Kurt Busch, Miller Lite Team Finish 18th at Martinsville

March 29, 2009

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 29, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch finished 18th in Sunday's Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway and fell a spot to third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings.

"It was just tight all day long and nothing we did made it any better," said Busch. "We started up front and stayed in the top 10 more than half the race. We wrestled it all we could without crashing. I know we took a hit in the points here today, but I'm just glad to get out of here and not be any worse off."

When qualifying got rained out here on Friday, the starting grid was determined by the points entering Martinsville, which thrust Busch up to the second starting position.

Points leader and pole-sitter Jeff Gordon took off from the drop of the green flag. Busch was able to hold his own for much of the first half of the race. He ran in the top five for the first 175 laps and was still running in seventh at the race's mid-point (Lap 250).

After a pit stop on Lap 257 under the sixth caution period of the race, Busch began a slow slide backwards as the chassis changes made did little to offset a continuous tight situation. At Lap 300, the "Blue Deuce" was still running ninth, but only 27 laps later Busch had fallen to 14th.

The Miller Lite Dodge crew caught several lucky breaks in the waning laps that kept them on the lead lap. A caution for debris on Lap 354 boosted Busch back up to 17th for the Lap 358 restart. Busch was back up as high as 13th in the running order during the next 75 laps, but slid back through the field to be fighting to stay on the lead lap.

Leader Denny Hamlin passed Busch on Lap 426, but Jeremy Mayfield's crash in Turn 4 on the next lap brought out the ninth yellow flag of the race and awarded Busch the "lucky dog" free pass back onto the lead lap. Busch continued to struggle for the remainder of the race, dropping as far back as 19th, yet coming through with the 18th-place finish.

"It wasn't a good day for us," echoed crew chief Pat Tryson. "We were good early, but then the track rubbered up and our car went away. We just couldn't seem to do anything right to make it better. We managed to finish on the lead lap. It's not what we wanted, but we'll take it, move on and try to get better next week."

"It's back to Texas and the intermediate tracks next weekend," said Busch. "We're bringing another new car out for this one. This week's over and we'll start focusing on next week right now."

The battle for the win here today came down to a physical confrontation between Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson on Lap 485. Hamlin was leading into Turns 3 and 4, but Johnson plowed in on the inside, moving Hamlin up the track and allowing Johnson to take the lead.

Johnson never looked back and scored a 0.774-second win over Hamlin. Tony Stewart finished third, with Gordon fourth and Clint Bowyer fifth. Ryan Newman finished sixth, with Mark Martin seventh, Dale Earnhardt Jr. eighth, A.J. Allmendinger ninth and Jamie McMurray 10th.

Kevin Harvick, Juan Montoya, Michael Waltrip, Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte, Reed Sorenson, Busch and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-19 finishers who completed all 500 laps.

Penske Racing teammate David Stremme finished 22nd Sunday, running one lap down, while Sam Hornish Jr. finished 34th, running four laps down.

Gordon continues to lead in the Sprint Cup points. After six races, he has an 89-point lead over second-place Bowyer (959-870). Busch is third with 827 points and 132 points behind Gordon. Johnson (817) moved up to fourth and Hamlin (811) is fifth. Kyle Busch, Stewart, Carl Edwards, Kahne and Harvick round out the top 10. Stremme (599) holds down the 25th spot, while Hornish (459) is now 32nd.

The Sprint Cup tour now heads out to Texas Motor Speedway for the fourth "intermediate track" race of the season. Next Sunday's Samsung 500 (334 laps. 501 miles) has a scheduled 1:00 p.m. local (CDT) starting time. FOX-TV and PRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action.