Busch Finishes 23rd in Sunday's Daytona 500

February 15, 2010

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 14, 2010) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Steve Addington-led No. 2 Penske Racing Team led 33 laps of Sunday's 52nd Annual Daytona 500 and was running third with only six laps remaining in the scheduled distance. But after making a late-race pit stop, they had to settle for a 23rd-place finish in perhaps the most bizarre race in the track's history.

Riding a wave of positive publicity surrounding NASCAR's new consistent starting time format, this year's edition started two hours earlier than the 2009 race, yet Sunday's race required more than six hours to complete and finished under the lights at Daytona International Speedway. A hole in the asphalt surface in Turn 2 of this 2.5-mile speedway forced two lengthy red-flag delays (the first for 1 hour and 40 minutes and the second for 46 minutes) and disrupted some of the best excitement this track has seen in years.

Busch's day began on a high note with the Miller Lite Dodge starting 10th and charging to lead for the first time on lap 35. He would go on to officially lead the race on five different occasions for a total of 33 laps. After his car's handling went awry during the middle portion of the race, Busch was back up in the top five late in the action.

When Ryan Newman crashed on the backstretch on lap 194, the seventh caution flag of the race flew. Busch was running third at the time and was among the 15 drivers that hit pit road for tires and service, with the team opting for four fresh Goodyear radials.

That move would prove harmful to another possible shot at Busch's initial win here as he got marred deep in the traffic for the remaining laps and had his momentum interrupted by two additional cautions before the end of the race. After being shown 19th on the lap 198 restart, Busch got caught up in the beating and banging in the back of the lead pack and survived to finish 23rd in the race that was extended to two restarts for a total of eight extra laps.

"It was just a real long day," Busch said. "We were really good early in the race and led early on. I felt we were the car to beat just knowing that the car was going to tighten up. Then when we had the track issues with the holes, we went into night time and that changes the game. It brought cars alive that weren't good in the day time. We just set up around a day-time race and it ended under night conditions.

"At the end, we were running third...should have stayed out...that was probably the right thing to do," Busch continued. "Crew chief (Steve Addington) said to pit, we needed tires. So we pitted with six laps to go. Then it was yellow (flag) after yellow, you can't make it up. You just can't leap frog that many cars when you have to restart 22nd.

"On the pit strategy, we we're going to take two (tires). Then we decided to take four. That's the way it goes. You win as a team, you lose as a team. I'm real proud of our Miller Lite Dodge guys. We were running strong, running hard. We showed that we're going to be pretty good."

Addington, who has already meshed so well as leader of Busch's team, was quick to shoulder any blame for the day's results. "(The race) had its highs and lows," he said. "We led a lot of laps during the first part of the race and battled our way back after the car went away during the middle section of the race when we were back there in dirty air. We had a tight car that was really, really tight and then we finally got it freed up at the end. At the end of the race, we took a big swing at the setup and it got a little bit loose. But when the car got back to the front, the balance came back to us.

"That last call where I decided to take four tires, we had 28 laps on tires and I figured more guys would come and leave those guys up front out there for us to drive by them," he added. "We should have stayed out. That put us behind the eight ball. Kurt did an awesome job and did what he had to do to put us in a position to win. We took a shot at gaining positions at the end of the race and it just didn't work out."

Sunday's battle came down to a wild final two-lap shootout. Kevin Harvick led on the second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, with Jamie McMurray starting beside Harvick in his first race back as a driver for the Chip Ganassi-owned Chevrolet team. Carl Edwards was third, with Greg Biffle fourth and Jeff Burton fifth.

McMurray was able to get a great restart from the high side and avoid any impact with the cars up front to control the lead down for the white flag as things got wild behind him. His No. 1 Chevy made the final circuit unchallenged as Dale Earnhardt Jr. came flying up through the field to finish second, a slim 0.119 seconds behind McMurray. Biffle finished third, with Clint Bowyer fourth and David Reutimann fifth. Martin Truex Jr. finished sixth, with Harvick seventh, Matt Kenseth eighth, Edwards ninth and Juan Pablo Montoya 10th.

Busch's Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish Jr. were both involved in an early incident caused by Keselowski's tire issues and finished 36th and 37th, respectively.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit now heads out to the 2.0-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., for next weekend's running of the Auto Club 500. The schedule gets under way with Friday's practice from 12 noon till 1:30 p.m. Coors Light Pole Award qualifying to establish the starting grid for Sunday's 250-lap battle is set for Friday at 3:40 p.m. local (live on SPEED-TV and MRN Radio). Saturday's final "happy hour" practice session is scheduled from 12:45 p.m. till 1:50 p.m. Next Sunday's battle has a scheduled 12:00 p.m. local (3:00 p.m. ET) starting time, with FOX-TV and MRN Radio providing live coverage of all the action beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET.