DAYTONA, Fla. (Saturday, July 4, 2009) — Kurt Busch scored his ninth top-five finish in 18 starts at Daytona International Speedway Saturday night, driving the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger to a fifth-place finish in the Coke Zero 400 at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
Kasey Kahne was involved in a couple of mishaps including a hard crash on the final lap, but still managed to finish 15th in the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge to move to 12th in the season point standings. Its the first time since the eighth race (Phoenix) of the season that Kahne has been in the top 12. Eight races remain to set the 12-driver Chase field. Those 12 will compete for the season championship and Sprint Cup in the final 10 races.
Elliott Sadler finished 10th in the No. 19 Stanley Dodge. It was his ninth top 10 in 22 starts at DIS. He was fifth in the season-opening Daytona 500.
The night wasnt without a couple anxious moments for Busch and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge crew. Busch was running third when the first caution appeared on lap 14. All the leaders headed for pit road. As Busch attempted to bring his Dodge to a stop, it slid through the pit box. He had to back up before the crew could service the car. Busch lost 18 spots on the stop, but was back in the top 10 by lap 34.
Contact with another car on lap 122 resulted in minor sheet metal damage, but Busch continued to race in the top 10. His 10th top-10 finish of the season kept him fourth in the season point standings.
A top-five finish is surprising due to the fact we had a little trouble midway through the race, said Busch. We definitely had a strong car. Our Miller Lite Dodge was steady and we bounced back from those mid-race troubles. We were not in contention for the lead. We were about a fifth- or sixth-place car. We had some damage, so we were just looking for a top 10. We definitely needed a solid run tonight just to give us that confidence were going to be OK, but we still have some work to do heading down this stretch run.
It was a good run for our Miller Lite Dodge tonight. We had a tire shred early in the race and then we had a problem with David Ragan when guys tried to go four-wide. I went from OK to bad right there, but we came in and made some changes to make the car looser. You just have to let it hang out and let er rip. I was just hoping to hang on for a top 10. We got fifth tonight and that was more than we expected.
Crew Chief Pat Tryson said the No. 2 Dodge was very fast before being damaged in the mishap. It was a good night, said Tryson. We were real good early and then got a little damage in that wreck and it made the car a little tight. We didnt have the speed we had earlier. All-in-all, to come home fifth is good. It was a good night points wise.
Six Dodges were in the top 15 on lap 52. Just 25 circuits and two cautions later, four Dodge drivers, including three that were previously running in the top 15, had been involved in incidents including a 13-car mishap on lap 77.
Sam Hornish Jr. turned in an impressive driving performance in the No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge before he cut down a tire that brought out the third caution and led to a series of pit stops for repairs. He returned four laps off the pace.
Hornish started from the rear of the field in a back-up car after his primary ride was damaged during the final few minutes of Thursdays Sprint Cup practice session. The team had the back-up ride ready for Fridays scheduled qualifying, but the session was cancelled due to rain. Hornish had moved from 43rd to 23rd after seven laps and was in the top 10 by lap 17.
Hornish had worked his way back into the top 10 a second time by lap 52, running in the 10th spot.
Penske Racing teammate David Stremme was a victim in the 13-car mishap that included Reed Sorenson and Kahne. Both Stremme (No. 12 Penske Dodge Charger) and Sorenson (No. 43 Air Force Dodge Charger) needed an extensive stay in the garage for repairs while Kahnes No. 9 received only minor damage and continued after a pit stop.
“A tough break for our Penske Dodge, said Stremme. We were working our way up to the front when I got pushed down to the bottom groove and got bumped from behind. It looked like the 9 car (Kahne) was getting hit from behind and pushed into me. That pushed me into (Jamie) McMurray and then the car in front which shot me into the fence. It wasnt Kaseys fault. Thats just bump drafting.”
Driver Team Finished
Kurt Busch No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger 5th
Elliott Sadler No. 19 Stanley Dodge Charger 10th
Kasey Kahne No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger 15th
AJ Allmendinger No. 44 PVA.org Dodge Charger 17th
Sam Hornish Jr. No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger 32nd
Reed Sorenson No. 43 Air Force Dodge Charger 33rd
David Stremme No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Charger 35th
Driver Rank Starts Points Behind Wins Poles T5s T10s
Kurt Busch 4 18 2414 -305 1 0 6 10
Kasey Kahne 12 18 2166 -533 1 0 2 6
Elliott Sadler 23 18 1794 -925 0 0 1 3
Sam Hornish Jr. 25 18 1705 -1014 0 0 0 4
Reed Sorenson 28 18 1668 -1051 0 0 0 1
AJ Allmendinger 29 18 1646 -1073 0 0 1 3
David Stremme 32 18 1499 -1220 0 0 0 0
NASCAR SPRINT CUP
SERIES POINT STANDINGS
(Top 12 after 18 of 36 races)
1. Tony Stewart 2,719 –
2. Jeff Gordon 2,539 -180
3. Jimmie Johnson 2,525 -194
4. Kurt Busch 2,414 -305
5. Carl Edwards 2,317 -402
6. Denny Hamlin 2,302 -417
7. Ryan Newman 2,235 -484
8. Kyle Busch 2,234 -485
9. Greg Biffle 2,215 -504
10. Matt Kenseth 2,201 -518
11. J.P. Montoya 2,187 -532
12. Kasey Kahne 2,166 -553