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Busch seeks elusive win at Daytona

Posted Thursday, Jul 2, 2009, 9:22 am in Employee News

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the “World Center of Racing” for this weekend’s Coke Zero 400 at historic Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

The 2.5-mile, high-banked superspeedway is the 18th stop on the 36-race, regular-season schedule. Seven Chargers are entered in quest of Dodge’s third win of the season and 16th overall at Daytona.

With only nine races remaining in the “Race to the Chase,” this weekend’s restrictor-plate racing throws a wild card into the deck that’s sure to be stacked with excitement. Heading into the event, all eyes continue to be on the top 12 positions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver standings. Only 71 points separates eighth to 14th and a mere 17 points separates 10th to 14th. Penske Racing’s Kurt Busch currently sits fourth while Richard Petty Motorsports’ Kasey Kahne is 13th, only one point shy of the final Chase spot.

This weekend also celebrates the 25th anniversary of “The King” Richard Petty’s 200th win. Petty won the 1984 Coca-Cola 400 at Daytona.

Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) may be the best Cup driver who has never won a restrictor-plate race. In 17 career starts at Daytona, Busch has amassed an amazing eight top-fives and nine top 10s without earning a trip to victory lane. Busch has scored top-10 finishes in the last four races at Daytona (third, second, fourth and 10th), the longest current streak.

“I think the biggest thing I always have going for me is that I truly enjoy the plate races,” Busch said. “I think that I am in the minority when I say that. I know how much the fans love it. I know it’s hard for most people to understand, but the more I’m right in the middle of the lead pack, the more comfortable I am in the car. I feel like I learn something each time I’m in that position, especially how to survive and get a good finish out of it.”

Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge) is no stranger to strong runs at Daytona. Kahne has scored four top-10 finishes in the last five races at the superspeedway. He gave Dodge its 203rd NASCAR Sprint Cup victory two races ago at Infineon. It was his 10th career win.

Heading into Daytona, Kahne says good decision making at over 200 mph is just as important as having a fast race car at Daytona.

“You have to make the right decisions, but a lot of it is luck,” Kahne said. “You have to depend on other cars to help you get to the front. You’re really at the mercy of the cars behind you, and for whatever reason, I haven’t been able to make it work at the end and win one of these things. There are so many things out of your control when it comes to plate racing. You better hit all the marks on everything you can control, or you can really dig yourself a hole.”

Elliott Sadler (No. 19 Stanley Dodge) certainly feels that Daytona owes him one. In last February’s Daytona 500, Sadler led the field for 24 laps before Matt Kenseth passed him on the final green flag lap. The pass came seconds before the yellow and eventually red flag ended the rain-plagued race. Sadler has scored an impressive four top five’s and eight top 10’s at Daytona, but still is haunted by the one that got away.

“There has not been a day since I left Daytona that I haven’t thought about what might have been had we won that race,” Sadler said. “Winning the Daytona 500 is every driver’s dream, but to win that race, on that day, would have been the best thing in the world for me as a racer.”

Other notes
• Reed Sorenson (No. 43 Air Force Dodge) had a career-best, ninth-place finish at this year’s Daytona 500
.
• AJ Allmendinger (No. 44 Dodge) was the highest-finishing Dodge at this year’s Daytona 500. He finished third.

• Sam Hornish Jr. (Mobil 1Dodge) finished 15th in his debut NSCS event, the 2008 Daytona 500.

2009 Top 12 NSCS drivers
Driver, points
1. Tony Stewart, 2,524
2. Jeff Gordon, 2,455
3. Jimmie Johnson, 2,355
4. Kurt Busch (Dodge), 2,254
5. Carl Edwards, 2,157
6. Denny Hamlin, 2,132
7. Ryan Newman, 2,127
8. Kyle Busch, 2,108
9. Greg Biffle, 2,106
10. Matt Kenseth, 2,054
11. Mark Martin, 2,052
12. Juan Pablo Montoya, 2,049

What you need to know
The Race: Coke Zero 400
The Place: Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway
The Date: Saturday, July 4
Green Flag: 8:16 p.m. (EDT)
The Track: 2.5-mile superspeedway
The Distance: 400 miles/160 laps
Television: TNT, 6:30 p.m. (EDT)
 

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Dodge Motorsports Notes

Dodge Motorsports Notes & Quotes - Kasey Kahne Open Interview - Daytona 2

KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger) DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE THE RESTRICTOR-PLATE RACES FIGURED OUT? “Yeah, I think that I run in the draft really well now. The experience you get when you race at these tracks, whether its Nationwide or the Cup Series, every race you get better and you learn more things about it. I think we’re a good team when it comes down to these tracks. It has a lot to do with your engine and things these days. The Bud Shootout, we were really strong, and the (Daytona) 500, we weren’t as good, but my teammates were really good. So, I think that we’ve learned some things from our Shootout car and (my teammates’) 500 cars. I have a new car here. Hopefully, it runs well. We’ll know this weekend. This has always been a fun race to be at. I love racing Daytona and hopefully we can run well at both races this weekend (Kahne is also entered in the Nationwide Series race). It will be exciting.”

WILL YOU HAVE ANY PROBLEMS BEING ON THE TRACK RACING AGAINST JEREMY MAYFIELD? WHAT DO YOU THINK THE DRIVER REACTION WILL BE? “I like NASCAR’s drug policy. I like what they’ve done there. I’ve been tested a few times this year and early in the year, I would go and get tested and it was kind of in and out. I got tested at Sonoma and it’s a process now. Every little step you have to sign your name or initial… work with the person that is taken the sample. To me, that’s because of the whole (Jeremy) Mayfield incident and just clarifying everything and making sure that everything is…the driver and the person taking the sample are on the same page. I’m totally behind NASCAR. So if he’s on the track, you have to race with him.”

SO YOU’RE SAYING THAT THE TEST PROCEDURE HAS CHANGED? “For me, it has.”

CAN YOU BE MORE SPECIFIC ON WHAT HAS CHANGED? “When I went (for a drug test) at the start of the year, it was go in, take your sample, sign your name and basically walk out. You watch them pour your ‘A’ and ‘B’ sample into the different capsules, you sign your name and leave. It was a five, 10 minute process. Now it’s…every step… you have to initial every step through the whole process. It takes about 40 minutes it seemed at Sonoma. I think that is just a process now that they’ve (NASCAR) put into it. There’s more into the process so that there’s no way around it. I haven’t really paid too much attention to it.”

HOW DO YOU THINK THE OTHER NASCAR DRIVERS FEEL? “I would say that they are the same as me. Everybody out here wants to race and they want to race hard and race with people that are in the same state of mind that you’re in. If people are into other things, they should go do those things by themselves and not be on a race track going 200 mph with other racers.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE IN THE DAYTONA 500 AND COKE ZERO 400? “You feel a lot more heat at this race. The Nationwide race tomorrow night is always a hot race. The heat here is good. The cars and how they handle when this track is hot is tough to get a hold of. When you’re watching on TV, you’re thinking, ‘Man, they’re running wide open, bump drafting three-and-four wide and that’s all it is.’ This place is a huge handling race track. You’re out of the gas a lot and when you can get your car in the July race to handle really well, you can perform even with something not as fast. If you’re handling through the corners really well, you have a really good shot at running well.”

HAVE YOU NOTICED ANY CUT BACKS AT RPM DUE TO THE BANKRUPTACY SITUATION WITH DODGE? “The teams, the company have had to pull back some. Richard Petty Motorsports has had to also. Dodge has been a big part of what we’ve done since I’ve been around in 2004. They still want to be here. They still are doing what they can, but they’ve had to cut back. We’ve had to find ways to save money…use money here, that kind of thing. They’re doing the best job that they can. The team morale can get down when you have those types of situations. For us to win at Sonoma was huge; It got everybody excited. The shop atmosphere was a lot better and we had fun. We went out at night and had about 230 people up at the Mooresville bowling alley and bowled all night and enjoyed it.”

Chrysler Group LLC
 

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Recap

Busch finishes fifth, Sadler 10th at Daytona

Posted Monday, Jul 6, 2009, 10:02 am in Employee News

Kurt Busch scored his ninth top-five finish in 18 starts at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway Saturday night, driving the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger to a fifth-place finish in the Coke Zero 400 at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

Kasey Kahne was involved in a couple of mishaps including a hard crash on the final lap, but still managed to finish 15th in the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge to move to 12th in the season point standings. It’s the first time since the eighth race (Phoenix) of the season that Kahne has been in the top 12. Eight races remain to set the 12-driver Chase field. Those 12 will compete for the season championship and Sprint Cup in the final 10 races.

Elliott Sadler finished 10th in the No. 19 Stanley Dodge. It was his ninth top 10 in 22 starts at Daytona. He was fifth in the season-opening Daytona 500.

The night wasn’t without a couple anxious moments for Busch and the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge crew. Busch was running third when the first caution appeared on lap 14. All the leaders headed for pit road. As Busch attempted to bring his Dodge to a stop, it slid through the pit box. He had to back up before the crew could service the car. Busch lost 18 spots on the stop, but was back in the top 10 by lap 34.

Contact with another car on lap 122 resulted in minor sheet metal damage, but Busch continued to race in the top 10. His 10th top-10 finish of the season kept him fourth in the season point standings.

“A top-five finish is surprising due to the fact we had a little trouble midway through the race,” Busch said. “We definitely had a strong car. Our Miller Lite Dodge was steady, and we bounced back from those mid-race troubles. We were not in contention for the lead. We were about a fifth- or sixth-place car. We had some damage, so we were just looking for a top 10. We definitely needed a solid run tonight just to give us that confidence we’re going to be OK, but we still have some work to do heading down this stretch run.

“It was a good run for our Miller Lite Dodge tonight. We had a tire shred early in the race and then we had a problem with David Ragan when guys tried to go four-wide. I went from OK to bad right there, but we came in and made some changes to make the car looser. You just have to let it hang out and let ‘er rip. I was just hoping to hang on for a top 10. We got fifth tonight and that was more than we expected.”

Crew Chief Pat Tryson said the No. 2 Dodge was very fast before being damaged in the mishap. “It was a good night,” Tryson said. “We were real good early and then got a little damage in that wreck, and it made the car a little tight. We didn’t have the speed we had earlier. All-in-all, to come home fifth is good. It was a good night points wise.”

Six Dodges were in the top 15 on lap 52. Just 25 circuits and two cautions later, four Dodge drivers, including three that were previously running in the top 15, had been involved in incidents including a 13-car mishap on lap 77.

Sam Hornish Jr. turned in an impressive driving performance in the No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge before he cut down a tire that brought out the third caution and led to a series of pit stops for repairs. He returned four laps off the pace.

Hornish started from the rear of the field in a back-up car after his primary ride was damaged during the final few minutes of Thursday’s Sprint Cup practice session. The team had the back-up ride ready for Friday’s scheduled qualifying, but the session was cancelled due to rain. Hornish had moved from 43rd to 23rd after seven laps and was in the top 10 by lap 17.

Hornish had worked his way back into the top 10 a second time by lap 52, running in the 10th spot.

Penske Racing teammate David Stremme was a victim in the 13-car mishap that included Reed Sorenson and Kahne. Both Stremme (No. 12 Penske Dodge Charger) and Sorenson (No. 43 Air Force Dodge Charger) needed an extensive stay in the garage for repairs,hile Kahne’s No. 9 received only minor damage and continued after a pit stop.

“A tough break for our Penske Dodge,” Stremme said. “We were working our way up to the front when I got pushed down to the bottom groove and got bumped from behind. It looked like the (No.) 9 car (Kahne) was getting hit from behind and pushed into me. That pushed me into (Jamie) McMurray and then the car in front, which shot me into the fence. It wasn’t Kasey’s fault. That’s just bump drafting.”

Driver, team, finish
Kurt Busch, No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger, 5th
Elliott Sadler, No. 19 Stanley Dodge Charger, 10th
Kasey Kahne, No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger, 15th
AJ Allmendinger, No. 44 PVA.org Dodge Charger, 17th
Sam Hornish Jr., No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger, 32nd
Reed Sorenson, No. 43 Air Force Dodge Charger, 33rd
David Stremme, No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Charger, 35th

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings
(Top 12 after 18 of 36 races)

Driver, points behind
1. Tony Stewart, 2,719
2. Jeff Gordon, 2,539
3. Jimmie Johnson, 2,525
4. Kurt Busch, 2,414
5. Carl Edwards, 2,317
6. Denny Hamlin, 2,302
7. Ryan Newman, 2,235
8. Kyle Busch, 2,234
9. Greg Biffle, 2,215
10. Matt Kenseth, 2,201
11. J.P. Montoya, 2,187
12. Kasey Kahne, 2,166
 
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