Busch finishes Sixth at Loudon, Jumps to Fifth in Standings

September 21, 2009

LOUDON, N.H. (Sept. 20, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch finished sixth in Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the opening race for the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Cup. His 15th top-10 finish in 27 races boosted him from seventh to fifth in the Cup Series point standings.

"It was a fight all race long and we had a good car," Busch said of Sunday's 300-lap race around the one-mile flat oval. "We were a top-five car. You could have thrown a blanket over the five that finished up front. It just was a matter of which sequence came through. What hurt us the most was the accident on pit road and that put us on the right sequence. So we were good after that. We just didn't make good adjustments at the end; lost the handle on the Miller Lite Dodge.

"If there had been no debris cautions, we would have finished second," added Busch. "It was tough, a hard-fought battle all day. The Miller Lite Dodge was good and then it was bad. We just lost the handle at the end. We could have finished second, but the last debris caution and all those cautions at the end. Our car was no good on restarts."

Busch started the race from the third spot and stayed in the thick of things throughout the race. After addressing a loose handling condition during a Lap 68 pit stop under the first caution flag of the race, Busch's Dodge Charger really came to life. Polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya was able to jump out to a huge lead of more than five seconds after a Lap 91 restart, but Busch, who restarted fourth, charged up to the front and took the lead on Lap 124.

Montoya regained the lead on a pit stop during the third yellow period on Lap 142. Busch fell to third and had slid to fourth when the fourth caution flag flew for Erik Darnell's spin in Turn 2. Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Busch were among the group that pitted. Busch got fuel-only and collided with David Ragan's Ford as he exited the pits. Busch fell to 10th for the Lap 165 restart. The team was worried when Busch radioed in that both water and oil temperatures were rising rapidly.

The thinking was that some paper had gotten on the grill of Busch's Dodge and caused the temperatures to rise. Fortunately, some 20 laps later, Busch reported that things were cooling off. The "Blue Deuce" was 11th on Lap 180 and began a move back toward the front. He was all the way back up to seventh when Penske Teammate David Stremme spun to bring out the seventh caution flag on Lap 193.

The six cars in front of Busch all pitted, but Busch, Tryson and crew opted to stay out and get track position. Mark Martin also stayed out and lined up beside Busch for the Lap 197 restart. Because they did not pit, Busch and Martin would be on a different pitting sequence than the rest of the leaders for the remainder of the race. It wouldn't prove to be a handicap as all the teams had to make another stop in order to go the distance.

Martin's Chevy got stronger at the right time, as he cleared Busch for the lead on Lap 204 and set sail. With no yellow flags falling for the next 83 laps, Martin - and then Busch - hit pit road for a last time on Laps 244 and 248, respectively. They fell back to 28th and 29th and were running a lap down for several laps. But without any yellow flags, all the lead lap cars eventually had to hit pit road for their final stops.

The pit stops finally cycled around on Lap 272, with Martin holding a 2.5-second lead over second-place Busch. Those two drivers enjoyed another 3.2-second buffer over third-place Jimmie Johnson. However, a caution for debris on Lap 276 bunched the field up again and created much excitement with the ensuing double-file restarts.

Busch was second behind leader Martin for the Lap 282 restart. Earnhardt Jr. crashed two laps later to bunch the field up again. The handling woes plagued Busch and he had fallen to fifth when A.J. Allmendinger spun in Turn 3 to bring out the 10th caution flag of the race. That set up the final restart on Lap 297.

Martin lined up as the leader, with Montoya up to second, Denny Hamlin third, Johnson fourth and Busch fifth. Kyle Busch was sixth, with Elliott Sadler seventh, Ryan Newman eighth, David Reutimann ninth and Greg Biffle 10th.

Martin was able to close the door on Montoya's advancement with a "snooker" move entering Turn 1 on the restart. That upset Montoya's momentum and allowed Martin to jump out into the lead. Allmendinger spun again on the final lap, but the caution did not fly until the leaders were in between Turns 3 and 4.

When the yellow flag flew, it "froze" the field, allowing Martin to win and pick up his fifth victory of the season. Hamlin was credited with finishing second, with Montoya third, Johnson fourth and Kyle Busch fifth. Kurt Busch, Newman, Sadler, Biffle and Clint Bowyer completed today's top-10 finishers.

The Miller Lite Dodge driver picked up 155 points here this afternoon, getting a five-point bonus for leading laps (led three times for total of 33 laps).

"We had a good Miller Lite Dodge today," crew chief Tryson said back in the garage after the race concluded. "It just came down to us pitting that one time and we took fuel only and got damage on the right-front fender when we hit the 6 car on pit exit. We made one adjustment on that long run there that probably made the car too free for the yellow flag runs. Overall, it was a good run for us. It was a good way to start the Chase off. We're still in this thing in the big picture of things. We just need to keep getting better and head to Dover and try to have another run."

Penske Racing teammates David Stremme and Sam Hornish Jr. finished 28th and 37th, respectively, here today.

Martin, who entered today's initial race of the 20009 Chase, added to his lead with nine races remaining to determine this year's champion. Martin now holds a 35-point lead over second-place Johnson, a 35 point lead over third-place Hamlin and a 55-point lead over fourth-place Montoya. Busch is fifth and 65 points behind Martin.

Here are the top-12 drivers, with position, car number, name, total wins for the season, total points, points behind first and their race finish here today:

1) #5-Mark Martin [5 wins], 5230, finished 1st at New Hampshire
2) #48-Jimmie Johnson [3 wins], 5195, -35, 4th
3) #11-Denny Hamlin [2 wins], 5195, -35, 2nd
4) #42-Juan Pablo Montoya, 5175, -55, 3rd
5) #2-Kurt Busch [1 win], 5165, -65, 6th
6) #14-Tony Stewart [3 wins], 5156, -74, 14th
7) #39-Ryan Newman, 5151, -79, 7th
8) #83-Brian Vickers [1 win], 5140, -90, 11th
9) #16-Greg Biffle, 5138, -92, 9th
10) #24-Jeff Gordon [1 win], 5128, -102, 15th
11) #99-Carl Edwards, 5117, -113, 17th
12) #9-Kasey Kahne [2 wins], 5069, -161, 38th

Hornish currently holds down the 27th spot in the point standings with 2,486 points, while Stremme is 31st with 2,368 points.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup tour now heads back to Dover International Speedway for next weekend's "round 2" of the Chase to the NASCAR Championship. Next weekend's act