Busch Earns Third-place Finish at Darlingtron

May 9, 2010

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 8, 2010) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch battled to an impressive third-place finish in Saturday night's SHOWTIME Southern 500  at Darlington Raceway. Even though he remains eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings after 11 races, his strong run moved him to within 92 points of second-place Jimmie Johnson and increased his "buffer" over 13th from 46 points to 118.

"We really fought hard," Busch said of only his second top-five finish here in 14 career races. "It was a good run for us here at Darlington. I haven't had a solid run like tonight since Ricky Craven and I battled it out for that win (in March 2003). It feels good to get our Miller Lite Dodge back up front. It came down to a strategy where I though two tires would be the way to go at the end. We had the right strategy, we just didn't have enough speed. I think Denny Hamlin and Jamie McMurray were stronger than us tonight, but we'll take this third-place finish. I was going for it on the last lap. I was on the edge, but it doesn't matter because you just have to cross that finish line. This track is so much fun to race when you finish good."

"When we first started off tonight, I thought we were in for a long battle," said Busch, who now has one win, four top-five finishes and six top-10s in the 11 events completed this season. "Our car was very loose to start off and we were very loose at Richmond last week to start off. But when we got back to the race shop last week, we figured out what we had wrong. I just thought we had the same thing happening to us again. I tried to protect the race car, I tried to keep it off the fence and kind of nurse it through each of the pit stops early on. The guys were solid. Our adjustments started coming too. We were the best at the end. Our car really came on strong with three runs to go. That's when you have to be in position. We were in a great pit strategy position to just take two tires on the last stop. So it really worked out in our favor. We also had most of our restarts in the outside lane which I felt more comfortable in. When things go your way, things just seem to click and hopefully you end up with a top five out of it. We did with our Miller Lite Dodge. So, I'm very proud of this run."

Busch started 14th in Saturday night's race, but quickly became a fixture among the top-10. The Steve Addington-led "Blue Deuce" Penske Racing Team dealt with a loose handling condition for most of the race and constantly worked with track bar and air pressure adjustments to make their car better as the race progressed. The only time Busch fell out of the top-10 was during pit stop sequences when he took on four tires, while others opted for two.

Busch was up to ninth on the lap 285 restart after the 10th caution period of the race and was able to drive up to sixth before the 11th yellow flag flew on lap 342 for Joey Logano's spin. A 6.365-second two-tire stop elevated him to fourth for the final restart with 20 laps to go. Busch got around younger brother, Kyle, with 17 laps remaining and was closing in on second-place Jamie McMurray when the laps ran out.

At the finish line, it was Denny Hamlin scoring his third win of the 2010 season, this one by 1.908 seconds over runner-up McMurray. Kurt Busch finished third, with Jeff Gordon fourth and Juan Pablo Montoya fifth. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman and Brian Vickers rounded out tonight's top-10 finishers. Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski battled to an impressive 12th-place finish, while teammate Sam Hornish Jr. had a tough night and finished 31st.

"It was a great battle," Busch said of the race's closing laps. "I feel like we did everything right as far as strategy. To come in for that last stop and be on the two-tire sequence, that certainly put us in a good situation. The last runs were the fastest for the Miller Lite Dodge. Just want to thank all our guys. We kept working and ended up with a good finish."

"We were a little loose at the start and that kind of caught us off guard," Addington explained. "We spent most of the night trying to tighten our Miller Lite Dodge back up. We finally got it to where it was working a little bit tight for Kurt. It was a good night overall. We had great pit stops all night. The guys were able to get Kurt out really fast and hold our track position. We'll definitely take this top-three and head to Dover feeling pretty good about the weekend."

After 11 races, Busch is eighth in the Sprint Cup point standings with 1,420 points. He trails leader Harvick by 202 points, but is only 92 points behind second-place Johnson. He is 52 points behind fifth-place Matt Kenseth and now has a 118-point "buffer" over 13th-place over Martin Truex Jr.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup tour now heads to Dover International Speedway for next weekend's Autism Speaks 400 presented by HERSHEY®'S Milk & Milkshakes. The schedule at the "Monster Mile" gets under way on Friday with practice set from 11:30 a.m. till 1:00 p.m. (live on Speed-TV). Qualifying for all 43 starting positions is set for Friday at 3:10 p.m. (live on Speed-TV & MRN Radio). Saturday's schedule calls for practice from 11:30.m. till 12:15 p.m. (live on Speed-TV) and from 12:50 p.m. till 1:50 p.m. (live on Speed-TV). Sunday's Autism Speaks 400 (400 laps, 400 miles) on the "Monster Mile" is scheduled to get the green flag at approximately 1:00 p.m. Race No. 12 of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule will feature live coverage by FOX-TV and MRN Radio.