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Kurt Busch, Dodge dominate in Atlanta win

Posted Monday, Mar 9, 2009, 9:53 am in Employee Motorsports

It was complete domination. That’s the only way to describe Kurt Busch’s victory in yesterday’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Busch and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger ruled from start to finish, leading 234 of 330 laps (five more than the scheduled distance), but had to engage in a two-lap shootout to claim the victory in what will go down as one of the most impressive performances by a driver and car in the history of the 1.54-mile quad oval.


In his interview with Fox sports after the race, Busch said: “If that doesn’t inspire everyone to go out and buy a Dodge Challenger, I don’t know what will.” Go to Fox Sports’ Web site, msn.foxsports.com/video/NASCAR, and click the “Other Busch Wins in Atlanat” video to hear Kurt Busch’s comments in Victory Lane after winning the Kobalt 500 on Sunday.

Busch held a comfortable lead with just four of the scheduled 325 laps remaining. Securing his 19th career victory meant one final test as the 11th caution of the day would require extensive cleanup and sent the race into extra laps for a green-white-checkered finish.

Crew Chief Pat Tryson, who had been on the money with decisions and adjustments throughout the afternoon, was faced with one more dilemma—pit for tires or stay out. Tryson didn’t hesitate. He called for four tires. Busch agreed. The other 13 cars on the lead lap followed suit, but a couple tried a different strategy—two tires. Carl Edwards emerged the leader with Busch second.

On the restart, Busch made the task look easy. Using the high line up against the wall as he had throughout the afternoon, Busch pulled even with Edwards as they exited turn two and motored ahead down the backstretch. Busch had his first victory of the season and vaulted to third in the season point standings. It was his second victory in 17 races at AMS. Busch also had the last win by a Dodge driver, that coming last year at Loudon, N.H., in June.

Not to be overlooked is the effort by the Deuce Crew. Busch’s over-the-wall team’s performance on pit road was flawless. The 11 cautions closed the field and may have given the competition some hope of overtaking Busch, but each time proved to be nothing more than a fantasy. On each restart, Busch marched back to the front, if he wasn’t already there, and speed away to massive leads.

The day wasn’t without incident Tryson called Busch back to the pits for a second stop during the third caution after the fuel can failed to make a good connection with the coupler on the racecar during the initial stop. After the stop to top off the tank, Busch restarted fifth.

On restarts, it took 8-10 laps for the No. 2 Dodge to start its domination and drive away. At times, Busch would increase his lead by as much as a half-second each lap over his nearest competitor.

“It was an unbelievable performance by the Miller Lite Dodge team today. I have to thank Dodge. If that doesn’t inspire anybody to go out and buy a Dodge Charger, I don’t know what will because we were David today, and we beat Goliath. It’s just a great group. Thanks to Dodge, Miller Lite, Mobil 1 … all of our guys.

“Great calls by (crew chief) Pat Tryson and our engineering staff. Penske power is back! This feels awesome. Today we had to beat some tough competitors to do it. It’s just a great group of guys pulling together … all pulling the rope in the same direction. I love my group. I love my guys … everyone involved did great today.”

Was Busch worried when the race went to a green-white-checkered finish?

“We had our hands full, but we had a great race car. Our Dodge Charger was unbelievable,” Busch said. “Just from the get go of the race, I knew that we had something special; it was up to me to protect it. We started sliding around mid-part in the race and had to get back to the old school ‘race the race track’ and don’t race the competition.

“To start off this year rolling like we have, it feels good. Today it leaves me speechless because of how much hard work has been put in, how excited we are to pull our Miller Lite Doge into Victory Lane, put Dodge up on top of the Board. With everybody struggling up in Detroit, it feels really neat to do that.”

Tryson had plenty of praise for his crew. “The pit crew did an awesome job,” he said. “The calls here are fairly easy; put four tires on every time. Kurt did an awesome job.”

Roger Penske called it the kind of performance he expected from his driver.

“What really came to the forefront today was we put it all together,” Penske said. “We had a great driver from the day he jumped on the team, but I’m not sure we’ve given him the horse he needed.

“Obviously, the Dodge R6 engine has been terrific. To me, it’s coming together. Kurt didn’t lose faith. I know sometimes last year, we wondered whether we’d fallen off the train. There’s not a lot of turnover on our team over the off-season. We were one of the teams that kept our people. The overall guys, Pat and Kurt hung in, saw what we were doing to try to get a better car. I think it’s shown in the last four races. We’re back in business.”

Busch credits some of the success to the new Dodge nose approved for use in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this year.

“When you get a new nose like we got this year from Dodge, it changes the downforce balance,” Busch said. “It takes smart people like Pat and Don in our engineering group to decide what to do to get the balance right.

“I’m proud to carry the banner today, into an off week. It should motivate people to feel comfortable with Dodges and go to dealerships, especially Penske dealerships, look at those vehicles, rub on them a little bit and say’ hey, I want to take one of these home’.”

Penske said there was no question the No. 2 Dodge was the best car.

“I’ve never seen it so dominant since Rusty’s (Wallace) win a number of years ago at Pocono. We’re a team. We want to win. We want to win fairly and squarely.

“For Dodge, particularly, the trouble that they’re going through with the government, I hope this gives them some momentum this week.”

Kasey Kahne finished seventh in the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger and jumped to ninth in the season point standings. He also finished seventh last week at Las Vegas.

“We had a really good car all day,” Kahne said. “It was great to have a Dodge Charger that good, but then we got behind on that pit stop. But, we fought back and we finally got our lap back. It took a long time. We finally got it back and ended up with a good run. I wish it had been a little better, but a top-10 is good. It was nice to see Kurt (Busch) win in a Dodge. That’s good.”

AJ Allmendinger finished 17th in the No. 44 Charter Dodge Charger and Elliott Sadler was 20th in the No. 19 Best Buy Dodge.

Kobalt Tools 500 results
(Atlanta Motor Speedway)
1. Kurt Busch (Dodge)
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Carl Edwards
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Brian Vickers
6. Clint Bowyer
7. Kasey Kahne (Dodge)
8. Tony Stewart
9. Jimmie Johnson
10. Martin Truex, Jr.

Other Dodge Drivers
17. AJ Allmendinger
20. Elliott Sadler
23. David Stremmne
33. Reed Sorenson
37. Sam Hornish Jr.

NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings
1. Jeff Gordon 634
2. Clint Bowyer -43
3. Kurt Busch -46 (Dodge)
4. Carl Edwards -87
5. Matt Kenseth -88
6. Tony Stewart -113
7. Kyle Busch -120
8. Kevin Harvick -123
9. Kasey Kahne -150 (Dodge)
10. Greg Biffle -154
 

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Drivers comments on Sunday’s race

Drivers comments on Sunday’s race

Posted Monday, Mar 9, 2009, 9:56 am in Employee Motorsports

Here are some post race comments by Dodge drivers Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler, AJ Amendinger and Reed Sorenson after yesterday’s Atlanta 500.

Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger):
“This was big. I have to thank my Miller Lite guys, this car was unbelievable. Good things come to those who wait. We’ve waited over a year and a half for this COT (Car of Tomorrow program) to find a good package and we’ve had that to start 2009. Unbelievable with the Miller Lite Dodge today. Great calls by (crew chief) Pat Tryson and our engineering staff. Penske power is back! This feels awesome.”

Back-to-back wins by the Bush brothers again, how does that feel?
“That’s neat. I’ve got to hold my end of the bargain because Kyle (Busch) is on the gas right now. I’ve got to thank guys like Carl Edwards for racing me clean at the end. Jeff Gordon was strong all day. When you beat those two kinds of guys here at Atlanta, especially on a day when it reminded me of Darlington, this place will just chew you up and spit you out, but we had it handled. We were hanging on to her. I’ve got to thank Dodge. If that doesn’t inspire anybody to go out and buy a Dodge Charger, I don’t know what will because we were David today and we beat Goliath. It’s just a great group. Thanks to Dodge, Miller Lite, Mobil 1 … all of our guys … PPG…and just everyone that puts an effort together to get us this win.”

Can you talk about the strength of your team today?
“Just an overall team effort. Good things come to those who wait. We’ve worked real hard to get our mile-and-a-half program up to speed. Today we had to beat some tough competitors to do it. It’s just a great group of guys pulling together … all pulling the rope in the same direction. I love my group. I love my guys … Miller Lite, Dodge, Mobil 1, everyone involved did great today.”

How worried were you on the green-white checkered?
“We had our hands full, but we had a great race car. Our Dodge Charger was unbelievable. Just from the get go of the race, I knew that we had something special; it was up to me to protect it. We started sliding around mid-part in the race and had to get back to the old school ‘race the race track’ and don’t race the competition.”

Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger):
“We had a really good top five-ish car all day; which was really nice. It was great to have a Dodge Charger that good, but then we got behind on that pit stop. There was too much confusion and we didn’t get it figured out. But, we fought back and we finally got our lap back. It took a long time. We finally got it back and ended up with a good run. I wish it had been a little better, but a top-10 is good. It was nice to see Kurt (Busch) win in a Dodge. That’s good.”

Elliott Sadler (No. 19 Best Buy Dodge Charger):
“The Best Buy Dodge really struggled early in the race. We were tight in the center and really, really loose off. We fell a lap down early and then another lap down when that caution flew for the guy going to get that tire that got away. That was a weird deal - not sure what exactly that guy was doing, but it definitely changed the race from that point on. It put us a second lap down and we could never get it back.

“We worked on the car a lot today and figured some things out that should help us on a lot of the other intermediate tracks. By the end of the race, we had a pretty good car, but it took us a while to get to that point. I’m proud of my guys for all the work they put in this weekend - we’ve tried a lot of things and these guys have been worked to death. I can’t thank them enough. I imagine they’re all looking forward to a well-deserved off weekend.”

AJ Allmendinger (No. 44 Charter Dodge Charger):
“We had a really good car today. We had moved from 35th to about 17th in the first 50 laps and—was like alright this is going to be our day. We did our first stop and the yellow came out for that guy chasing a tire in the grass. The timing couldn’t have been worse. That put us almost two laps down and we spent the rest of the race trying to get those laps back. But we were fast and that’s what we’ll take away today. We were a ton better than the last two races, so that will make the off weekend more bearable”

Reed Sorenson (No. 43 Super 8 Dodge Charger):
What happened (in the early mishap)? “I’m not sure yet. I don’t think that it was a tire. It may have been something in the steering. (The car) went left a little bit and then it felt like something broke in the left front … maybe the right front … but it just went straight into the fence. The speeds are so high here that it hurts the car real bad. We’re in trouble in this one. We’ll try to get it back out there and salvage whatever points that we can.”
 
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