For the fourth consecutive week, a Dodge Charger R/T led the field to green in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Penske Racings Kurt Busch continued his torrid four-week stretch by earning his third straight and 15th-career pole position for Sundays 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, Buschs car seesawed from loose to tight. Finding the happy medium was a struggle.
A really up and down day for us, Busch said. Its always tough when you earn a pole position and cant 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 couldnt 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 thats 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 didnt multiply into race results.
Running 18th, Keselowski brought out the races 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 races 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. Its tough and this track and race means so much to me. I really wanted to have good run and we just didnt make it happen today. It was just one of those days where it didnt matter what we did, we were going to have a bad day. Well 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.