Accident Leads to 35th-Place Finish for Busch at Vegas

February 28, 2010

LAS VEGAS (Feb. 28, 2010) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch started from the pole in today's Shelby American here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the Steve Addington-led Penske Racing Team had high hopes of finishing up front in the annual return to Busch's hometown by the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. However, after getting innocently caught up in a Lap 93 tangle involving Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya, Busch's chances for a strong finish ended and he was relegated to a 35th-place finish for the day.

"Certainly not the day that we anticipated with our Miller Lite Dodge," a disappointed Busch said back in the garage after the race had concluded. "We had great expectations starting on the pole here at my home track and Lady Luck wasn't on our side. We struggled a bit early with the slick track conditions, but I knew that Steve (Addington, crew chief) had the game plan to tighten us up during that first (pit) stop. We talked on the radio and we both knew that there was plenty of race left to get our Miller Lite Dodge back to the front."

Busch started today's race from the pole and decided to take the high lane beside second-place qualifier Jeff Gordon for the start of the race. Gordon was able to power by out of the fourth turn to lead the first lap before a spin on Lap 2 by rookie Kevin Conway brought out the first yellow flag of the race.

Busch lined up beside Gordon for the Lap 5 restart, but a severe loose condition with the rear end of his car began to take its toll. He had slid back to fifth when the team pitted under the second yellow on Lap 47. Addington called for track bar and air pressure changes during their four-tire stop.

The Miller Lite Dodge was still way too loose for Busch's liking. He avoided a near miss with the outside wall on Lap 61 when his car snapped free and fell to seventh in the running order. He had fallen to ninth on Lap 87 when Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr. went for a wild spin off Turn 4 to bring out another caution flag.

Addington and crew went to work on adjusting the wedge to compensate for what they lacked in their race setup during the stop. Busch was shown as running 11th in the order after the stops were completed on Lap 89. He was show as 11th on Laps 90-91 and expected to line up on the inside of the sixth row for the Lap 92 restart.

That's when things became extremely confusing. NASCAR officials ordered Busch to take the high lane up in the 12th spot for the restart and the Miller Lite Dodge Team certainly paid dearly for that move. Montoya had managed to get around and in front of McMurray after the restart, but McMurray's Chevy slammed Montoya's Chevy from the rear putting Montoya into the outside wall. Busch was immediately behind and had nowhere to go. The front end of his car collided heavily into Montoya as he bounced off the wall. Montoya's car was damaged enough that he had to head to the garage, while McMurray and Busch were forced to hit pit road for repairs.

Busch's damage was severe and forced the No. 2 Penske Racing Team to straighten out the right-front quarter of their car. The front splitter had buckled and the team had to correct the problem in order to protect the right-front tire. While McMurray's damage was mostly cosmetic and he was able to return to the action without losing a lap, Busch's problems were devastating to the effort for a good finish. When he was finally able to return to the race, he was already four laps down to the leader. Busch was forced to just log laps during the remainder of the race and hope for the best finish he could get.

"We got the car back underneath us, but then we got caught up in the wreck with the 1 (McMurray) and 42 (Montoya) on Lap 94 that basically ended our day," Busch later explained. "It was a bit confusing and I'm still not sure what happened. We were 11th on the board on the restart and the next thing I knew we're positioned on the outside of Row 6 in 12th. I was a sitting duck for the wreck in front of us. Do we get collected if we're on the inside lane? Who knows? It happened and we have to move on. The Miller Lite guys did all that they could to get the right side fixed so that I could go out, makes some laps and finish the race."

The battle for the win came down to a 34-lap dash to the finish involving Hendrick Motorsports teammates Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. While Gordon led the most laps, a move by Johnson's Chad Knaus-led No. 48 team during the final caution to take on four tires rather than two as Gordon did made the difference. Johnson closed in on Gordon after the Lap 233 restart and dogged him until making the pass for the lead on Lap 250. Kevin Harvick was also able to get around Gordon in the waning laps as Johnson went on to post his 49th career victory by a 1.874-second margin over the No. 29 Chevy. Gordon was third, with Mark Martin finishing fourth and Matt Kenseth fifth. Joey Logano, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle rounded out today's top-10 finishers.

Busch took the checkered flag in the 35th finishing spot, running eight laps down. His Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Hornish finished 26th and 28th, respectively.

Busch fell to 19th in the Sprint Cup point standings after three races have been put into the 2010 record book and with 312 points trails leader Harvick by 194 points. Hornish is 28th with 246 points and Kesolowski is 30th with 240 points. Busch trails second-place Clint Bowyer by 147 points and is 131 points behind fifth-place Johnson. He is 77 points behind 10th-place Carl Edwards and trails 12th-place Kyle Busch by 63 points.

The Sprint Cup tour now heads back to Atlanta Motor Speedway, where Busch is the defending champion for next Sunday's Kobalt 500. Next weekend's Sprint Cup schedule at Atlanta Motor Speedway gets under way with Friday's practice from 2:30 p.m. till 4:00 p.m. Coors Light Pole Award qualifying to establish the starting grid for Sunday's 325-lap battle is set for Friday at 6:10 p.m. local (live on SPEED-TV and PRN Radio). Saturday's final "happy hour" practice session is scheduled from 12:20 p.m. till 1:20 p.m. Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 (500.5 miles/325 laps) has a scheduled 1:00 p.m. ET starting time at the 1.54-mile Hampton, Ga., facility. FOX-TV and PRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action.