Kurt Busch Places 18th In Aaron's 499 at Talladega

April 17, 2011

TALLADEGA, Ala (April 17, 2011) – Shell-Pennzoil/AAA Dodge driver Kurt Busch finished 18th in today's Aaron's 499 here at Talladega Superspeedway and remained fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings after eight races.  It was an eventful day for the 2004 series champ who came into today's race still looking for his first points-paying Cup plate race win after 41 prior starts in races here and at Daytona International Speedway.

"Man, (it was) a busy day with the Shell-Pennzoil/AAA Dodge here today," said Busch, who was hoping to continue his great level of plate-race success here in Talladega that he enjoyed in the Daytona Speed Weeks back in February.  "Restrictor-plate racing and this two-car draft is really tough and I was in the middle of a bunch of incidents.  I feel bad for wrecking a bunch of cars; especially my teammate Brad (Keselowski).

"We got shuffled out at the end to finish 18th," Busch said.  "I ran with the 20 (Joey Logano), the 36 (Dave Blaney) and then tried to hook up with the 14 (Tony Stewart) at the end and just got separated a bit and shuffled back.  We were in good shape running with the 36 with just a few laps to go until we made contact and got separated.  They're telling me that the car in front of him maybe checked up and he had to get on the binders.  We're all good because we acknowledged each other heading back into the garage area.  I really wish we could have finished it off because I really like him (Blaney) and his car owner (Tommy Baldwin).

"My car was really fast all day getting pushed," said Busch.  "It was just a case of being too tight following and too loose leading.  Once I had to push, the car didn't seem as stable as I needed it to be.  (It was) Frustrating.  We ran up front most of the day and didn't get the finish I think that we deserved."

Busch started today's race from the eighth position and didn't have a drafting partner from the drop of the green flag.  He and spotter Chris Osborne landed a partner in Landon Cassill, who qualified his James Finch-owned (and Hendrick Motorsports-powered) Chevy in the sixth spot.  That tandem proved potent until Busch innocently got into Cassill on Lap 27, which saw the No. 09 car fishtail into Brian Vickers to bring out the first caution flag.

Busch was able to hook up with Penske Racing teammate Keselowski on Lap 32.  They showed strength and led laps before agreeing to just stay cool and log laps.  They managed to run as a tandem until contact (with No. 2 leading and No. 22 pushing) saw Keselowski spin into the outside wall.  "Our front bumpers are like Velcro; whatever we have done up there isn't working," Busch radioed after the incident.

Busch then hooked up with his brother, Kyle, for perhaps the most dominant 30-lap stretch of the race.  The Busch Brothers were a fixture at the front during that entire period.  However, when the third caution of the race flew on Lap 127 for debris, the elder Busch was slowed by a lengthy stop on pit road that dropped him to 17th for the Lap 133 restart.

The "Double Deuce" then hooked up with Matt Kenseth for several laps before Kyle Busch got spun by teammate Joey Logano to bring out the fourth yellow flag of the day.  Ironically, it was the elder Busch and Logano teaming up after the Lap 145 restart.  That proved a potent pair until the fifth caution of the race flew on Lap 163 for debris.

Another quick yellow set up a restart with 11 laps to go and Dave Blaney leading, with Busch running second.  They ran as a tandem up front until contact separated the pair with only two laps to go.  Busch scrambled to find a partner, but it was too little and too late.

At the finish line, it was Jimmie Johnson taking the win with a huge assist from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Johnson's margin of victory in the "mega-wide-and-deep" finish over runner-up Clint Bowyer was 0.002 seconds.  The finish tied the record for the closest finish ever; that set by Ricky Craven over Kurt Busch in the 3/16/03 race at Darlington Raceway.  In a race strategy that paid off here today, Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon finished third and Earnhardt Jr. fourth.  Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, David Gilliland and Logano rounded out the top-10 finishers.

Positions 11-20, in order of finish, were A. J. Allmendinger, Paul Menard, Martin Truex, Jr., David Reutimann, Regan Smith, Jeff Burton, Stewart, Kurt Busch, Andy Lally and Robby Gordon.

After eight races have been put into the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup record books, Carl Edwards is the points leader with 295 points.  Johnson is second with 290 and Earnhardt third with 276.  Harvick is fourth with 268 and Kurt Busch fifth with 267.  Rounding out the top 10 are Kyle Busch (257), Ryan Newman (253), Kenseth (252), Juan Pablo Montoya (246) and Bowyer (245).

Keselowski was credited with a 33rd-place finish here today and is now 27th in the point standings (with 171 points).

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now takes a weekend off before heading to Richmond International Raceway for another short-track battle on that .750-mile layout on Saturday, April 24.