Busch Secures Chase Spot With Sixth-Place Atlanta Finish

September 6, 2010

HAMPTON, Ga. (Sept. 5, 2010) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Steve Addington-led "Blue Deuce" team scored an impressive sixth-place finish in Saturday night's Emory Healthcare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway and saw their 15th top-10 finish of the season officially lock them into the 12-team "Chase" for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship for 2010.

"I don't know what it was all about tonight; whether it was perseverance, us making adjustments or dumb luck," said Busch of the race where he started 11th, fell back as far as 34th and definitely saved the best for last. "We just missed our setup big, but came home with a sixth-place finish. The most important thing is that we locked our Miller Lite Dodge into the Chase and that's what our team needed from tonight. It's 25 races of hard, long work and now we can enjoy a well-deserved pat on the back and enjoy Richmond. We've got to turn some things around to see what we have against these guys if we're going to run for the title."

Busch started 11th here tonight, but immediately started heading in the wrong direction. An unbelievably tight-handling Dodge Charger saw Busch fall all the way to 30th before pitting for the first time under the green on Lap 46. Air pressure and wedge adjustments made worked to turn the car in the opposite direction and become too loose. Track bar adjustments on the next pit stop on Lap 91 offered little relief.

The first caution flag of the race didn't fly until Lap 133. Busch had already fallen as far back as 34th and a lap down to leader Denny Hamlin. Crew chief Addington elected to go with major adjustments. He called Busch onto pit road with the lead lap cars on Lap 133, knowing they would have to start at the rear of the field for pitting early. The crew changed tires, added spring rubber to both rear springs and made a track bar adjustment during that stop. Busch came back around to pit again the following lap where the crew changed the right-front shock absorber.

When Hamlin blew an engine on Lap 144, all the lead lap cars pitted. Addington directed Busch to stay out and take the "wave around" to return to the lead lap. Busch was 23rd and on the lead lap for the Lap 152 restart. Another caution flag flew the very next lap when Ryan Newman spun Greg Biffle, with Elliott Sadler also getting caught up in the incident.

Busch pitted for more fresh tires and additional adjustments during the yellow and lined up 20th for the Lap 162 restart. The Miller Lite Dodge continued to bounce from being way too tight to being way too loose through another three rounds of pit stops.

Busch had pitted under the fifth yellow of the night on Lap 260 and was 17th on the Lap 264 restart. When Scott Speed blew an engine a lap later, Addington chose to stay out. With all the other drivers in front of Busch hitting pit road, the "Blue Deuce" moved to the front to lead Lap 272. Tweaks made to the chassis began to bring their car around to be the most competitive it was all night.

Busch was the leader for the Lap 276 restart and he went on to lead two times for 10 laps. The 2004 series champ emerged relatively unscathed from what could have been a major blow when Kasey Kahne was tagged from behind and sent diving into Busch on the low side on Lap 302. He survived another caution and restart, falling as far back as ninth with seven laps remaining. Busch was able to impressively rally back to a strong sixth-place finish during the waning laps.

"This race has been one of the toughest of my life," Addington offered after the race. "It caught us by surprise from where we were in happy hour and where we were at the start of the race. It had us scratching our heads. We changed a lot of stuff during the race. I'm proud of everybody on this Miller Lite Dodge team for hanging in there, especially that guys that sits behind that steering wheel because he could have thrown in the towel as bad as we were. I'm really proud of how everyone responded. I want to thank Kurt personally and the guys for hanging in there to get a finish like that. It's amazing that somebody can hang in there and put up with what we put him through today. If we had qualified better, maybe we wouldn't have had such a struggle. We were way off to start the race. The way this started, we'll take sixth."

Tony Stewart, who had the dominant car after Hamlin's exit from the race, wound up leading eight times for 176 laps and claimed his first win in 31 races dating back to Kansas last fall. Carl Edwards finished second, with Jimmie Johnson finishing third, Jeff Burton fourth and Kyle Busch fifth. Kurt Busch was sixth, with Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose rounding out tonight's top-10 finishers.

Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Sam Hornish Jr. finished 25th and 30th, respectively.

With only next weekend's race at Richmond remaining until the Chase kicks in, the top 10 drivers in the Sprint Cup point standings are now officially locked into the final 10-race battle for the series championship. Busch climbed two spots to eighth in the standings after tonight's finish. Here is the points picture after tonight's Atlanta race:

2010 Sprint Cup Driver Championship Points Standings:
[after Atlanta, race 25 of 36]: rank, car#, driver, points, behind
1) #29-Kevin Harvick [3 wins], 3585
2) #24-Jeff Gordon, 3366, -219
3) #18-Kyle Busch [3 wins], 3325, -260
4) #14-Tony Stewart [1 win], 3302, -283
5) #99-Carl Edwards, 3288, -297
6) #31-Jeff Burton, 3261, -324
7) #48-Jimmie Johnson [5 wins], 3247, -338
8) #2-Kurt Busch [2 wins], 3228, -357
9) #17-Matt Kenseth, 3225, -360
10) #11-Denny Hamlin [5 wins], 3147, -438
(all above have clinched a spot in the Chase)
11) #16-Greg Biffle [1 win], 3110, -475, +161
12) #33-Clint Bowyer, 3066, -519, 117 pts ahead of 13th
Chase for the Sprint Cup - Contenders:
13) #39-Ryan Newman [1 win], 2949, -636, 117 points out of the chase
14) #1-McMurray [2 wins], 2938, -647, -128
15) #5-Mark Martin, 2919, -666, -147
16) #00-David Reutimann [1 win], 2880, -705, -186

The NASCAR Sprint Cup tour now heads to Richmond International Raceway for the 26th race of the 2010 schedule and the site that will finalize this season's 12 Chase drivers and teams. Next weekend's action at Richmond International Raceway will again feature a two-day format for the NASCAR Sprint Cup tour competitors. Action gets under way with Sprint Cup practice on Friday from 12:00 noon till 2:00 p.m. The final practice for the Sprint Cup cars is set from 2:45 p.m. till 3:30 p.m. on Friday (live on SPEED). Saturday night's 43-car starting field will be determined in Friday's 5:40 p.m. single round of Cup qualifying (live on ESPN2). Saturday's Air Guard 400 (400 laps, 300 miles) Sprint Cup race has a 7:30 p.m. EDT starting time, with ESPN and MRN Radio presenting live coverage.