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Busch, Kahne aim to solve fuel puzzle at MIS

Posted Friday, Aug 14, 2009, 9:29 am in Employee News

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Michigan International Speedway (MIS) in Brooklyn, Mich., for this weekend’s Carfax 400, the 23rd of 36 point races on the 2009 Sprint Cup Series schedule.

With only four races remaining in the “Race to The Chase,” the focus is intensifying in and around 12th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, otherwise known as the “Chase cut-off.” After the season’s 26th race at Richmond, Va., on Sept. 12, the top 12 drivers in the season point standings qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR’s 10-race “playoffs” that determine the series champion.

Heading into Michigan this weekend, Kurt Busch is fourth in Sprint Cup standings, holding a very comfortable 275 point advantage over the 13th position held by his younger brother, Kyle Busch. Meanwhile, Kasey Kahne’s 17th-place finish at Watkins Glen last weekend dropped the Richard Petty Motorsports driver one position to eighth, but he still has a 127-point margin over 13th in the standings.

Seven Dodge teams are entered in the Carfax 400 seeking to give Dodge its 204th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory. All seven drivers are assured berths as they are inside the top 35 in car owner points. Dodge is seeking its 10th win at Michigan.

Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger) heads to Michigan with plenty of confidence. In 11 starts at Michigan, Kahne has posted one win and five top fives, including two runner-up finishes. Kahne won the June, 2006 race at MIS after starting from the pole in the rain-shortened event (called after 129 of the 200 scheduled laps were completed).

“There is so much racing room out there that you have to really work on your setup,” Kahne said. “I feel like that is one of the tracks where it is really critical to have a good aero and engine package.

“The racing at Michigan can be great at times, but it always comes to down to fuel mileage. It also can be a race where cars run away and get strung out and there’s not a lot of passing going on. As far as the width of the racetrack and racing groove, there’s plenty of room. If you have a good car, you’ll be able to pass and it will be a fun race.”

Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) continues to build momentum for what seems to be an assured spot in the Chase. He heads to Michigan having finished 15th or better in 15 of the 21 races in 2009. Busch, the 2007 event winner, has not been outside the top five in the point standings since Las Vegas (19 races ago). The Penske Racing veteran certainly knows how to get around MIS. He has two wins, three top-five and seven top-10 finishes in 17 career starts.

What’s the key for Busch this weekend?

“Fuel Mileage is the key at Michigan,” Busch said. “Seriously, that’s one track that you always expect to have fuel mileage involved in the equation. Mark (Martin) won there in June because of fuel mileage. Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. won the first race there last year due to fuel mileage.”

“It’s just the norm—it’s to be expected,” Busch’s crew chief Pat Tryson said. “I’ll bet if you look back at the record book, you’ll see that a huge proportion of the Michigan races were won because of fuel mileage. The reason for that is simple—there are so few cautions on that track. It’s so wide and there is so much racing room, you don’t see guys running into each other like you do on most of the other tracks.”

Other notes

Richard Petty Motorsports is the only four-car team without a DNF (did not finish) in all 2009 point races. The Petty streak has reached 140 starts without a DNF. Kasey Kahne’s DNF at Martinsville on Oct.19 was the team’s last.

Richard Petty Motorsports will swap crew chiefs and crews on the No. 43 and No. 44 cars this weekend. Crew Chief Sammy Johns will now tune the No. 43 Auto Value Bumper to Bumper Dodge of Reed Sorenson. Mike Shiplett moves from Sorenson’s Dodge to AJ Allmendinger.

What you need to know:
The Race: Carfax 400
The Place: Michigan International Speedway
The Date: Sunday, Aug. 16
The Time: 2 p.m. (EDT)

The Track: 2-mile road course
The Distance: 200 laps/400 miles
Television: ESPN, 1 p.m. (EDT)

Driver standings after 22 races
(Chase field set following race 26)
Pos., driver, points (points over 13th)
1., Tony Stewart, 3,383 (756)
2., Jimmie Johnson, 3,123 (496)
3., Jeff Gordon, 3,041 (414)
4., Kurt Busch (Dodge), 2,902 (75)
5., Denny Hamlin, 2,847 (220)
6., Carl Edwards, 2,830 (203)
7., Juan Montoya, 2,781 (154)
8., Kasey Kahne (Dodge), 2,754 (127)
9., Ryan Newman, 2,727 (100)
10., Greg Biffle, 2,718 (91)
11., Mark Martin, 2,716 (89)
12., Matt Kenseth, 2,685 (58)

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Hornish leads Dodge drivers at Michigan

Posted Monday, Aug 17, 2009, 9:55 am in Employee News

Last modified on Monday, Aug 17, 2009, 10:30 am.

Kurt Busch found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time in Sunday’s CARFAX 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich.

After running in the top 10 through the first 120 laps of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, Busch lined up ninth for the double-file restart on lap 121. As the field exited turn 2, another car went into a spin just in front and to the left of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger. Busch turned sharply to the left, but caught the front end of the spinning auto, which sent the No. 2 into the inside retaining wall, nose first.

The damage was extensive, requiring a trip to the garage for repairs. Busch returned to the track, but the damage was more severe than crumpled sheet metal and called it a day before the checkered flag appeared. He finished 36th with his first DNF (did not finish) of the season.

“I felt like our car was really strong on restarts,” Busch said. “The adjustment we made had the car a little tight. I just had to wait on it and while waiting, the No. 6 got loose in front of us. I originally thought I hit him, but after looking at the tape, he just spun on his own. I couldn’t go left, (Carl) Edwards was there. If I had to do it all over again, I would have tried to take minimal damage, but nosing into the No. 6 car’s door wasn’t an option because there was no way I could stop. I tried to turn left, clipped him and it flung us right toward the inside fence.

“After we got the car repaired and went back out trying to salvage a finish and not get a DNF, we had a motor issue. I don’t know if we run it out of water, oil or what. A good day gone real, real bad. Hopefully, we’ve got all our bad luck out of the way.”

Busch dropped two spots in the season point standings. He is now sixth, 178 points ahead of the driver currently 13th in the standings. Three races remain to determine the top 12 drivers that will compete for the season championship and the Sprint Cup over the final 10 events of 2008.

“We just didn’t need that to happen,” said Pat Tryson, crew chief on the No. 2 Dodge. “That’s the double-file restarts with everybody bunched up. The 6 (No. 6) just got loose and we got the worse end of it. Looking at the replay, we never touched him. We had a car very capable of a top-10 finish.”

All three Penske Racing Dodges were involved in mishaps during the afternoon, but in the case of Sam Hornish Jr. and David Stremme, their race cars escaped with minimum damage and both were able to continue.

Hornish, driving the No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger, picked up his second top-five in the last three races, finishing fifth at the facility he calls his home track. Hornish fell a lap down, got the free pass but was penalized a lap for pitting twice under the caution. He put himself in position to get the free pass again and took full advantage of the opportunity.

Once back on the lead lap following the sixth caution on lap 146, Hornish used a light foot to conserve fuel and get the No. 77 to the checkered flag.

“It was an eventful day to be sure,” Hornish said. “We’ve got to go back and work on a lot of things. We got the car right when we needed it to be. We all kept our heads and saved enough fuel to get to the end. It was a good day for us. Obviously, we want to be a little bit better. I’m happy about it and proud of all the guys on the Mobil 1 Dodge.”

How much fuel did Hornish have left at the finish? “We’re going to find out when we get back and get the tank drained,” he said. “I saved all the way on that last run. The first couple of laps right after we went back to green, I worked to get as far as I could, but as soon as the cars got singled out, I started saving. Basically, I was only using the gas that I needed to use to get around the track.

“At lap 130, I was very mad because we did about everything that we could possibly do wrong, but I guess that’s why these races are as long as they are. You can screw it up for 140 laps and figure it out the last 60. The guys on the Mobil 1 Dodge, they stuck with it. It’s a big day for me to come up here and get a top five at Michigan, my home track. It feels pretty darn good.”

Stremme, driving the No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge, finished 13th. It’s his best finish since the second race of the season at California where he also finished 13th.

“It was pretty crazy out there today,” Stremme said. “We had a lot better car than where we finished with our Penske Dodge. We got spun and took two tires and it didn’t work out. We come back and finished 13th and was really happy about that finish.

“You had to be really patient with the track bar because of how slippery the track was today. The lanes moved around so much that you had to continuously try and find the line that worked best for you. We kept digging all day and got a very respectable finish.”

Kasey Kahne started 43rd in the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger and had to battle his way up through the field. He had to start at the rear of the field because of an engine change on Friday. An ill-handling car made the task a bit more difficult, but a late-race surge earned Kahne a finish of 11th.

“Overall, bringing home an 11th in our Budweiser Dodge was a great effort by everyone on this team,” Kahne said. “It was a great finish considering where we ran all day. We got the best finish that we could. The pit crew did a great job. Considering we started 43rd, we had a lot of cars that we had to pass on a very slick race track and we were able to pass a lot of cars. Kenny (Francis, crew chief) did a great job on top of the box making adjustments to try and get our Budweiser Dodge to handle better. We’ll take the points and be happy to head to Bristol (Va.) next weekend.”

The other three drivers from Richard Petty Motorsports also had handling issues. AJ Allmendinger finished 22nd, Elliott Sadler was 25th and Reed Sorenson was 29th.

Driver, team, finish
Sam Hornish Jr., No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge, 5th
Kasey Kahne, No. 9 Budweiser Dodge, 11th
David Stremme, No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge, 13th
AJ Allmendinger, No. 44 Super 8 Dodge, 22nd
Elliott Sadler, No. 19 Best Buy Dodge, 25th
Reed Sorenson, No. 43 Bumper to Bumper Dodge, 29th
Kurt Busch, No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, 36th

Sprint Cup Series driver points
(points ahead of final Chase spot)
1. Tony Stewart, 3,500 (+721)
2. Jeff Gordon (3,216 (437)
3. Jimmie Johnson, 3,197 (418)
4. Carl Edwards, 2,995 (216)
5. Denny Hamlin, 2,986 (207)
6. Kurt Busch (Dodge), 2,957 (178)
7. Juan Montoya, 2,887 (108)
8. Kasey Kahne (Dodge), 2,884 (105)
9. Ryan Newman, 2,845 (66)
10. Greg Biffle, 2,821 (42)
11. Matt Kenseth, 2,811 (32)
12. Mark Martin, 2,791 (12)

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Irish Hills of Michigan-no thrill for the Dodge Boys!

Irish Hills of Michigan-no thrill for the Dodge Boys!
August 16th, 2009 by J.R.

What’s up with the NASCAR vortex? Everyone knows that on an oval track the vortex created by 900hp V-8’s under the hoods of the forty-three race car field is supposed to keep the rain away. But for the third week in a row, rain fell at the racetrack today.

Last week’s rainout at Watkins Glen, NY prevented me from reporting on the race results as normal duties called when the race was finally conducted on Monday. At least today’s rain delay was over in 20 minutes, a minor delay by the standard set the previous two weeks. Even a late yellow flag for rain wouldn’t hold up today’s race.

Three and four wide racing was the norm all day. Unfortunately, the Dodge teams just couldn’t muster the right set-up to put their cars into contention. It looked like Kurt Busch would have a strong car at the outset, but he faded early and mid-way through the 400 mile race, Kurt’s Miller Lite Dodge would tangle with the UPS Ford driven by David Ragan. Kurt would wind up with a smashed front end as both cars were sent spinning. After spending some 20 laps in the garage for repairs, the Miller Lite Dodge returned to the track and kept running until the final 56 miles—when the team decided to park the car having basically collected all the points available to them, finishing in 36th place.

Today, fuel mileage would decide again who would win today’s Carfax 400. With almost 70 miles remaining in the race, the top 14 cars stayed out on the final caution flag while the rest of the field would pit. The fuel mileage strategy did not work for Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin, as they both would run their cars empty. Jimmie’s chances of winning ended with 2 laps to go, and Mark’s ran out on the final lap. Jimmie and Mark would finish the day 33rd and 31st respectively. However, the pit strategy of coming in for gas/tires would assist the finishes of the like of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who finished third behind race winner Brian Vickers and second place Jeff Gordon. Sam Hornish, Jr.’s strategy to pit for gas secured him a top 5 finish. The win by Brian Vickers was his second career Sprint Cup win, and the first in Michigan for his Red Bull Toyota team.

The biggest news this weekend for Dodge has to be the news coming out from the stables of Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM). Not only did Reed Sorenson and A.J. Allmendinger switch crew chiefs and pit crews, but there are strong overtures that RPM will end its association with Chrysler-Dodge racing. During an off track Budweiser photo shoot involving Kasey Kahne, the featured backdrop car of the photo shoot was a Toyota and not a Dodge.

The bottom line: Chrysler cannot afford to lose any more race teams to Toyota, Ford or Chevy. Yes, NASCAR racing is a business and having Dodge remain in NASCAR in this reporter’s mind is critical to the overall business of the Chrysler product. The marketing cry of “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” may not be entirely true in this day and age of NASCAR, but go to any racetrack and one can feel the presence of the manufacturers—even in this poorest of economic times.

If Chrysler-Dodge give up on their NASCAR presence, do we give up on performance cars
altogether? Where does it end? Kasey stated he believes he’ll be racing for Dodge next year, maybe it will be with the only remaining factory supported Dodge race team – Penske. Let’s hope RPM and Dodge can come to terms. Personally, I hated those final years where Richard drove those Pontiacs. Let’s keep Richard Petty and RPM running the Chrysler product—Dodge!

With today’s disappointing finish by the #2 Miller Lite Dodge (Kurt Busch) slips two places to sixth in championship points, and the #9 Budweiser Dodge (Kasey Kahne), which finished 11th today, remains in a strong 8th place in championship points. However, with only three races remaining before the field is set for the Chase for the Championship next week’s race under the lights at Thunder Valley in Bristol, TN is sure to be crucial—escaping there with a strong finish and a complete car will paramount for Kurt and Kasey if they intend to stay in the championship hunt.

Final finishing spots of all factory and non-factory supported Dodge Charger race teams at today Carfax 400, Michigan International Raceway:

#77 (Mobil 1-Advanced Fuel Economy), Sam Hornish, Jr., 5th
#9 (Budweiser), Kasey Kahne, 11th
#12 (Penske Racing), David Stremme, 13th
#44 (Super 8), A.J. Allmendinger, 22nd
#19 (Stanley Tools), Elliott Sadler, 25th
#43 (Auto Value/Bumper to Bumper), Reed Sorenson, 29th
#2 (Miller Lite), Kurt Busch, 36th
#09 (Miccosukee Resort and Gaming), Mike Bliss, 38th

J.R., 16 Aug 2009

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