track position (up to third), but just couldn't hang with the frontrunners when we went back to green. The car got so unbelievably tight during the final run that I could barely hang on. The best thing that happened for us tonight was being able to stretch the fuel mileage at the end and finish without having to pit again."

"We even put a spring rubber in the right rear late in the race and it still didn't free Kurt up, so we're thinking something in the suspension must have really gone bad," said crew chief Pat Tryson. "We'll examine the chassis closely and figure out what happened. We were actually looking at pitting after we went a lap down with about 50 laps to go because the car was so tight, but with the race staying green, our strategy turned to trying to make it till the end on fuel. Kurt was able to hang in there and we got all we could out of the situation."

After starting 40th here today, Busch gradually moved forward and cracked the top 20 on Lap 110. Avoiding a multi-car crash on Lap 133, caused when Penske teammate Ryan Newman's car dropped oil around the one-mile oval, the "2 car" team later opted to stay out during the sixth caution period of the race.

Busch lined up third for the Lap 167 restart, but quickly fell back through the field. He was 17th on Lap 199, when David Ragan spun to bring out the seventh yellow flag.

After the Lap 204 restart, the extreme tight condition really took its toll. Even placing a rubber in the right-rear spring during a pit stop under the next caution on Lap 231 gave no relief.

After going a lap down to leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Lap 259, the strategy turned to staying out until Busch lost the "Lucky Dog-eligible" position on the track. "This thing is so tight that it wouldn't even turn at Talladega," Busch radioed in on Lap 261.

Up front, it was shaping into a battle between Earnhardt and Mark Martin for the win. When the leaders started pitting for fuel on Lap 297 with less than 15 laps remaining, Tryson, Busch and crew decided to attempt to make the distance on fuel. After falling back as far as 31st in the running order, the move vaulted them up to 23rd at the finish when they were able to accomplish that goal.

Jimmie Johnson won Saturday's race due to stretching the fuel. Unlike Earnhardt, Martin and others, Johnson did not pit again and the No. 48 Chevy driver rolled to his first win of the 2008 season. He won by 7.003 seconds over runner-up Clint Bowyer. Denny Hamlin came home third, with Carl Edwards fourth and Martin fifth. Jeff Burton, Earnhardt, Martin Truex Jr., Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch rounded out tonight's top-10 finishers.

The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge completed 310 of the 312 laps. Sam Hornish Jr. led the Penske threesome at Phoenix with his 20th-place finish, while pole-winning Newman's problems relegated him to a 43rd-place finish.

After eight races, Burton leads the Sprint Cup points with 1,215. Kyle Busch is second with 1,135, Earnhardt third with 1,129, Johnson fourth with 1,116 and Kevin Harvick fifth with 1,115.

Kurt Busch fell one spot to 16th and has 857 points. Although he dropped a position in the standings, Busch closed the interval to 12th, the final "Chase-eligible position," from 111 points to 58 points. Newman currently holds that spot with 915 points. Only 61 points currently separate the 12th and 17th positions in the standings.

After taking next weekend off, the Sprint Cup Series returns to action on April 27 with the running of the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, the mammoth 2.66-mile Alabama racing facility.