Accident Relegates Busch to 36th-place Finish at Michigan

August 16, 2009

BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 16, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch ran among the top-10 drivers for the first half of Sunday's CARFAX 400 at Michigan International Speedway and appeared to be headed toward his 13th top-10 finish of the 2009 season. But after getting involved in a crash after a Lap 120 restart, the 2004 Sprint Cup Champ's day was all but over.

"A good day gone real, real bad," Busch said of his 36th-place finish here today, which dropped him to sixth in the Sprint Cup point standings with three races remaining to determine the teams competing for this year's "Chase" for the championship. "Hopefully, we've got all our bad luck out of the way."

Busch started today's race from the sixth position, but quickly proved the strength of his Miller Lite Dodge by blasting up to second on the first lap. After an unexpected weather front moved through the area and forced a 17-minute red-flag period, Busch continued to run among the top-five drivers until the first round of green-flag stops were completed.

The stops cycled through with Busch shown in the eighth spot on Lap 49. He ran as far back as 13th and as far forward as seventh during the next 70 laps. His car was experiencing the typical "loose in, tight in the center and loose off" conditions that are so common with this model of race car.

The Pat Tryson-led team continued to massage on their No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge, working with air pressure and wedge adjustments and appeared to have their car handling it's very best when the third yellow flag of the day flew on Lap 115, this one for debris on the backstretch.

Busch pitted on Lap 117 for some additional tweaks, hoping to make his Dodge Charger even better. He lined up 10th for the Lap 120 restart, which saw him on the outside of the fifth row for the double-file return to green. The action got fast and furious, with cars running three and four abreast on every restart here today. This one was certainly no exception.

"I felt like our car was really strong on restarts," Busch said. "The adjustment (pit stop during the third caution) made the car a little tight. I just had to wait on it and while I was waiting on it, the 6 car (David Ragan) got loose in front of us. I originally thought I hit him, but after looking at the tape, he just spun on his own. I couldn't go left, (Carl) Edwards was there.

"If I had to do it all over again, I would have tried to take minimal damage, but nosing into the 6 car's door wasn't an option because there was no way I could stop," Busch explained. "I tried to turn left, clipped him and it flung us right toward the inside fence. Then, after we got the car repaired, and went back out trying to salvage a finish and not get a DNF, we had a motor issue. I don't know if we ran it out of water, oil or what, but the valve train came apart."

After the incident brought out the fourth caution period of the race, Busch brought his mangled ride back to the garage on Lap 122. The crew practically rebuilt the front end of his race car and sent him back out on Lap 143, running 22 laps down to then-leader Jimmie Johnson. After experiencing the engine problem and checking under the hood on pit road, Busch returned to the garage area on Lap 170 and parked it for the day, credited with the 36th-place finish and completing 146 of the 200 laps.

"We just didn't need that to happen," crew chief Tryson added. "That's the double-file restarts with everybody bunched up. The 6 (No. 6 - David Ragan) just got loose and we got the worse end of it. Looking at the replay, we never touched him. We had a car very capable of a top-10 finish. We just have to regroup and come back ready to get after it again next week at Kurt's favorite track, Bristol."

The race for the win today turned into another classic fuel mileage battle that is so common here on the wide 2.0-mile MIS oval track. Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin, who had the strongest cars all race long, got bitten by fuel mileage. Both tried to stretch their fuel load at the end, but had to pit during the waning laps. Martin was credited with a 31st-place finish and Johnson was shown as 33rd.

Pole-winner Brian Vickers was able to stretch his fuel and go the distance to take a 1.409-second victory over Jeff Gordon. Dale Earnhardt Jr. came home third, with Carl Edwards fourth and Penske Racing's Sam Hornish Jr. coming home fifth, scoring his second top-five finish in the last three races. It was an incredible performance by Hornish and his Travis Geisler-led Mobil 1 Racing Team as they overcame a one-lap refueling penalty and used two "lucky dog" free passes back onto the lead lap to set their No. 77 Dodge up to be a factor at the end. Casey Mears finished sixth, with Joey Logano seventh, Clint Bowyer eighth, David Reutimann ninth and Denny Hamlin 10th. Penske Racing's David Stremme came home a credible 13th here today.

Today's results worked to heighten the suspense in the "race" to make the "Chase" for this year. With three races remaining - Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond - to determine the 12-team playing field, only 124 points separate ninth-place Ryan Newman (2,845 points) and 15th-place Kyle Busch (2,721 points).

Kurt Busch fell to sixth in the standings here today. With 2,957 points, he trails leader Tony Stewart by 551 points and is 29 points behind fifth-place Hamlin. He currently holds a 178-point advantage over 13th-place Vickers, who trails 12th-place Martin by a mere 12 points.

Here are the top-15 drivers in the Sprint Cup point standings after 23 races have been put into the record books. The list shows points position, car number, total points, advantage or deficit to Chase cutoff and where that driver finished here today:

1)#14-Tony Stewart, 3500 [3 wins], finished 17th
2) #24-Jeff Gordon 3216, -284 [1 win], 2nd
3) #48-Jimmie Johnson, 3197, -303 [3 wins], 33rd
4) #99-Carl Edwards, 2995, -505, 4th
5) #11-Denny Hamlin, 2986, -514 [1 win], 10th
6) #2-Kurt Busch 2957, -543 [1 win], 36th
7) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya, 2887, -613 (108 ahead of 13th), 19th
8) #9-Kasey Kahne, 2884, -616 (+105)[1 win], 11th
9) #39-Ryan Newman, 2845, -655 (+66), 15th
10) #16-Greg Biffle 2821, -679 (+42), 20th
11) #17-Matt Kenseth, 2811, -689 (+32)[2 wins], 14th
12) #5-Mark Martin, 2791, -709 (+12 ahead of 12th)[4 wins], 31st
Contenders for the top-12/chase:
13) #83-Brian Vickers, 2779, 12 points out of 12th, [1 win] 1st
14) #33-Clint Bowyer, 2733, -58, 8th
15) #18-Kyle Busch, 2721, -70, [3 wins] 23rd
16) #00-David Reutimann 2673, -118 [1 win], 9th

After today's race, Hornish is shown as 26th in the standings with 2,176 points, while Stremme is listed as 31st with 1,980 points.

The Sprint Cup tour now heads back to Bristol Motor Speedway, where Busch is a five-time winner on the track entering next weekend's Sharpie 500. The action at Bristol Motor Speedway gets under way with Sprint Cup practice on Friday from 12:00 noon till 1:30 p.m. The final practice for the Sprint Cup cars is set from 2:00 p.m. till 3:30 p.m. on Friday (live on SPEED). Saturday night's 43-car starting field will be determined in Friday's 5:40 p.m. single round of Cup qualifying (live on ESPN2). 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.