Kurt Busch Finishes 5th in Richmond

September 11, 2011

RICHMOND, Va. (September 10, 2011) – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch fought to a fifth-place finish in tonight’s Wonderful Pistachios 400 here at Richmond International Raceway and will start the 10-race “Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship” tied for fifth among the 12 drivers in the playoffs.

“Really a good, hard fought battle,” Busch said of his seventh top-five finish and 14th top-10 in the first 26 races of the 2011 season.  “That debris from that early caution cut our right rear tire and you know, we were lucky to obtain a yellow while we were sitting there limping around.  To fight back from that and to be in good position all night we had a top-five car with our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge.  The last two races we were running strong and to be up front, this is what we need for the next 10 weeks.  It’s all a tribute to the guys giving me good pit stops and we’re making good adjustments on the car as we run.”

Busch started tonight’s 400-lap/300-mile battle from the 11th spot and quickly moved up to be a fixture among the top-10 drivers for the entire race. He caught a huge break on Lap 27 when he had a flat right-rear tire and Kasey Kahne crashed to allow him to pit under the yellow.  He never led a lap, but climbed as high as second and challenged for the lead on two different occasions.  Tonight’s level of competitive strength was a remarkable comeback from the spring race here where Busch struggled to a 22nd-place finish and will long be known for his “constructive criticism” commentary on the team radio.

“Like I’ve been saying, it’s great how things have turned around and it’s a tribute to all the hard work and commitment we have at Penske Racing,” said Busch.  “That race was an eye-opener for the team and I know now that maybe the time, place and method of communicating my feelings were not the best.  The good thing is that we’ve all learned and grown from that day forward.  Here we are like five months later.  Penske Racing has won four races and we have both of our Dodge Chargers in the Chase.  That speaks volumes for how much progress we have made and where this team’s focus is.”

After struggling in practice here on Friday, Busch and his Steve Addington-led “Double-Deuce” team “went for it” in changing things around to make their qualifying run.  The setup allowed Busch to qualify 11th for his best starting spot here since joining Penske Racing for the 2006 season.

Still confused about what would be the best setup for the race, Busch, Addington and crew again went out on the limb, opting to go for the non-conventional path.

“Yeah, it was pretty cool to do that because it would be nothing that he would drive before,” Addington explained.  “We went back and looked at some notes from this old place.  This place is still the same ol’ Richmond.  We looked at some old notes about what we ran here in the past.  Kurt came in and talked to us this morning at the truck and he bought into it and said ‘Let’s do it.’  We threw it at it and had a good result.”

While it was a solid night for Busch, Addington and the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team, it certainly did not go without some fireworks.  As has been the case on several occasions over the years, there was another “encounter” with the No. 48 car of Jimmie Johnson here tonight.  Hard racing between the two champions saw contact on Lap 186 send Johnson into a spin.  Johnson came back to “retaliate” on Lap 245.  Running a lap down, Johnson allowed Busch to sweep by on the low side untouched entering Turn 1.  But, just after he cleared and was entering the apex of the turn, Johnson gassed it wide open to the inside and blasted Busch up the track to bring out the ninth caution of the race.  Johnson got the worst of the mishap as he was relegated to the garage for repairs.

“Well we had 398 other laps and with the way that we raced each other, it’s just hard racing,” said Busch.  “I got into Turn 1 hot, locked up my left fronts, slid up into ‘em.  And then you could just see the payback coming from a five-time chump.  So this is where we stand.  Cars that are racing, cars have been wrecked.  We have a Chase to start and let’s begin.”

Kevin Harvick, who led 202 of the 400 laps here tonight, emerged with a 0.139-second victory over Carl Edwards, who led 113 laps.  Those stats document that they had the two strongest cars in the race.  Jeff Gordon finished third, with David Ragan fourth and Kurt Busch fifth.  Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Mark Martin rounded out the top-10 finishers.  Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski brought the Miller Lite Dodge home in the 12th finishing position.

For Busch, Addington and crew, the top-five finish was “icing on the cake” as they came through to make the Chase another year and have a shot at Penske Racing’s first Sprint Cup points title.

“Well it’s go-time and we’ve got to get those top-five finishes all throughout the next 10 weeks,” Busch said of his intentions for the Chase.  “If we’re in position we have to capitalize on that.  Tonight we were close; caught up on the outside on some restarts.  You hope that luck in the future puts you on the inside that way you can make up spots but all in all a solid run for our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge.  I feel great the last couple weeks.  We just need to carry this the next 10.”

“It’s a pride thing,” Addington said of his team’s success in making it into the “Elite 12.”  “To get both Penske Dodges into this Chase is really huge for the organization, huge for Dodge. It’s huge for the guys that work back in that fab shop, work in that paint shop, work in every little department we have.  They take pride in working on these cars during the week.  We get to come out here and work on ‘em.  Everybody sees us but they don’t see those guys putting in that effort back at the shop.  It’s an awesome feeling of accomplishment and I’m proud to be part of this organization.”