Kurt Busch Finishes 36th At Michigan

August 18, 2008

BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 17, 2008) - After running as a solid top-10 contender for the first half of Sunday's 3M Performance 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch's day took a turn for the worse, resulting in a 36th-place finish and dropping him a spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings.

"We're already in the experimental mode trying stuff and hoping to learn from it," Busch said after the battle conclude here today and his Dodge was one of several cars taken by NASCAR officials in an across-the-board effort to check out horsepower ratings among the manufacturer.

"What we had for the setup here today was quite different from what we ran here back in June," Busch said. "We used a completely different baseline with the components and all.

"We ran pretty much top-10 for the first-half of the race when we started making adjustments that made our Miller Lite Dodge loose in, tight in the center and loose off, which has been pretty much the norm for this car. We just got behind when we took out spring rubbers and bled the shocks (producing a 19.654-second pit stop). We lost 10 spots or so, falling from top-20 to at least 10 spots further back. We got back there in four-wide traffic on a restart and cut down the left rear tire. We had to pit twice under green -lag racing and that just put a fitting end to our day."

Busch started today's race from the 13th position and was up into the top 10 competitors by Lap 10. He was a fixture among the top-10 through the first half of the race. Attempting to address a continuous loose condition, all the changes made to the chassis during pit stops never seemed to make much difference with the handling of the car.

With just enough caution flags flying at the right times throughout the 200-lap race on this 2.0-mile high-banked track located in the Irish Hills of Michigan, the fuel mileage factor was removed from the winning equation in today's race.

Busch was still 10th after a Lap 101 restart from the third caution of the race, this one brought out when Jeff Gordon pancaked his Chevy on the backstretch wall.

When the Pat Tryson-led team began to try to make adjustments to make the car's handling better for Busch, the recurrent handling woes of too loose entering and exiting the turns and too tight in the middle struck again.

Busch was running 14th when a green-flag pit stop sequence began cycling around with some 60 laps remaining in the race. Busch's stop came on Lap 140 and called for four tires and wedge changes to both rear sides. The stop required 17.092 seconds and dropped the No. 2 car to 20th after the stops cycled around. He now was running a lap down to then-leader Kyle Busch.

With the handling conditions worsening every lap, the crew chose to pull the rubbers out of the rear springs and "bleed" the right-rear shock absorber during the next pit stop, which came under the fourth caution period on Lap 166.

The time required on pit road dropped Busch back to 30th for the Lap 169 restart. Running four-wide after the restart, Busch made contact with the No. 70 car, driven by Tony Raines. The impact cut down Busch's left-rear tire and sent him into a semi-spin. No caution was displayed and he immediately hit pit road for left-side tires.

The incident had flat-spotted all four tires. After feeling a vibration on the right side of the car only two laps later, Busch returned to pit road to take on a full fresh set of rubber.

Only one lap later, on Lap 179, the fifth caution flag of the race, this one for debris on the frontstrtech, was displayed.

David Ragan and Dale Earnhardt Jr. opted to stay out for the Lap 182 restart and lined up first and second. Carl Edwards was third, with Kyle Busch fourth, Greg Biffle fifth, Brian Vickers sixth, Matt Kenseth seventh, Kevin Harvick eighth, Jeff Burton ninth and Denny Hamlin 10th. The No. 2 Dodge was now shown running in the 37th position and three laps off the pace of the leaders.

Earnhardt got into the backstretch wall to bring out the sixth yellow flag of the race on Lap 188. The top 11 cars all chose to stay on the track during the yellow. After the restart, the racing got strung out single-file until Hamlin's engine blew down the backstretch to bring out Caution No. 7 with only five laps remaining.

Edwards led on the Lap 198 restart and stayed at the front for the green-white-checkered finish, picking up the win by 0.948 seconds over Kyle Busch. It was another incredible day at Michigan for Roush Racing, with four of the top-five finishers driving Roush Fords. Ragan finished third, with Biffle fourth and Kenseth fifth. Mark Martin finished sixth, with Vickers, Harvick, Elliott Sadler and Jamie McMurray rounding out today's top-10 finishers.

Busch was credited with a 36th-place finish. Penske Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Sam Hornish Jr. finished 21st and 22nd, respectively.

Kyle Busch continues to lead the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings after 23 races have been completed. He has 3,429 points to second-place Edwards with 3,207. The battle for the final spots among the "Chase-eligible" top 12 continues to be a good one. Only 82 points currently separate ninth-place Jeff Gordon (2,791) from 14th-place David Ragan (2,709).

Kurt Busch fell a spot to 19th in the standings and now has 2,324 points.

The Sprint Cup tour now heads back to Bristol Motor Speedway, the site of five wins by Busch.
This weekend's action at Bristol Motor Speedway gets under way with Sprint Cup practice on Friday from 12:00 noon till 1:30 p.m. Saturday night's 43-car starting field will be determined in Friday's 3:40 p.m. single round of Cup qualifying. The final practice for the Sprint Cup cars is set from 6:25 p.m. till 7:20 p.m. on Friday. Saturday's Sharpie 500 (500 laps, 266.5 miles) Sprint Cup race has an 8:00 p.m. EDT starting time, with ESPN and PRN Radio presenting live coverage.