Kurt Busch Finishes 28th At Chicagoland

July 14, 2008

JOLIET, Ill. (July 12, 2008) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch experienced late-race engine problems in tonight's LifeLock 400 here at Chicagoland Speedway, relegating him to a 28th-place finish.

With 19 races now in the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series record book, there are seven races remaining to determine the 12 drivers who will compete for this year's "Chase for the NASCAR Championship." With tonight's results, Busch is now 18th in the standings, trailing 12th-place Denny Hamlin by 245 points.

"We lost a cylinder there in the latter stages of the race, with a little over 50 laps to go," Busch said after a post-race cooling-off period. "It really surprised me that the engine lasted till the end of the race.

"I imagine what happened was that when we got the lap down from the speeding penalty, we just ran the thing a little too hard in getting the lap back and that took its toll," said Busch. "It sure felt good running up there in the clean air when we did get the lap back. We haven't been up front leading the pack in a long, long time.

"I feel that we were a 10th to 15th-place car at best here tonight and that's been about par for course for us on these mile-and-a-half tracks," Busch added. "You could really tell that we were down on horsepower, but it sure did feel good to see what it felt like running at the front again, even though we were just fighting to get the lost lap back."

Busch started tonight's race from the 18th starting position. He climbed into the top 15 after 40 laps and ran there consistently through the first third of the race. He was up to 11th when a round of green-flag pit stops started shuffling things around.

After making a 14.704-second stop on Lap 104 for four tires, fuel and air pressure and wedge adjustments, Busch was immediately on his radio. "The cone at the pit entrance (signifying the beginning of the speed limit enforcement) got moved," Busch said of his "mark" on the track indicating where he has to slow to the speed limit entering the pits. "Make sure they know that the cone wasn't where it was supposed to be."

Crew chief Pat Tryson pleaded with the NASCAR officials, but the team was assessed a "pass-through" penalty for speeding entering the pits. While still under the green, Busch fell a lap down when he was forced to go down pit road for the second time. The call from the tower was made because the officials felt that Busch should have still been able to acknowledge that the speed zone began at the yellow line where the cone originally rested.

After making his penalty visit down pit road on Lap 107, Busch fell to 37th, running a lap down to the leaders. Michael Waltrip spun out of Turn 4 to bring out the third caution flag of the race on Lap 111 and that bunched the cars up.

Busch stayed out during the ensuing yellow-flag pit stops and was running up front for the Lap 115 restart. He stayed in front of the leaders all the way through Lap 141, when the fourth caution flag of the race was displayed, this one for debris in Turn 1. Busch was able to join all the lead-lappers at that time.

He fell to 26th in the running order for the Lap 146 restart and made it back inside the top 15 on Lap 192 before his handling started going away. "It's absolutely junk now," Busch radioed on Lap 202, as Matt Kenseth got around for the 15th spot in what was an amazing comeback after having tire problems and going a lap down.

"I think the engine's trying to shut off," Busch radioed only seven laps later. "It's missing really bad at the top end."

Busch switched ignition boxes, but the engine problem still was there. It was evident from the sound of the motor only two laps later that he was running on less than all eight cylinders.

Busch survived the final laps and nursed his ailing Miller Lite Dodge home to a 28th-place finish, a pretty remarkable feat in that he had labeled his ride a "rolling time bomb" with some 30 laps remaining in the race.

Up front, it was a spirited battle between Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson for the win. The younger Busch had led the most laps and enjoyed a three-second lead on the field at one time. The late-race cautions kept the action up front close and Johnson staged a great effort in the waning laps. Johnson chased the No. 18 car down and passed underneath to grab the lead on Lap 251.

Johnson appeared to be on the way to his second win of the season, but when David Gilliland blew his engine on Lap 262, the 10th caution of the race was the result, closing up the pack again.

Kyle Busch got a solid run on the restart with two laps remaining. He made a move to the outside of Johnson coming out of Turn 4 heading for the white flag and made his move stick heading into Turn 1. He was able to stay ahead of Johnson and cruise on to his seventh Cup victory of the season.

At the line, it was Kyle Busch the winner, with Johnson second, Kevin Harvick third, Greg Biffle fourth and Tony Stewart fifth. Brian Vickers, Kenseth, David Ragan, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman rounded out tonight's top-10 finishers.

After 19 races have been completed this season, Kyle Busch holds down the points lead by 262 points over second-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. On the other end of the top-12, Denny Hamlin is 12th with 2,283 points. Only 34 points separate eighth-place Kenseth to 12th-place Hamlin. Clint Bowyer fell to 13th and is 27 points out of "Chase eligibility."

Newman is now 16th in the standings with 2,094 points and trails Hamlin by 189 points. Truex is 17th and trails Hamlin by 233 points. Kurt Busch has 2,038 points and trails Hamlin by 245 points.

"All we can do is try to regroup during the off weekend next week and come back ready to thrown everything we have at them in these final seven races before the Chase," said Busch. "Thank goodness that we have some really good tracks coming up on the schedule."

The Sprint Cup Series has its final off weekend next week before coming back for 17 straight race weekends. Next up on the schedule is the July 27 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It will mark ESPN's return to covering the Cup Series for the remainder of the season.