Kurt Busch Earns Third-Place Starting Spot at Phoenix

April 18, 2009

AVONDALE, Ariz. (April 17, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch will be celebrating his 300th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Saturday night's SUBWAY 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. He certainly started the monumental weekend on a positive note by claiming the third starting spot for the race in Friday's qualifying session.

"The lap felt pretty good," Busch said of his qualifying effort of 26.926 mph (133.700 mph) after qualifying 23rd in the order of the 48 drivers who made attempts. "It was good in Turns 2 and 4 on exit; I just couldn't drive into Turn 1. If you miss Turn 1, it really messes up the lap. So I feel really good. My team made good adjustments. To lose (the Coors Light Pole Award) to Mark Martin is fine. That guy, right now, has been hauling the mail and I know his whole life he's been driving through the center of the corner fast and that's what it takes to sit on the pole. Maybe we'll end up top five."

Busch, the 2004 series champion and the winner of this race in 2005, the first night race held here on the "Desert Mile," was certainly surprised when only one driver - his younger brother, Kyle - clocked in with a faster lap.

"We definitely made the right adjustments to pick up the speed that we did," said Busch, who was fifth on the speed chart in the practice leading up to qualifying. "It's always tough to see the guys post fast lap times (before you qualify) and think that you can do it as well.

"The track temperature dropped even though the ambient temperature was up a bit," Busch explained. "I anticipated the sun being a bigger glare, but it wasn't that bad. In April, the sun's not as low as November and so I put way too much tape on (the windshield) and it made it a handful in the exit of the corner. I felt like I made the best attempt I could on the first lap. I felt like that was the key because the second lap was either the same or slightly a bit slower just based on the trend that I saw.

"For us to be there right behind Mark Martin and Kyle (Busch) is a perfect start for us," said Busch, currently third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings. "The same start we had last fall (at Phoenix), third place, and that will give us third-place selection on the pit box. For the adjustments we made, it really just carbon copied what we did last fall and yet, we changed over to some of the setup that we ran so far this spring. It was really a challenge. It was wearing on my mind for the last 10 days, since the last race. Should we stick with last year (setup) when we finished second or should we go with what we've been running this year? It was tough and so far it's panned out to be OK. I feel like that's the right adjustments that we had to make."

Martin claimed the pole here today with his lap of 26.903 seconds (133.814 mph) and Kyle Busch took the outside-front-row starting spot with his lap of 26.921 seconds (133.725 mph). Jeff Gordon (26.928 seconds/133.690 mph) starts fourth, with Brian Vickers (26.956 seconds/133.551 mph) fifth. Tony Stewart, Paul Menard, David Reutimann, Regan Smith and Jimmie Johnson rounded out today's top-10 qualifiers.

Busch's Penske Racing teammate David Stremme (27.106 seconds/132.812 mph) earned the 19th starting spot, while Sam Hornish Jr. (27.286 seconds/131.936 mph) will start in the 35th spot.

Saturday's SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500 (312 laps/312 miles/500 kilometers) has a scheduled 5:30 p.m. local (MST) starting time. FOX-TV and MRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action.