Busch Posts Sixth-Place Finish in Auto Club 500

February 22, 2010

FONTANA, Calif. (Feb. 21, 2010) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Steve Addington-led No. 2 Penske Racing Team saved the best for last in Sunday's Auto Club 500 in Fontana, Calif., finishing a strong sixth in today's 500-mile battle and climbing from 22nd up to 11th in the Sprint Cup point standings.

"(It was) great day for the Miller Lite Dodge and a great team effort," Busch said immediately after climbing from his car back in the garage when the race had concluded. "We did what we needed to do to be strong at the end. We pitted before some of the top guys when it was raining and we still had 50 laps to go. It was a good call by (Steve) Addington to get us in, get four tires and beat everybody out. That gave us 10-lap fresher tires than everybody. We got up to the front, ran top five. We tightened it up on that last pit stop and the car was still a little too loose. We know that we're missing a little bit, but we showed up when we had to today.

"Patience was a key today," Busch offered. "We just kept on working on our car, had great fuel mileage and great pit strategy at the end that put us in a position to get a great finish. Today's finish won't erase last week, but Daytona is Daytona. A top-six finish is a credit to this team staying after it and getting our cars prepared for California. We got ourselves back in the points. You just can't have bad races early in the year, so this was a nice step in the right direction."

"I'm still learning the setups on these cars with the packages that they have on them," Addington offered. "I made a wrong adjustment when I tried to get wedge out and we tightened the car up. That was just me learning, but we got back on top of it and got the Miller Lite Dodge heading in the right direction. Kurt (Busch) did an awesome job staying calm all day and working through it and some days that's what you have to do. You just have to manufacture a good finish and that's what we did today."

Busch started Sunday's race in the 12th position and ran between 12th and 16th for the first half as the team worked on their car that had the all-too-familiar "loose in, tight in the center and loose off" handling woes so common with this brand of race car. Consistently great work in the pits all day long kept Busch with borderline top-10 potential as crew chief Addington, team engineer Dave Winston and the "Blue Deuce" crew continued to massage the chassis.

After several air pressure, wedge and track bar adjustments had been made, Busch was running right where he started - in the 12th position - at the halfway mark of the 250-lap race around the 2.0-mile track. A savvy call by Addington occurred during a long stretch of racing when green-flag pit stops were the order. Busch was shown as second in the running order behind Matt Kenseth on lap 134 before both drivers peeled off onto pit road the next time around. Kenseth's pits were at the far end of pit road and when Busch went by en route to his pits, he was credited with leading lap 135 and picked up five bonus points for doing so.

Addington made the call for Busch to stay out after Juan Pablo Montoya's blown engine had caused the third yellow flag of the race. Busch was third on the Lap 145 restart, but had fallen to 13th on lap 155 and back further to 16th on lap 160. The race lad started under threatening skies and light sprinkles were responsible for the fifth caution period of the race which came out on lap 192.

Busch had been running in the 15th spot when the yellow flag came out and after hitting pit road on lap 196, the "2-car" was 17th on the lap 200 restart. The track had cooled down considerably and the crew's air pressure and track bar adjustments brought their car to life when it mattered most. The fresh tires, coupled with several daring moves had Busch all the way up to eighth on lap 207. He got around Tony Stewart for seventh on lap 211, cleared Greg Biffle for sixth on Lap 213 and passed brother, Kyle, for fifth on lap 215.

Teams had started making their final pit stops with 28 laps remaining in the race. Penske Racing rookie teammate Brad Keselowski's spin on the frontstretch after cutting down a tire brought out the final caution of the race on lap 224 and set up what would be a 20-lap dash to the finish.

Defending Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson caught a lucky break as he was already in his pits getting service when the yellow flag flew. That allowed him to line up as the leader for the lap 230 restart. Jeff Burton was second, with Kevin Harvick third, Mark Martin fourth, Kurt Busch fifth, Matt Kenseth sixth, Joey Logano seventh, Stewart eighth, Jamie McMurray ninth and Scott Speed 10th.

The action was three and four-wide and six cars deep on the restart as Busch got stuck up on the high side and shuffled back to eighth on lap 231. He climbed back up to fifth with 15 laps to go. For the next five laps, his battle with Kenseth for the fifth spot was the best action on the track. Logano made a daring move on lap 240 to clear both veteran drivers and take the fifth position.

The running order remained the same during the waning laps, with Johnson emerging with a 1.523-second victory over runner-up Harvick. Burton came home third, with Martin finishing fourth. Busch pressed last year's rookie-of-the-year driver hard over the final five circuits, but Logano was able to hang on for the fifth spot. Busch finished sixth, with Kenseth seventh, Clint Bowyer eighth, Stewart ninth and Biffle 10th.

Busch's Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr. ran as high as second during the race, but had to settle for a 16th-place finish, while rookie Keselowski finished 21st.

After two races have been put into the 2010 record book, Busch was able to climb from 22nd all the way up to 11th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings. With 254 points, he trails leader Harvick by 77 points. He is 46 points behind fifth-place Burton and trails 10th-place Carl Edwards by eight points. Here are the top 12 drivers in the standings, with position, car number, points and deficit to first:

1) #29-Kevin Harvick 331
2) #33-Clint Bowyer 312, -19
3) #16-Greg Biffle 304, -27
4) #1-Jamie McMurray 302, -29
5) #31-Jeff Burton 300, -31
6) #5-Mark Martin 297, -34
7) #17-Matt Kenseth 288, -43
8) #00-David Reutimann 273, -58
9) #20-Joey Logano 263, -68
10) #99-Carl Edwards 262, -69
11) #18-Kurt Busch 254, -77
12) #48-Jimmie Johnson 253, -78

Hornish holds down the 26th position with 167 points, while Kesolowski is 28th with 155 points.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup tour now heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for its big annual visit. This weekend's schedule at LVMS gets under way with Friday's practice from 11:10 a.m. till 12:30 p.m. Coors Light Pole Award qualifying to establish the starting grid for Sunday's 267-lap battle is set for Friday at 3:40 p.m. local (live on SPEED-TV and PRN Radio). Saturday's final "happy hour" practice session is scheduled from 10:30 a.m. till 11:55 a.m. Sunday's Shelby American (400.5 miles/267 laps) has a scheduled 12:00 p.m. local (3:00 p.m. ET) starting time at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas facility. FOX-TV and PRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action.