Kurt Busch is off to a good start in the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup, finishing sixth in Sundays Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Late-race cautions hampered Buschs chances of an even better finish in his No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge.
Buschs Dodge Charger was fast. He wasnt outside the top 10 except during the lone green-flag pit cycle late in the race. He spent most of the day in the top five and led the race on three occasions for 33 laps.
Dodges second entry in this years 12-driver Chase Kasey Kahne in the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger wasnt as successful. Kahne had engine problems early in the race, exiting on lap 66 of the 300-lap event. He finished 38th.
Busch was riding along comfortably in second place, but three cautions in the final 23 laps set up three double-file restarts and opened the door for a series of challenges from numerous drivers. Busch was able to hold the second spot on the first restart, but wasnt as successful on the final two.
It was a fight, said Busch. We had a good car. We were a top-five car. You could have thrown a blanket over the five that finished up front. We just didnt make good adjustments at the end. We lost the handle on the Miller Lite Dodge. If there had been no cautions, we would have finished second. It was tough, a hard-fought battle all day. The Miller Lite Dodge was good and then it was bad. We just lost the handle at the end. We could have finished second, but the last debris caution and all those cautions at the end took that opportunity away. Our car was no good on restarts.
An anxious moment for the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team came on pit road during the fourth caution on lap 162. Busch was fourth at the time and crew chief Pat Tryson elected to go with a bit of pit strategy, calling for a fuel-only stop. As Busch accelerated from his pit stall, David Ragan was turning into his pit just ahead. Busch made contact with the right front fender, causing some sheet-metal damage. The top six cars didnt stop, so Busch was 10th for the restart.
Thats what happens on a fuel-only stop, said Busch. Fuel only stops put everybody in jeopardy. I just didnt see him. It happened at the last minute. I just pulled out and the 6 (David Ragan) was pulling in. As it turned out, it put us on the right cycle. I dont know how the damage affected it, but the car was definitely off after that.
Busch is fifth in the Chase standings, 65 points behind race winner and point leader Mark Martin.
We had a good Miller Lite Dodge today, said Tryson. It just came down to us pitting that one time when we took fuel only and got damage on the right-front fender when we hit the 6 car on pit exit. We made one adjustment on that long run that probably made the car too free for the yellow flag runs. Overall, it was a good run for us. It was a good way to start the Chase. Were still in the big picture of things. We just need to keep getting better and head to Dover and try to have another solid run.
The day ended early for Kahne as the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge was sidelined with engine problems on lap 66. He finished 38th which drops him to 12th in the Chase standings.
We had a good car, Kahne said. I think we were up to eighth or ninth. It seemed like our Budweiser Dodge was decent. We had some things to do to make it better. Its disappointing. Its better than last week because we wouldnt have been in the Chase. We just have to work extra hard now. I dont know how this all works. You never know in the Chase if you can have a mulligan or not. This team is doing a nice job. Hopefully, we can make gains in those final nine (races).
Kahne is 12th in the Chase standings, 161 behind the leader.
Elliott Sadler, despite being involved in a seven-car mishap just past the halfway point of the race, finished eighth in the No. 19 Stanley Dodge Charger. It was his best finish since the July race at Daytona.
We made wholesale changes from last night that really helped our Stanley Dodge, said Sadler. This race was very gratifying for everyone on this team. It was a good run for us. We learned some things today that really helped our car. We found some things that I like to have in the race car that we can build on from here on out. Hopefully we can build on that for the final nine races.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP CHASE STANDINGS
(First Of 10 Races In The Chase)
1. Mark Martin 5, 230
2. Jimmie Johnson 5, 195
3. Denny Hamlin 5, 195
4. Juan Pablo Montoya 5, 175
5. Kurt Busch 5, 165
6. Tony Stewart 5, 156
7. Ryan Newman 5, 151
8. Brian Vickers 5, 140
9. Greg Biffle 5, 138
10. Jeff Gordon 5, 128
11. Carl Edwards 5, 117
12. Kasey Kahne 5, 069
Driver Team Finished
Kurt Busch No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge 6th
Elliott Sadler No. 19 Stanley Dodge 8th
AJ Allmendinger No. 44 Berlin City Dodge 25th
David Stremme No. 12 Penske Dodge 28th
Reed Sorenson No. 43 McDonalds McCafe Dodge 36th
Sam Hornish Jr. No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge 37th
Kasey Kahne No. Budweiser Dodge 38th
Driver Rank Starts Points Behind Wins Poles T5s T10s
Kurt Busch 5 27 5165 -65 1 0 7 15
Kasey Kahne 12 27 5069 -161 2 0 5 10
Elliott Sadler 25 27 2558 -2672 0 0 1 4
AJ Allmendinger 26 27 2543 -2687 0 0 1 3
Sam Hornish Jr. 27 27 2486 -2744 0 0 1 3
Reed Sorenson 28 27 2445 -2785 0 0 0 1
David Stremme 31 27 2368 -2862 0 0 0 0
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