After a hard fought battle, Kurt Busch posted his best finish of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season here Sunday at Pocono Raceway, driving his No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger to a second-place finish in the 5-Hour Energy 500 on the 2.5-mile track.
Busch started from the pole at the triangle-shaped track, led three times for 37 laps and was never outside the top five. The race came down to a battle between Busch and race winner Jeff Gordon over the final 80 laps. Both came to pit road for the final time on lap 178 of the 200-lap event with Gordon the leader and Busch a close second. Both had flawless pit stops, but Gordon maintained the advantage on exit. Busch finished three seconds back at the checkered flag.
It was the second straight pole of Busch. He started from the point last week at Kansas and led 152 laps before finishing ninth in what turned out to be a fuel-mileage race won by his teammate Brad Keselowski. Busch relinquished the lead with nine laps remaining to make a stop for fuel.
It was a great run, said Kurt of his runner-up finish. Its pleasing to see that result. Im exhausted. It was a hard-fought battle with Jeff Gordon at the end. We ran him strong, we ran him hard. It started with about 70 to go. We were able to take the lead and stretch it out. Then there was a caution. The 24 beat us out of the pits and that was the difference. Im real proud of our Shell/Pennzoil Dodge today, our team, and our teamwork. To finish second is a good feeling. Even though its a backup, it was a strong car today. We were working it hard today. Im thankful to have good equipment and thank Roger Penske and the Dodge team. We were good enough to win today.
Keselowski started 20th in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, but had made his way into the top 10 by lap 50. Running in the top 15 on lap 78, he radioed crew chief Paul Wolfe and crew the car had developed a vibration. He made an unscheduled trip to pit road on lap 80, replacing all four tires. That didnt correct the vibration. The problem turned out to be a broken left rear shock mount. The team corrected the issue only to have it break a second time. Keselowski finished 23rd.
I think we had a top-five car there at the end when it mattered, he said. We had a broken shock, got it fixed and then it broke again. Its just unfortunate. We had a really, really strong car and didnt capitalize on it today. We did what we could, but there are some things you just cant overcome.
Keselowski slipped one spot to 22nd in the standings, but hes only 13 points out of 20th.
Our Dodge Chargers will be back at it next weekend at the Michigan International Speedway.