MARTINSVILLE, Va. (October 30, 2011) – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch finished 14th in today’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 here at Martinsville Speedway and remains eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings with three races remaining to determine the 2011 series champion. Even though the 2004 NASCAR champ posted his best finish here in the last nine races, his deficit to points leader Carl Edwards grew from 52 points to 58 points.
“We had a little bit of everything today with our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge,” said Busch, who survived three different incidents that brought out cautions and caused him to have to play in the “catch-up mode. “We struggled a little bit during the middle part of the race and lost a lap, but we took the wave around, caught a caution and made it up. I really hate I got into Jeff Burton, but the 39 got into me and I got into Jeff. Paul Menard got into us and I spun out. The car was fine, but nobody would let you get to the inside. We decided to go for it on that last caution and got tires. We came in 14th and finished 14th, so it was a wash. We’ll try to make up some points next week at Texas.”
Busch started today’s battle from the eighth spot after qualifying was rained out and the field set by the rule book. Busch’s Dodge climbed as high as fourth in the running order at one time, but the car’s handling was on edge through the majority of the race. His Steve Addington-led “Double-Deuce” crew made numerous adjustments throughout the race, fighting both loose and tight conditions.
Denny Hamlin was leading on Lap 335 when he got around putting Busch a lap down, but after pitting on Lap 364 for fresh tires, fuel and adjustments, he was able to stay out and take the wave-around to rejoin the lead lap cars on Lap 405. The most significant damage Busch sustained came when Menard made contact and sent him spinning in Turn 2 on Lap 427. He was forced to hit pit road under the 14th caution period of the race to address a severely damaged right-rear quarter-panel.
Busch pitted again for tires and fuel under the 15th caution on Lap 459. He was 19th on the restart and gained spots only two laps later when Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch crashed. With 24 laps remaining, the 16th caution flew for Ryan Newman’s spin in Turn 2.
Busch was 14th on the Lap 478 restart and was still running there when the final caution flew with five laps remaining. Busch, Addington and crew went for it, pitting for four fresh tires and hoping it would allow them to possibly sneak up into the top-10 during the final laps. Busch was 17th on the restart, but could only climb to 14th during the final three-lap dash to the checkered flag.
Tony Stewart was able to pass Jimmie Johnson on the outside with less than two laps remaining and held on to post a 0.170-second victory. Johnson finished second, with Jeff Gordon third, Kevin Harvick fourth and Hamlin fifth. Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Edwards and Newman rounded out the top-10. A.J. Allmendinger, Casey Mears, Regan Smith, Busch and Greg Biffle completed today’s top-15 finishers.
With only three races remaining, Edwards (who came back from two laps down here today to finish ninth) leads the Sprint Cup point standings with 2,273. Stewart climbed to second and has 2,265 points. Harvick is third with 2,252. Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski is now fourth and 27 points out of the lead after spinning out while running a strong eighth with less than three laps remaining. Kenseth fell to fifth in the standings and is 36 points out of the lead. Johnson (2,230 points) is sixth, with Kyle Busch (2,216) seventh, Kurt Busch (2,215) eighth, Earnhardt (2,200) ninth and Gordon (2,197) 10th.
The Sprint Cup tour now heads back to Texas Motor Speedway for next weekend’s AAA Texas 500. Next Sunday’s 334-lap, 501-mile battle on the TMS 1.5-mile quad-oval has a scheduled 2:00 p.m. CT starting time and features live coverage by ESPN-TV and PRN Radio.