Busch, Miller Lite Dodge Team To Start Eighth at Darlington

May 8, 2009

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 8, 2009) - Miller Late Dodge driver Kurt Busch will start Saturday night's Southern 500 here at the historical Darlington Raceway from the eighth starting spot after turning in an official qualifying lap of 27.565 seconds (178.400 mph) in this afternoon's weather-delayed time trial session.

"When the showers moved through and washed the rubber off the track, we really didn't know what to expect out there," said Busch, who was 22nd on the practice speed chart (27.943 seconds/175.987 mph) and hoping for a huge pickup in speed during qualifying. "We were 10th out to make our run and the track had pretty good grip, much more than we anticipated.

"I felt like we made good changes on the Miller Late Dodge," said Busch. "We ran a 90 (27.90-second lap) in practice and felt that there was room for us to pick up. We didn't really know how it'd turn out till we got out there and ran our lap. We're cool with that."

There was a surprise pole winner here today as Matt Kenneth, not known for his qualifying prowess, turned in a lap of 27.394 seconds (179.514 mph) to establish a new track qualifying record and claim his first pole in four years. Jeff Gordon, the current points leader and the fastest driver in practice, took the outside-front-row starting spot with a lap of 27.494 seconds (178.861 mph).

Ryan Newman (27.510 seconds/178.757 mph) was third, with Penske Racing's Sam Hornish Jr. (27.512 seconds/178.744 mph) continuing to surprise by taking the fourth starting spot and rookie Joey Logano (27.542 seconds/178.549 mph) grabbing the fifth position.

Jeff Burton (27.548 seconds/178.510 mph) was sixth, with Kasey Kahne (27.564 seconds/178.407 mph) seventh, Kurt Busch eighth, Carl Edwards (27.624 seconds/178.019 mph) ninth and Marcos Ambrose (27.654 seconds/177.826 mph) rounding out the top-10 qualifiers.

Conspicuously missing among the frontrunners on the qualifying chart was defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. As always, this treacherous old track can take its toll on the rookies and the experienced drivers alike. Some 25 drivers among both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series ranks had run-ins with the wall (Kurt Busch smacked the wall on his third lap and had to return to the garage for repairs). Johnson will start from the rear of the field here tomorrow night. The two-time Darlington winner had the back end of his car slide into the turn two wall on his first qualifying lap. Then his front side hit an infield wall and brought the car to a stop. He was evaluated at the infield care center and released a short time later.

David Stremme, the third of the Penske Racing trio of drivers, will start his No. 12 Dodge in the 34th spot here tomorrow night after turning in a lap of 28.092 seconds (175.053 mph).

Saturday's Southern 500 (367 laps, 501.3 miles) has a 7:20 p.m. EDT starting time and features live coverage by FOX-TV and MRN Radio.