Handling, Strategy Bite Kurt Busch in All-Star Race

May 18, 2008

CONCORD, N.C. (May 17, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch experienced his highlight of Saturday's annual NASCAR Sprint All-Star before the green flag fell as his third-place start for the 100-lap, four-segment race saw him start third and finish 22nd.

"We started third here tonight and much credit was due to the pit crew," said Busch. "When the green flag flew, we were immediately too much on the tight side. We made several changes during our stops, but the situation never got that much better. We went with four tires there on the stop between the final two segments. We were running just in front of the guy who wound up winning (Kasey Kahne) at the end of the third segment. They went with no tires and won it and we went with four, got even tighter and fell on back through the field."

"This is an all-or-nothing type race so we went with the best strategy we could," said crew chief Pat Tryson. "We started out too tight in the first segment and tried adjustments and two-tires on our first stop. We took on four tires and thought we might have over-adjusted toward the loose side during the 10-minute break after the second segment.

"We were decent, about a 10th-place car, during the third segment and looked at what we thought might be able to get us up front. We had already seen that going with two tires did us no good. This has always been a winner-take-all race, so we did what we thought was right at the time. Knowing what we know now, yes I'd probably have just done the gas-and-go. Whether that would have been the right call for our team, we'll never know. The last set of tires was definitely much tighter than what came off the car.

"The race doesn't pay points and like Kurt says, ‘nobody even remembers who finishes second in this race,' so we'll just try to learn from tonight's race and come back smarter and better prepared for the 600 next weekend," Tryson said of the May 25 Coca-Cola 600 here at Lowe's Motor Speedway. "It's next weekend that we play for the marbles, so we'll regroup and come back ready to get after them then."

Busch started third in the first of the four 25-lap segments here tonight. Although his car was on the tight side in its handling characteristics, the biggest thing the team overcame in finishing third in that segment was an overheating condition. Fortunately, the first segment ended before any major damage was done and the team was able to remove trash and some tape off the grill area to remedy the situation.

After the two-tire stop that featured air pressure and wedge adjustments was completed, Busch lined up fourth, behind leader Kyle Busch, second-place Ryan Newman and third-place Bobby Labonte. After radioing in that the car was now even tighter that before, Busch fell to sixth on Lap 30. He dropped to eighth on Lap 32 and was 10th when the caution flag flew on Lap 50, ending the second segment, with Carl Edwards pacing the field.

The Miller Lite Dodge Team did air pressure, track bar and shock absorber compression adjustments during the 10-minute break and lined up ninth for the restart after brother Kyle's Toyota experienced engine problems and could not return to action.

Busch complained of the typical "loose-in, tight-in-the-middle and loose-off" condition for much of the third 25-lap segment. Greg Biffle's car came to life during that run and he enjoyed a healthy lead over Dale Earnhardt Jr. when the 75th lap was logged. Matt Kenseth was third, with Ryan Newman fourth, Mark Martin fifth, Kurt sixth, Kasey Kahne seventh, Edwards eighth, Jimmie Johnson ninth and Denny Hamlin 10th.

The mandatory trip down pit road between the final two segments saw a vast array of strategies put into place. Johnson, Kahne and Hamlin opted for no tires and did only stop-and-go visits in their pits. Biffle, Kenseth, Newman, Edwards, Hornish and a host of others went with two tires. The No. 2 Team chose to go with four tires and was back to 14th on the restart.

After climbing up to 12th during the first two laps after the restart, the severe tight handling condition crept back into the picture. By Lap 90, Kurt had fallen to 16th and he was 19th at Lap 97. He lost three additional spots in the final three laps and finished in the 22nd position.

Up front, Hamlin held the lead until falling off the pace on Lap 84. That gave the lead to Kahne, with Biffle mounting a strong charge to take the lead again. Biffle's car went way on the tight side in the final laps, though, allowing Kahne to pull out to a 1.328-second win over the No. 16 Ford. Kenseth finished third, with Johnson fourth and Tony Stewart fifth. Newman was sixth, with Sam Hornish Jr., who advanced to the All-Star Race with a runner-up finish in the preliminary race, coming home seventh. Earnhardt, Martin and Edwards rounded out tonight's top-10 finishers.

"That's pretty much the nature of this race over the last several years - to expect the unexpected," said team engineer Brian Wilson. "I bet there was a lot of money lost in Vegas off of this race. Who would have ever thought that the guy who had to get voted into the starting field (Kahne) would have won the thing? Not too many people, I would suspect."

The NASCAR Sprint Cup tour returns to this 1.5-mile quad-oval next weekend for the running of the Coca-Cola 600, the longest event on the schedule. Next Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (400 laps/600 miles) has a 5:45 p.m. EDT starting time and features live coverage by FOX-TV and the Performance Racing (radio) Network.