Accident Leads to 38th-Place Finish for Busch in Atlanta

September 7, 2009

HAMPTON, Ga. (September 6, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver started Sunday night's Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway from the sixth position. He ran as high as third and was a fixture among the top-10 drivers for the first half of the race. However, the team could never overcome a loose handling condition and that was a major contributing factor in a crash on Lap 245 (of 325) that relegated Busch to the garage and produced the team's second DNF (did not finish) of the season.

Busch was credited with a 38th-place finish Sunday. He fell to seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings. With only next Saturday night's battle a Richmond, Va., remaining to determine the 12 competitors in the 2009 "Chase for the NASCAR Championship," Busch now holds a 95-point "buffer" over 13th-place Brian Vickers (3,152 to 3,057). Regardless of any other driver's finish at Richmond, Busch will clinch a spot in the Chase if he finishes:
...20th or better
...22nd and leads at least one lap
...24th and leads most laps

"I had a loose race car all night," a disappointed Busch said after emerging from his team's transporter in his street clothes. "We just couldn't get the handle of our Miller Lite Dodge. I was sideways and I guess the 43 hit us, he had nowhere to go. It was a real hard hit; that was a bummer. We were just trying to get a handle on it. We just couldn't do it. I felt like we were on the spring (race) tires and everybody else was on the fall (race) tires.

"I was trying to hang on to it and get to the next pit stop, but it kept getting looser and looser all night," Busch said "It's hard when you had a dominant car (at the spring race) and we didn't want to change too much on it. We just got bit tonight by the loose bug."

After starting sixth Sunday night, Busch was able to power up to third in the early laps, but his car began losing grip and he fell back to run between seventh and ninth for the first half of the race. His Pat Tryson-led crew ran the gamut in adjustments in their attempt to "tighten" their chassis, but it was all to no avail. Air pressure, wedge and track bar changes were made pit stop after pit stop, only to produce temporary relief from the loose condition.

Busch's ill-handling car saw him make contact with the wall exiting Turn 2 on several occasions, prompting crew chief Tryson to have his over-the-wall gang remove the rubbers from the right-rear spring on a Lap 202 pit stop under the seventh caution period of the race.

The "Blue Deuce" fell to 19th for the Lap 207 restart. Incredibly, Busch reported that his car was even looser than before the team made the drastic chassis adjustment. The team was discussing additional changes they would attempt during the next pit stop. They were waiting for another caution in order to make the additional adjustments without losing any additional ground.

However, Busch and crew never got that opportunity. Busch was trying to manhandle his ill-handling Dodge through Turn 4 as the leaders were working to complete Lap 245. Reed Sorenson moved under Busch on the low side, clipping the Penske Racing Dodge and sending it crashing into the outside wall. The hard hit completely destroyed the entire right-front suspension. Busch was able to steer the mangled machine back into the garage area.

"It was just torn up way too bad to get it fixed and back out there," said Tryson, who had been suffering from flu-like symptoms that required an earlier visit today to the infield hospital for some IV fluids. "There were 75 laps left in the race and we weren't going to send Kurt back out there in anything less than a 100 percent safe Miller Lite Dodge."

Kevin Harvick had led 66 laps and appeared headed to his second win of the weekend here at Atlanta (after posting a dominant win in last night's Nationwide Series race). But when Richard Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer brought out the ninth and final caution, Harvick opted to take the outside line on the restart on Lap 315 and Kasey Kahne easily took the lead. Kahne went on to cruise to a 1.766-second victory over Harvick.

Juan Pablo Montoya finished third, with David Reutimann fourth and Mark Martin fifth. Denny Hamlin, Brian Vickers, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle rounded out tonight's top-10 finishers.

Penske Racing teammates David Stremme and Sam Hornish Jr. finished 14th and 35th, respectively.

With only next weekend's Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond remaining to determine the lineup for this year's Chase, here's the way the top 15 looks after 25 of 36 races have been put into the 2009 record books: (shown is points position, car number, driver, total points, points behind (wins) and finishing position in tonight's race)

(four drivers have officially clinched spots in the Chase)
1) #14-Tony Stewart [3 wins], 3694, finished 11th at Atlanta
2) #24-Jeff Gordon [1 win], 3457, -237, 8th
3) #48-Jimmie Johnson [3 wins], 3404, -290, 36th
4) #11-Denny Hamlin [1 win], 3296, -398, 6th
(the following have not clinched a spot in the Chase
5) #99-Carl Edwards, 3162, -532, 37th (+105 points ahead of 13th)
6) #9-Kasey Kahne [2 wins], 3153, -541 (+96), 1st
7) #2-Kurt Busch [1 win], 3152, -542 (+95), 38th
8) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya, 3145, -549 (+88), 3rd
9) #39-Ryan Newman, 3138, -556 (+77), 9th
10) #5-Mark Martin [4 wins], 3126, -568 (+72), 5th
11) #16-Greg Biffle, 3125, -569 (+69), 10th
12) #17-Matt Kenseth [2 wins], 3077, -617 (+20 ahead of 13th), 12th
Contenders for the top-12/The Chase:
13) #83-Brian Vickers [1 win], 3057, 20 points out of 12th, 7th
14) #18-Kyle Busch [4 wins], 3040, -37, 13th
15) #00-David Reutimann [1 win] 2945, -132, 4th

The NASCAR Sprint Cup tour now heads to Richmond International Raceway for next Saturday night's Chevy Rock & Roll 400. The 26th race of the 2009 Sprint Cup season will officially set the field for this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Action 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 Chevy Rock & Roll 400 (400 laps, 300 miles) Sprint Cup race has a 7:30 p.m. EDT starting time, with ESPN and MRN Radio presenting live coverage.