Tough Weekend for Kurt Busch and Dodge at Michigan

 

For the fourth consecutive week, a Dodge Charger R/T led the field to green in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.  Penske Racing’s Kurt Busch continued his torrid four-week stretch by earning his third straight and 15th-career pole position for Sunday’s HELUVA GOOD! Sour Cream Dips 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

 

Success at the two-mile oval in Irish Hills is simple, have a race car that handles well on long green-flag runs.  Cautions flags are traditionally rare as horsepower is trumped by a well-handling race car.  Track position is king.  Unfortunately, finding that right balance on the slick race track proved to be the undoing for the Dodge Boys.

 

Hoping to capitalize on early track position, Busch struggled finding the right setup on his Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger.  Despite never racing outside of the top 10 for the first 198 of the 200-lap race, Busch’s car seesawed from ‘loose’ to ‘tight’.  Finding the happy medium was a struggle.

“A really up and down day for us,” Busch said.  “It’s always tough when you earn a pole position and can’t take advantage of it during the race.  Our Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger was just too inconsistent today to contend for a race win.  We were a solid top-10 race car, but just couldn’t get (it) dialed in enough to run with the leaders.  We ran 198 laps inside the top 10, finished 11th after getting nudged out on that last restart.  It was really a seesaw day for us.”

Mechanical grip was the major issue for the 2004 series champion.  A solid top-10 car for nearly the entire race, Busch and crew chief Steve Addington used multiple air pressure, track bar and wedge adjustments searching for the right combination.

 

“It seemed like our car would be good for the first five laps of a green flag run, and then once the track would rubber-in, we would run tight,” Busch added.  “Our first lap was awesome; the last 199 were a challenge.  You have to be rock-solid on these two-mile race tracks.  You need a good race car, solid pit stops and good changes to keep up with the track and we just were too inconsistent today.  A solid points day for us and that’s important in the big picture.”

 

With his 11th-place finish, Busch dropped one position to seventh in the Sprint Cup driver standings – 41 points behind the leader.

 

Looking for his second win in four Sprint Cup races, Michigan-native Brad Keselowski turned a poor qualifying effort into early race motivation.   Starting 41st, he gained 21 positions and raced his Miller Lite Dodge Charger into the top 20 by lap 15.  Unfortunately for the recent Kansas winner, a fast race car didn’t multiply into race results.

 

Running 18th, Keselowski brought out the race’s third-caution on lap 81 when he blew a right-front tire after making contact with the outside retaining wall.  The incident dropped Keselowski 13 positions for the restart on Lap 89.  With the loss of track position and a damaged front-splitter, Keselowski could only manage to run as high as 21st position, fell a lap down, took a wave around on the race’s final caution on lap 192 and finished 25th.

 

“Obviously we had a poor qualifying effort that forced us to start at the rear of the field,” said Keselowski.  “Once the green flag flew, our Miller Lite Dodge was a rocket.  We were able to make our way up the field and raced as high as 18th.  I was just trying to move around on the race track, trying to get us to where we needed to be.  I just pushed too hard and hit the wall and that led to a flat tire that totally changed our day. It’s tough and this track and race means so much to me.  I really wanted to have good run and we just didn’t make it happen today.  It was just one of those days where it didn’t matter what we did, we were going to have a bad day.  We’ll just keep working at it.”

 

Our Dodge boys will head back to the shop and regroup before heading to Infineon Raceway in California for the next stop on the grueling 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule.

 


  • SUBLIME

    I suppose as long as Kurt can get in the Chase and then will all the races after that then this is fine.  In addition, as long as Brad can make it into the Chase, then that is all that matters right now.  Jimmy Johnson always looks bad at first and then wins the Championship at the end year after year after year after year.  I do not think Brad should run in the Nationwide series anymore.  At any rate, I heard that Ralph Gilles is now in charge of the SRT programs and the director of the Canadian division is now CEO of Dodge.  Good, maybe he will offer more colors (high impact) to the product line across the board for all vehicles and make the Charger really look like a Charger. Hopefully, he can listen to the customers.

  • SUBLIME

    Win all the races, not will all the races.  Sorry about the typo.

  • HEMIhead

    Well, Kurt drops another points position. I hope he’s not at the apex of good runs for this season. I had high hopes for him at Michigan, especially after the pole. I don’t know how they can be so “On their game” and “Off their game” at the track during one weekend.
    If he crashed, you’d understand why, but it seems they just gamble with set ups all the time. Poor Kes, really bad in qualifying, never recovered during the race. I wish they would give that guy a decent car to drive. Kes can drive, and a lot better than a lot of people on the track. I think he is wasting his talent driving these hit and miss cars. They should try and focus on consistency. A win and no chase don’t really add up to nothing. With the blue deuce, he should be in the top 10. If Jr. can be 3rd in points, then Kes definitely can. I hope they get it figured out for you Kes. Times running short.
    Penske still has a lot of work to do.

  • tr4petty

    Dodge still has a lot of work to do!  When there’s only two Dodges (Robby Gordon’s effort isn’t even notable) on the track, the chances of doing anything spectacular are extremely slim.  Without more Dodge Charger drivers and teams in Nascar, there is simply no way that Dodge is ever going to overcome the deficit it keeps sinking into.  Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, and the Penske crews are putting forth a gallant effort considering they’re on an island alone with no other factory guys to compare notes with and bounce ideas off of.  I hope Ralph Gilles will realize what an asset that winning Nascar teams are to a manufacturer, and start supporting more teams next year.  At least get Richard Petty Racing back into the Dodge camp!  Brian Keselowski, Brad’s brother, showed up in his new Chevy at Michigan.  Dodge wouldn’t give him even a little support to keep in a Dodge, so he defected.  The Keselowski’s are normally very pro-Mopar, but they’ve got to do something to stay in the game and that meant switching to Chevy. 
    The Michigan race, by the way, was sickening.  Toyota takes the trophy again in the back yard of the Big 3 American manufacturers!  How sickening is that?!?  And to think, just a few years ago, Toyota was booed at all the races I went to and couldn’t qualify for a race.  Now, Toyota is on top or at least on par with Chevy, and has many fans.  You see, Dodge, what can be done if you put forth the effort?

  • Mopar_Dodge_91

    It would be nice to see Penske/Dodge to go after Carl Edwards. At least try…

  • HEMIhead

    Carl Edwards is a loyal Ford driver. He won’t be driving a Dodge anytime this millinium. Notice I said “Loyal” driver, something Dodge has not acheived since Petty, and they blew that also. They can’t even keep the good drivers they had in the past. Maybe with Fiat they’ll drop Nascar and enter F1?
     

  • tr4petty

    Penske didn’t try to get Kasey Kahne when he was looking around for a ride so I seriously doubt that he’ll try to get Edwards.  Roger Penske probably could have gotten Kasey at the time because Kasey was still a Mopar guy, running Mopar in his Sprint cars, but Kasey said that several teams approached him with opportunities and Penske wasn’t one of them.  Roger Penske seems to not try very hard to find and sign talent in his Nascar teams.  He let Justin Allgaier go last year, even though Justin was the highest finishing full-time Nationwide driver in the points.  Now Penske has nobody in Nationwide eligible for the points Championship.  I guess Roger is satisfied with a “one and done” approach to Championships.  Hemihead, you’re exactly right about loyalty in the Dodge camp;  there is NONE!  Maybe it’s because Dodge doesn’t have any qualms about leaving a loyal owner/driver at the slightest notion that they might do better with someone else.  For instance, Bob Keselowski has been one of the most loyal Mopar guys in racing, but Mopar dropped him in the Truck series to go with Jim Smith (Ultra Motorsports), even though Bob (K-Automotive) was running very well!  Then, of course, the dumbest move of all time by a manufacturer was the dropping of Richard Petty Motorsports!  Richard, for heaven’s sake is the “KING” of Nascar and one of the most respected names in the sport with 200 career wins!  AND Richard really WANTS to be a Mopar guy!  AND why didn’t Dodge Motorsports do something to keep Kasey Kahne, one of the most popular drivers in Nascar, whom also showed signs of devotion to the Dodge brand!!!  Recently they lost another Keselowski, Brian, to the bowtie!  Brian was one of the only guys in the garage area left that favored running the Dodge brand!  It seems clear to me that Dodge sees racers and team owners strictly as commodities.  They show NO loyalty to anyone.  It makes it really hard for us Dodge/Nascar fans to have any heros in the sport.  A few years ago, I stopped buying any driver gear because so many of them kept defecting to brand X’s.  I started purchasing and wearing Dodge Motorsports gear instead.  Now, it seems, Dodge has stopped marketing any of that stuff!   I haven’t seen a Dodge Motorsports souvenir trailer at a Nascar race in at least two years!  I guess when my stuff wears out, I’ll just have to have it made myself!  JEEZ, it’s hard to be a Dodge/Nascar fan!!!

  • HEMIhead

    tr4petty’s right! Kahne was a loyal Mopar guy and Penske didn’t even give him a look, when he was available for a ride. I think Penske has got it wrong. I believe he thinks it’s a privilege to drive for “Team Penske” instead of Penske having the privilege to have a good driver. Dropping Allgaier was a stupid move. They should have let him take Kes’s place in the 22, and just let Kes run Cup. Kes already has the Nationwide Championship, so he’s done with that series. He needs to concentrate on Cup now. Who makes these decisions? Do they think? It’s sickening to say the least. Pathetic. 
    I gave up buying any driver gear. That ended with Kahne’s departure. I have to try very hard everyday to stay loyal, and my experience with the Dodge dealerships during my recent vehicle purchase didn’t help. Let’s see if I buy another one. 

  • Mopar_Dodge_91

    @HEMIhead
    Fiat already has a brand in F1 (Ferrari)

    That’s the key, is staying loyal if your a Dodge/Nascar fan. It is tought…  Maybe it will get better. Maybe it wont. My gut feeling is saying, once Fiat gets that 51% of Chrysler. I think they may pull the plug on the Dodge/Nascar program.

    Does anybody know who is in charge of the Dodge Motorsports??

  • tr4petty

    Ralph Gilles is in charge of Dodge Motorsports again.  And that is NOT good!  He was in charge of Dodge Motorsports, I believe, when they came up with the “concentrated effort,” which was/is code for REDUCED EFFORT!  It was under his Motorsports watch when Petty was let go, Kahne was allowed to go wherever, and Penske dropped to 3, then only 2 cars in Cup.  Correct me RLD if I’m wrong about this.  I’ve personally watched the Dodge Nascar effort shrivel up the last two to three years.  Basically, Dodge is down to 2 Cup cars, 1 and 1/2 Nationwide cars (no Championship contenders) and very slight help to 1 Truck series entry (Brad K’s #29).  If that’s not a pathetic effort, I don’t know what is!  And, I believe, most of this happened under Ralph Gilles’ watch!  But Ralph seems to like wasting money on Viper Cup racing, where the Vipers don’t have any other manufacturer to worry about, so if you like watching Vipers racing other Vipers, then Mr. Gilles will try to please you, but I don’t know anyone who gives a flip about Viper Cup racing!  That’s the kind of racing you do when you’re afraid of the competition!

  • HEMIhead

    Yes, Fiat already has Ferrari in F1, but I would say after a 51% ownership of Chrysler, all efforts will be F1. Chrysler seems to have lots of money for other motorsports, I think they are forgetting about the biggest one that has the majority audience – NASCAR. Ralph Gilles seems like a nice guy, and the awesome Chrysler 300 (in it’s better days) did come from his design studio, but I don’t think his direction with the motorsport program is correct. I hope he proves me wrong on that in the near future. There is a lot of people who watch Nascar, and a lot of people who hate it. But for a person who like racing and motorsports, Nascar is the most accessable, especially to a person who can’t get to the actual race tracks or even afford to. You can always count on it being on your television. And of course, everybody wants to see their favorite brand on the track, and putting up a valiant effort during the race. Less Dodge’s on the track don’t help that. Dodge also needs a couple more high profile drivers, and also “The King”. At least give us fans that. Maybe RLD can comment on what will happen in the near future, for Dodge Motorsports, or tell us why such a reduced effort? Is it going to get better RLD? Hello? Mr.Gilles, are you out there? H-E-L-P!!!!

  • Mopar_Dodge_91

    @tr4petty: Well I like the Viper Cup. I said this once, and I’ll say it again. The Viper name was racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, before Dodge came back into Nascar. Sports Car Racing (i think) is also in Dodge DNA.

    @HEMIhead: I didnt know Ralph Gilles was also in charge of the Motorsports division. Dont get me wrong, but I like Ralph Gilles. He was not like your ordinary CEO. He’s would go out, test cars, and just try to bring the Dodge name back to ordinary people. Like everytime I would see him, he was out promoting the Dodge name, and for that he get’s a high grade in my book. BUT, I didnt know he was also in charge of Dodge Motorsports. Wish he could of done a better job on that side of things.

  • tr4petty

    Mopar Dodge 91, I like sports car racing too;  not as much as Nascar, but I like it.  My problem with Viper Cup is that it is only Vipers.  To me, as a manufacturer, you race to prove something.  If Dodge wants to race Vipers against Corvettes and Porsche, that’s great!  But just a bunch of Vipers racing each other proves nothing and makes Dodge seem like they’re afraid to race the competition.
    As far as Ralph Gilles goes, I like him too.  He’s done a good job as the top man at Dodge.  Why they are replacing him, I don’t know.  I definitely think it’s a mistake, though, to put him back in charge of Dodge Motorsports.  Under his leadership, when he was running Dodge Motorsports, is when everything went to pot!

  • Mopar_Dodge_91

    @tr4petty: Well we may get our wish very soon with the new Viper, racing at the Le Mans 24. If we could only get Team Oreca back racing the new Viper. And crush them cheesy yellow cars as we did in the past.

    http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/92528

  • RLD

    tr4petty:  We understand your initial thoughts on the Viper Cup, but we wanted to share with you the reasoning behind the series.  The Viper currently competes and performs quite well in many series including the World Challenge [ http://bit.ly/ilSMCb ].  The one drawback to many of these series is that the Viper has to be restricted from its full potential because it produces so much power that it has an unfair advantage over many of its competitors.  

    By creating a series dedicated to the Viper ACR-X, ACR-X owners are able to race their vehicles unrestricted and experience the full potential of their cars.  For more information on the Viper and the series, please see this interview video with Ralph- http://bit.ly/l7nsnQ 

    As for the competition…we are quite proud of the Viper ACR’s multiple production car track records, including the more recent record at Miller Motorsports Park- besting the previous lap record set by a ZR1 by close to 4 full seconds.  http://bit.ly/l4hpUn 

    Thanks everyone for the great conversations!  We will check back in later with more answers to other questions. 

    -RLD Staff

  • HEMIhead

    Thanks RLD for responding! I have no problem with the Viper Cup, however I can’t attend the races or see any of the action on TV, so I really can’t give it a second thought. Great opportunity for the Viper owners though. I hope you can give us some feedback on what’s going on with the Dodge Nascar effort, in the near future. I think this is your best dollar per dollar value, for advertisement and exposure. I’d like to see some support for the loyal fans, drivers, and customers of Dodge. 
    One of my local dealerships has their courtesy vehicles/customer shuttles, a Grand Caravan, fully covered with a big vinyl Dodge Nascar race car all over the sides, and I think it looks great. I love seeing it on the road. Dodge and Racing are an exciting fit.

  • tr4petty

    Thanks for the response RLD.  It doesn’t change my opinion of Viper Cup, though.  Racing Vipers against ONLY other Vipers might be fun for the few Viper owners involved but it means nothing to most race fans.  We want to see our Dodge vehicles, such as the Viper, kicking butt against other brands.  That gives us bragging rights.  As I said before, Vipers racing Vipers proves nothing in the on-going battle for bragging rights that is motivation for us fans.  I don’t care anything about watching a Dodge race another Dodge unless it is in the final round of Pro Stock or Funny Car in NHRA and that’s because, to get to the final round, they’ve kicked the butts of several brand X’s!
    Mopar_Dodge_91;  I’ve read the speculation that Dodge may re-enter GT racing with the Viper, where they would compete against Corvette, BMW, Porsche, etc.  That would be worth watching!  Just do it Dodge!  BUT DODGE;  if money for motorsports activities is still short and you must decide where to put limited funds, then put the effort back into NASCAR first!  I’ve attended and watched many different kinds of racing but nothing comes close to the popularity of and excitement generated by Nascar racing!

  • SUBLIME

    Congratulations Kurt on your win at Infineon Raceway! Dodge gets a first and tenth and a good plug by Kurt on purchasing a new Charger SRT8.  Too bad you can’t buy one.  Hopefully, they will not paint the grille all black like an Audi. Keep the wins coming Dodge/Penske.

  • tr4petty

    Great job, Kurt and team for today’s Sonoma win!  I hope this is the first of many.  Kudos to Brad and team for their 10th place today as well.  For someone with as little road course experience as Brad, a 10th place is impressive!

  • HEMIhead

    Congrats Kurt and team! Great win today at Sonoma. Great effort also by Brad Keselowski!
    I love Dodge in the Winners Circle! Thanks from all the fans!

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