AVONDALE, Ariz. (Saturday, April 18, 2009) It came down to a three-car shootout for the win Saturday night in the SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Kurt Busch, driving the No.2 Miller Lite Dodge, was right in the middle of the action, just as he had been throughout the 312-lap race which started under the late-afternoon sun and ended under the lights.
Busch settled for third behind Mark Martin and Tony Stewart. It was his ninth top-10 finish in 15 races at PIR and his sixth top 10 of 2009. Busch gained ground on Jeff Gordon, the NASCAR Sprint Cup point leader, who finished 25th. Busch is third, only 98 points behind.
Busch started third and led 63 laps in the event. He survived a brush with the wall on lap 174 when a slower car he was passing drifted up the track as they come off the turn, forcing the No. 2 Dodge into the outside retaining wall. The setback was brief and Busch never dropped out of the top 10 at any point during the night.
We had a great job on pit road and on the race track, said Busch. I got into the fence coming off turn 4 in traffic, but to finish third behind two good guys, well take it with the Miller Lite Dodge. It was a great points night for us. I got to lead some laps and it just shows that weve turned the corner, but still have a lot of work to do.
I felt we were probably the best 200 laps into the race. After that, Mark Martin stepped it up and was gone. Congratulations to Mark.
My crew held me in there all night long. They gave me great pit stops. I felt like a third-place effort tonight was like a win because Mark Martin was stout. Tony Stewart was good midway through the race. It was a great job by our Miller Lite Dodge team.”
Sam Hornish Jr. recorded another first at PIR. He recorded his first top-10 in Sprint Cup competition, finishing ninth in the Mobil 1 Dodge. Hornish got his first victory in IndyCar Series competition at PIR and made his debut in both Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series competition at the one-mile track.
It was a real good run for us, Hornish said. I said yesterday I thought we had a really good race car. I was right about that. We might have been fighting for a top five if the driver had qualified a little better. Im just real proud of these guys that work on the Mobil 1 Dodge. Ive said all year that weve run a lot better than weve finished and should have had three or four top 10s. I wouldnt have expected it to happen at Phoenix as hard a time as I had getting around here last year. I was real happy that it happened here. I have a lot of fond memories of this track.
Kasey Kahne and the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge team made wholesale adjustments throughout the event trying to get the car to turn in the corners, but with little success. Still, a steady effort on the track and pit road resulted in a finish of 13th. Kahne remains 10th in the point standings.
We had a pretty decent finish, but we made a lot of adjustments that didnt help the car, Kahne said. We dont have a handle on what we need to do to make it go faster. The pit crew did a good job. We got on and off pit road good. We just have to figure out how to make the car handle a little better.
Reed Sorenson started 36th in the No. 43 Auto Value Dodge and had to work his way up through the field more than once to finish 12th, his best effort since a ninth in the season-opening Daytona 500.
All seven Dodge teams remain in the top 35 in owner points and are assured starting spots in next weeks event at Talladega Superspeedway.
THE DODGE BOYS
Driver Team Finished
Kurt Busch No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger 3
Sam Hornish Jr. No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger 9
Reed Sorenson No. 43 Auto Value Dodge Charger 12
Kasey Kahne No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger 13
David Stremme No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Charger 18
Elliott Sadler No. 19 Stanley Dodge Charger 32
AJ Allmendinger No. 44 Charter Dodge Charger 35
Driver Rank Starts Points Behind Wins Poles T5s T10s
Kurt Busch 3 8 1,144 -98 1 0 3 5
Kasey Kahne 10 8 975 -267 0 0 1 2
David Stremme 20 8 829 -413 0 0 0 0
AJ Allmendinger 23 8 789 -453 0 0 1 2
Reed Sorenson 27 8 751 -491 0 0 0 1
Elliott Sadler 29 8 734 -508 0 0 1 1
Sam Hornish Jr. 31 8 709 -533 0 0 0 1
NASCAR SPRINT CUP
(After 8 of 36 Races)
1. Jeff Gordon 1,242
2. Jimmie Johnson -85
3. Kurt Busch -98
4. Tony Stewart -104
5. Denny Hamlin -154
6. Clint Bowyer -190
7. Kyle Busch -216
8. Carl Edwards -219
9. David Reutimann -250
10. Kasey Kahne -267
11. Jeff Burton -289
12. Matt Kenseth -296
(Other Dodge Drivers)
20. David Stremme -413
23. AJ Allmendinger -453
27. Reed Sorenson -491
29. Elliott Sadler -508
31. Sam Hornish Jr. -733