"Just a really confusing night for this Miller Lite Dodge Charger," Busch said moments after climbing from his Penske Racing "Blue Deuce" ride when the race concluded. "It's really tough to explain. We started with decent track position (15th), we ran third fastest in final practice yesterday in nearly the same conditions and yet our car just reacted completely opposite tonight.
"For the car to be so "loose" early in the race is really puzzling," Busch said. "The 39 spun, then the 48 and then us. It's hard to figure out. We fought loose on exit early in the race and it cost us when I just nicked the wall off of (turn) 4. After that, we were all over the place. Loose, tight, loose again. Steve (Addington, crew chief) threw everything we had at it tonight. We tried wedge, air pressure adjustments, you name it. I don't know if it was the new chassis we brought or what, something was just off.
"The best we were all night was with about 100 laps to go. We just had no speed. Maybe I need to dial the car in better during practice. I'm not sure. It's disappointing not to have the car we wanted to go after the "triple" here at Charlotte tonight. We'll go back and look at our post-race notes and see how we can get better on the next mile-and-a-half at Texas in a few weeks."
Busch, who was going for history on Saturday in quest of being the first driver ever to win all three Charlotte races in the same season, started 15th and struggled from the beginning of the race. He was running 14th on Lap 23 when he spun while experiencing a potential tire problem to bring out the second yellow flag of the night.
Addington and crew began a night of continuous adjustments under the caution that would include wedge, track bar and air pressure changes, as well as the insertion of spring rubbers. Those changes would provide only limited relief from the handling woes.
After Johnson spun on Lap 34 to bring out the third caution flag of the night, the Miller Lite crew even sent shock specialist Dave Hansen over the wall and under the car to make adjustments. Busch fell to 35th for the Lap 38 restart.
Busch fell a lap down during a green-flag pit stop sequence that cycled around on Lap 83. The team continued with their adjustments that unfortunately could never bring the Miller Lite Dodge to life. He had fallen a second lap behind the leaders at Lap 239 and was three laps down shortly after making contact with the wall on Lap 278. Busch and crew were still able to soldier on and finish the race in the 30th position.
Up front, it was Jamie McMurray taking advantage of a great late-race restart to get the lead from a dominant Kyle Busch and hold off the Joe Gibbs Racing driver for the victory. Johnson finished third, with Denny Hamlin fourth and Greg Biffle fifth. Rounding out the top 10 were Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, David Reutimann and David Regan.
Brad Keselowski paced the Penske Racing on Saturday night with his 27th-place finish, while Sam Hornish Jr. was the innocent victim in a crash with Kasey Kahne and finished 40th.
With five races remaining in the 2010 Chase battle, Johnson leads the points with 5,843 points and he has a 41-point lead over second-place Hamlin. Busch fell to ninth in the standings. With 5,606 points, he trails leader Johnson by 237 points and is 196 behind Hamlin. Busch is 160 points behind third-place Kevin Harvick and he trails fifth-place Kyle Busch by 60 points.
The Sprint Cup tour now heads back to Martinsville Speedway for next Sunday's final short-track battle of the season. The schedule will get under way with Friday's practice from 11:30 a.m. till 1:00 p.m. Coors Light Pole Award qualifying to establish the starting grid for Sunday's 500-lap battle is set for Friday at 3:10 p.m. local (live on ESPN2-TV and MRN Radio). Saturday's first practice is scheduled from 10:00 a.m. till 10:45 a.m. The final "happy hour" practice session is scheduled from 11:15 a.m. till 12:15 p.m. (taped-delayed till 6:30 p.m. on ESPN2). Sunday's TUMS Bring It On 500 has a scheduled 1:00 p.m. local (EDT) starting time at the 0.526-mile high-banked facility. ESPN-TV and MRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action.