Kurt Busch Finishes 13th in Bank of America 500
October 16, 2011
Photo Courtesy of Autostock
CONCORD, N.C. (October 16, 2011) – Pennzoil Ultra Dodge driver Kurt Busch scratched and clawed to a 13th-place finish here at Charlotte Motor Speedway in tonight's Bank of America 500. But with seven of the 12 Chase drivers finishing in front of him in the top 10, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champ fell to seventh in the standings and is now 27 points out of the lead with five races remaining to determine the 2011 title-holder.
"It was just a frustrating night for our Pennzoil Ultra Dodge," Busch said. "I thought we had the lucky dog there about halfway through the race and it was pretty confusing the way that the cautions fell. We were just tight in and loose off all night. And we got bit twice when the caution came out right after we pitted under green. But we finally got the free pass and got back on to the lead lap and we at least came away with a respectable finish.
"Under the final caution, we had to decide whether to pit or not and we decided to stay out. We were ninth on the restart and hoped to at least maintain that position, but it didn't turn out that way. We did lose a few points, but we'll try to get them back next week. Faster race cars will make for better decisions, I've always believed."
Busch and his Steve Addington-led No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge Team started 20th here tonight and struggled with the "tight in the center and loose off" handling conditions the entire race. The team ran from 16th to 18th for the majority of the 334 laps.
The "Double-Deuce" Dodge was at its strongest when a round of green-flag stops had cycled around on Lap 200 with Busch running 10th. After another green-flag stop on Lap 234, Busch was caught a lap down when the fourth caution of the race flew only four laps later. He had fought to be in the lucky dog spot when he hit pit road for another scheduled green-flag stop on Lap 285. Just as he was exiting the pits, the fifth yellow of the race flew.
Busch was running 15th and a lap down when he finally caught the break he was hoping for. Greg Biffle smacked the outside wall to bring out the seventh caution of the race on Lap 300. Busch picked up the lucky dog and returned to the lead lap when the race returned to green with 31 laps remaining. Busch had moved from 15th up to 13th when Jimmie Johnson crashed to bring out the final caution flag with 17 laps to go.
Busch, Addington and crew opted to stay out, while six other cars on the lead lap hit pit road for fresh tires. Busch was ninth on the final restart with 12 laps to go. The fresh tires worked for several drivers including Tony Stewart, A. J. Allmendinger and Joey Logano as they all got by Busch in the waning laps.
Matt Kenseth had passed Kyle Busch for the lead on Lap 310 and managed to hold the point through the restarts to emerge with a 0.968-second victory over the younger Busch. Carl Edwards finished third, with Kasey Kahne fourth and Marcos Ambrose fifth. Kevin Harvick, Allmendinger, Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman completed the top-10 finishers.
David Ragan, Logano, Kurt Busch, Juan Pablo Montoya and Biffle rounded out the top-15 and were the only drivers completing all 334 laps. Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski drove his No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge to a 16th-place finish and was the lead car running one lap down.
With five races remaining this season, Edwards leads the points with 2,203. Harvick is second and five points back (with 2,198). Kenseth is up to third (with 2,196 points). Kyle Busch (2,185) is fourth and Stewart (2,179) is fifth. Keselwoski (2,178) is sixth, with Kurt Busch (2,176) seventh, Johnson (2,168) eighth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2,143) ninth and Newman (2,142) rounding out the top-10.
The Sprint Cup tour now heads back to Talladega Superspeedway for next Sunday's final restrictor-plate race of the season. This weekend's schedule at Talladega Superspeedway begins on Friday with practice sessions scheduled from 1:30 p.m. till 2:15 p.m. and from 3:00 p.m. till 4:00 p.m. Saturday's 11:15 a.m. single round of qualifying will establish Sunday's 43-car starting field. Sunday's Good Sam Club 500 (188 laps, 500.08 miles) has a 1:00 p.m. CT (2:00 p.m. ET) starting time and features live coverage by ESPN-TV and MRN Radio.