Fuel Mileage Issues Relegate Busch To 38th At Pocono

August 4, 2008

LONG POND, Pa. (Aug. 3, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch was relegated to a 38th-place finish in Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 after fuel mileage issues and handling woes took their toll. Even with the bad luck at Pocono Raceway, Busch managed to maintain his 18th position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings.

"Running out of fuel twice just killed us," a dejected Busch said after a brief cool-off period. "The car was typical loose in, tight in the center and loose off for most of the race. When the rains came, the track cooled down and the car was the best it was all day long when we went back to green.

"But when the track got rubbered up again, the car just turned to junk," said Busch of his third consecutive disappointing race which has produced finishes of 28th (Chicagoland), 40th (Indianapolis) and 38th (Pocono). "It's hard to believe that we had a potential top-five car after the red flag period and even led the race with 40 laps to go. It's just pretty much another example of how frustrating this season has been."

Busch started Sunday's race from the 10th spot and had made it up to fourth when he spun coming out of Turn 3 on Lap 7 without hitting anything. "It just snapped loose on me like last week," he radioed as the second yellow flag of the race flew.

Busch was 42nd on the restart and continued to fight "wicked" handling conditions. The team utilized numerous chassis adjustments and resorted to removing two right-rear spring rubbers during a Lap 67 pit stop. That major change resulted in the car going from extremely loose to a severe tight condition.

Utilizing a varying two-tire and four-tire strategy on pit stops, Busch had worked his way back up into the top 20 at the race's midpoint. With 90 laps remaining, heavy clouds began to move in and it was evident that weather could be a concern.

As if he didn't have enough problems already, Busch's tachometer stopped working early in the race and he had to "judge" his speed on pit road. Amazingly, he was never slapped with a speeding penalty.

Busch emerged in the 18th position after a round of green-flag pit stops cycled around on Lap 122. Only four laps later, he reported that rain drops were falling in the Turn 2 area.

Several of the front-runners pitted on Lap 128, while Busch was among the group opting to stay out. The rain got harder, forcing officials to red-flag the race after 131 laps had been completed at 4:50 p.m.

Kasey Kahne was shown as the leader, with Matt Kenseth second, Denny Hamlin third, Greg Biffle fourth, Mark Martin fifth and Busch sixth. The other group of fast cars that chose to pit included Jimmie Johnson (running 21st at the time), Carl Edwards (22nd), Jeff Gordon (23rd) and Tony Stewart (24th).

When the race returned to yellow some 40 minutes later, the rather confusing scenario saw basically half the field running on one pitting sequence and the other half on another that varied by 10 to 15 laps.

The race was finally green-flagged again on Lap 145. Busch was up to fifth with 50 laps to go and when the leaders began pitting, Busch found himself with the lead on Lap 157. Attempting to stretch their mileage as weather was again threatening, Busch ran out of gas some two laps shy of what was predicted. By the time he coasted around to his pits and the crew serviced the car and finally got the engine re-fired, Busch fell a lap down to the leaders.

Another round of green-flag stops cycled to see Edwards leading on Lap 163. Stewart, Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton, all drivers who had pitted just before the red-flag period, comprised the top five at that time.

Handling woes continued to plague Busch for the remainder of the race, with spotter Chris Osborne pointing out that his driver had "saved" his car from certain spins "at least four times" during the race.

Due to his pit sequence, Busch was forced to hit pit road one final time during the waning laps for a splash of fuel to finish the race. Adding insult to injury, the car completely ran out as he entered the pits and stalled in the pit box, losing even more time.

When the checkered flag fell, it was Edwards taking the win by 3.859 seconds over runner-up Stewart. Johnson was third, with Kevin Harvick fourth and David Ragan fifth. Clint Bowyer, Kahne, Martin, Jamie McMurray and Gordon rounded out the top-10 finishers.

Busch's Penske Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Sam Hornish Jr. finished 14th and 26th, respectively. Busch was credited with a 38th-place finish, running two laps down at the end.

Kyle Busch also ran out of gas, resulting in a 36th-place finish and tightening up the points race. After 21 races have been completed and with only five remaining to determine the players in this year's "Chase," the younger Busch leads Earnhardt by 176 points (3,059 to 2,883). The battle for the final spots is extremely tight, with Denny Hamlin (2,547 points) holding down the 10th spot and having only a 46-point advantage over Kenseth (2,501), now 13th and the first driver on the outside of "Chase eligibility." In between are Harvick (2,520) in 11th and Bowyer (2,512) in 12th. Ragan (2,466) is 14th and Newman (2,339) is 15th.

Kurt Busch remained in 18th spot in the standings with 2,135. He is currently 924 points out of first, 412 out of 10th and 377 points behind 12th-place Bowyer.

The Sprint Cup series now heads to Watkins Glen International for next weekend's Centurian Boats at the Glen, the final road course race of the 2008 season. The weekend's action at The Glen gets under way with Sprint Cup practice on Friday from 11:45 a.m. until 1:20 p.m. Sunday's 43-car starting field will be determined in Friday's 3:10 p.m. single round of Cup qualifying. Saturday's schedule boasts Cup practice sessions from Noon until 12:45 p.m. and from 1:20 until 2:20 p.m. Sunday's Centurion Boats at the Glen Sprint Cup race has a 2 p.m. EDT starting time, with ESPN and MRN Radio presenting live coverage of the 90-lap, 220.5-mile battle.