Kurt Busch Battles To 14th-Place Finish at Dover

May 15, 2011

DOVER, Del. (May 15, 2011) – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch battled to a 14th-place finish in today's Fed-Ex 400 benefiting Autism Speaks here at Dover International Speedway.  After 11 races have been put into the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup record book, Busch is tied for eighth in the point standings.  Busch was able to finish on the lead lap here today for the first time in a month (since the April 17 Aaron's 499 at Talladega, Ala.)

"We fought our car being really tight in the center for the first half of the race and threw everything we could at it – wedge, track bar, air pressures and even took a (spring) rubber out of the left rear," Busch offered after the race from the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil team transporter.  "When the track got rubbered in, the car just went totally loose.  We put a half-rubber in the right rear during the caution with 60 to go, hoping it might get us closer to where we needed to be.  I never could lean on the right rear tire like we needed to be able to do and that killed our exit off the turns.

"We went with rights (tires) only on that last stop trying to tighten it up," Busch added.  "We probably would have been better off if we just stayed out like the 5 (Mark Martin) did.  We just couldn't get any grip at the end.  The ‘lucky dogs' helped us out.  We finished on the lead lap and it's been several races since we've been able to do that."

Yesterday's qualifying got rained out and NASCAR officials had to establish today's starting field by virtue of the rule book – with Busch earning the sixth starting spot by posting the sixth-fastest practice lap on Friday.

Only two laps after the green flag flew, Busch reported that his Dodge was loose in and very, very tight through the center.  "It's a totally different race car from what it was here in practice," Busch radioed in to crew chief Steve Addington.

By Lap 9, Busch had fallen to 13th in the running order and he was 15th on Lap 19 when a Joey Logano spin brought out the first caution period.  Addington and crew threw major adjustments at their Dodge; taking the spring rubber out of the left rear and taking two full rounds of wedge and track bar out.  With a competition yellow already given notice by officials to the teams, the crew took on four tires, but could not take on any fuel.

Busch was 23rd on the restart and the team continued to make air pressure, wedge and track bar adjustments during the competition yellow that flew 41 laps into the race.  Busch was 27th on the Lap 47 restart and immediately reported that his "biggest issue" was being tight on the exit of Turns 2 and 4.

Busch had climbed to 21st, but the torrid pace leader Jimmie Johnson was applying saw Busch go down a lap after 126 circuits.  A caution for rain drops on Lap 163 allowed the teams to hit pit road once again and Busch's crew continued to make adjustments.

Busch was running 23rd and one lap down on the Lap 170 restart.  He was able to get around Juan Pablo Montoya on Lap 181 to become "Lucky Dog eligible" for the free pass back onto the lead lap should the caution flag fly.  Caution No. 4 flew on Lap 216 for debris on the backstretch and Busch was back on the lead lap.

The team continued to massage their chassis, but nothing could bring the handling around to where it needed to be to compete with the leaders.  The extreme loose condition set in and Busch continued to battle to stay on the lead lap.  Johnson and Carl Edwards were battling for the lead and had just cleared the "Double-Deuce" Dodge on Lap 331 when Kasey Kahne smacked the fourth-turn wall to bring out the fifth caution of the race and again award Busch a "Lucky Dog" lift back onto the lead lap.

Addington called for the insertion of a half-rubber into the right-rear spring during the ensuing pit stop, looking to tighten Busch's mount.  The No. 22 car was 17th on the Lap 338 restart and climbed a spot before Montoya spun on the backstretch to cause the sixth caution.

The team elected to go with right-side tires only and air pressure adjustments in their attempt to tighten the chassis even more.

Mark Martin stayed out to inherit the lead for the Lap 367 restart.  Matt Kenseth was second on the restart, but took only two laps to clear Martin for the lead.  With no additional cautions, Kenseth was able to cruise to a 2.122-second win over Martin.  Marcos Ambrose came home third, with Kyle Busch fourth and Brian Vickers fifth.  Clint Bowyer, Edwards, Martin Truex, Johnson and Kevin Harvick rounded out today's top-10 finishers.

After 11 races, Edwards continues to hold down the points lead.  With 416 points, he has a 24-point cushion over second-place Johnson (392).  Kyle Busch is third (379), Dale Earnhardt Jr. fourth (364) and Harvick fifth (362).  Kenseth (342), Ryan Newman (340), Bowyer (336), Kurt Busch (336) and Tony Stewart (328) round out the top 10 in points.

Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski drove to a solid 13th-place finish in his Miller Lite "Blue Deuce" Dodge and climbed two spots in the point standings. Keselowski is up to 24th in the standings, but is only 30 points out of cracking the top 20.

The Sprint Cup Series now heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the next two weeks of action, with Kurt Busch being the defending champ in both races.  The first event up is the special non-points Sprint All-Star Race set for next weekend.  The action begins on Friday with practice set for 1:35 p.m. till 3:00 p.m.  Qualifying on Friday evening at 6:00 p.m. will feature the unique format of three laps under the clock with a four-tire pit stop thrown into the equation.  Saturday's Sprint All-Star Race will begin after the conclusion of the NASCAR Sprint Showdown "last chance" race at approximately 9:00 p.m.  This year's exciting battle calls for a 50-lap/20-lap/20-lap/10-lap format with a four-tire pit stop prior to the start of the final segment.  Live coverage will be provided by SPEED-TV and MRN Radio.