Kurt Busch To Start Second Sunday at Martinsville

March 28, 2009

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 27, 2009) -- After completing the full 90 minutes of practice prior to Friday's qualifying for Sunday's Goody's 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch wasn't one to complain when the rains came, washing out the afternoon's qualifying session for the second short-track battle of the season.

The end result sees Busch, currently second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, starting on the outside of the front row, next to points-leader Jeff Gordon, for the start of Sunday's battle around this .526-mile bullring, the shortest of all the tracks on the big- league racing circuit.

"We'll certainly take it and be happy about it," said Busch, who trails Gordon by 76 points coming into Martinsville. "We were about ninth-fastest or so in practice and I think there were some 10 guys who hadn't made mock-qualifying runs before the time ran out. So I figure we'd probably been starting somewhere between 15th and 20th if we'd gotten qualifying in. But then again, we did finally get a great draw in the qualifying order (was scheduled to go out 34th), so I guess we'll never know.

"To be truthful, we're hoping that it's another example of just how much our team's situation has changed this year," said Busch, who struggled to a 19th-place finish in the 2008 points battle. "Last season, when we were locked in way back there in 18th or so (in the points), we'd have a hot rod that was capable of qualifying in the top-five. The rain would come and there we were, having to start way back there in the pack. That happened so many times during the second half of the season last year and it became pretty frustrating.

"We're still struggling here this weekend and we could use the extra practice tomorrow," said Busch, who won here in 2002 after starting 36th, the furthest back a winner has ever started. "But if it does continue to rain in the morning, I guess we're all in the same boat, no pun intended. Jeff (Gordon) is starting here on the pole and that's bad news for all the other competitors. He has to be looked at as the guy to beat, especially as good as he runs here.

"The great thing for our Miller Lite Dodge Team is that we get to start in second and get a good spot on pit road. Our hopes are that we can just hang in there all day and come out of here with a good finish on Sunday."

Gordon and Busch make up Row 1 here on Sunday, with Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards rounding out the top-five starters. Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth round out the top 10.

Penske Racing teammate David Stremme will start Sunday's race from the 22nd position, while Sam Hornish Jr. will go from the 32nd spot.

Weather permitting, Saturday's first practice at Martinsville Speedway is scheduled from 10:30 a.m. till 11:15 a.m. The final "happy hour" practice session is scheduled from 11:50 a.m. till 12:50 p.m. Sunday's Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 has a scheduled 2:00 p.m. local (EDT) starting time at the 0.526-mile high-banked facility. FOX-TV and MRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action.

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POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES (Courtesy of Dodge Motorsports):

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)

QUALIFYING HAS BEEN CANCELLED; WHAT ADJUSTMENTS DOES A TEAM FACE IN THAT SITUATION? "Now, it's pit selection and when will we be able to get another chance to get on track is the next question. Just a few questions still to answer. Being second is definitely an advantage over years past. Last year, I felt like we had a good car a few times to go qualify with only to see it rained out and start 18th. So we'll definitely take this coin flip and go from there. Jeff Gordon's got a strong car. Jimmie Johnson is very strong. The guys around us in points get to start up front. We hope that we're able to maintain that with the Miller Lite Dodge and post a top-10 finish once it's all said and done after Sunday's race."

WHICH IS THE BIGGER BENEFIT - TRACK POSITION OR GETTING THE PICK OF PIT STALLS? "I would go with track position as being the bigger advantage. On pit road, there's one good spot and that is the first one. I've had the benefit of being in that pit box once. There's a good advantage with it. There are a couple - the 10th and 11th box has that opening and I believe there's another opening down on the turn four side - but there's something about that first box. But then when you're on track, track position is definitely much more important. It helps with the decisions you have to make as far as a crew chief during the race."

YOU SAID THERE IS ONLY ONE GOOD BOX. LAST YEAR, WHEN THE RACE GOT RAINED OUT, JIMMIE JOHNSON INHERITED THAT BOX, LED 339 LAPS AND JUST DOMINATED. HE'S WON FIVE TIMES HERE. THE GUY THAT HAS THAT BOX SUNDAY (JEFF GORDON) HAS WON SEVEN TIMES HERE. CAN YOU QUANTIFY HOW BIG AN EDGE THAT'S GOING TO BE FOR JEFF GORDON, THE ALL-TIME WINNINGEST ACTIVE DRIVER HERE GETTING THAT BOX ON PIT ROAD? "I think anytime that you're in a Hendrick (Motorsports) car, you're definitely going to have a good shot at dominating the day and going into victory lane just based on past history. Jeff Gordon is very strong. Jimmie Johnson is strong. The (first) pit box is just icing on the cake. I believe when you have good cars and you qualify well, it's like the rich getting richer. It just seems to come your way. You don't know what you're doing, but things just seem to flow easier for you. And when you're in that first pit box, it continues to add up to an advantage throughout the day. It's only going to make Jeff Gordon stronger. Those guys will be tough to beat on Sunday because of the fact he's been running strong this year and add in a track that he's won seven times on. He's probably going to lead 339 laps just like Jimmie Johnson did.

IS THERE SOME OTHER WAY THAT YOU THINK PIT STALLS SHOULD BE AWARDED IN THIS SITUATION, OR IS IT FAIR LIKE IT IS? "The late Dale Sr. (Earnhardt) convinced NASCAR that the past champion needed the first pit box, and that happened for years. He was the smartest character in the world to convince NASCAR of that and got away with it for years. I don't know how many, but you would always see the No. 3 on the first pit box. The guy would qualify 35th; he didn't have to worry about where he would qualified. Then he got the first pit box selection and the next thing you know, you're battling the three car for the win. I think there is a distinct advantage on pit boxes and the way the procedure works right now is just fine. Whoever qualifies better gets pit box selection. There's always been the discussion should we get points off qualifying. I think qualifying is important enough based on your pit box selection."

IN YOUR OPINION, WOULD IT MAKE FOR A BETTER RACE HERE OR ANYWHERE ON SUNDAY IF TEAMS WERE ABLE TO CONCENTRATE ON PRACTICE AND NOT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT QUALIFYING? "We do have a couple of impound races and let's omit Talladega and Daytona in July. Let's look at the Richmond races. That's where you don't even worry about qualifying because it's impound. That philosophy was tried out a couple of years ago and sprinkled in here and there and I do think that when you're working on just race trim, it provides for better competi