Jul 16, 2007
Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman drew closer to an opportunity to partake in this year’s Chase for the Championship with top-10 finishes in Sunday’s USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Newman’s eighth-place finish in his Mobil 1 Dodge Charger allowed him to regain the 13th position in the standings, just 30 points behind Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 12th, this year’s cut-off position.
With seven races remaining before the Chase begins, Busch took over 14th with his sixth-place finish in his Miller Lite Dodge Charger. He trails Earnhardt Jr. by 77 points and Newman by 47.
“With a third at Daytona last week and a sixth here today, our team really has a lot of momentum going and it’ll be a great time for our week off next weekend, “ Busch said. “It’s a great big-picture day for us as we continue to nip away at that deficit up to 12th. That’s the big goal, making the Chase, and if we continue to string together great solid runs like we’ve had the last couple of weeks, we’re definitely headed toward achieving that goal. “
Even though Busch didn’t end the day in victory lane, the Miller Lite team’s performance at the 1.5-mile track was still a triumphant performance. After having to change the car’s engine on Friday before practice began, the team qualified 35th. Then, before Sunday’s race started, Busch had to drop to the 43rd spot in the field because of the engine change.
Once the green flag waved, Busch methodically maneuvered his way through the field, cracking the top 25 by lap 30. Within 15 laps on the 1.5-mile track, he was in the top 20. By lap 60, Busch had reached the top 15 and he remained there the rest of the race. He led once for two laps, taking the No. 1 position on lap 114 during a round of green-flag pit stops.
The extra time spent on the slower old tires saw Busch running 14th when the stops cycled around on lap 117, but he was back up to 13th on lap 154 when Jamie McMurray slammed the wall to trigger the second of seven caution periods. A 13.362-second stop helped put Busch in ninth for the lap 160 restart, and he remained in the top 10 for the rest of the race.
“It was a tremendous day all around for our Miller Lite Dodge team, “ a happy Busch said. “[Crew chief] Pat Tryson made all the right calls on the box and the guys were pretty flawless in the pits all day long. I really wanted that first top-five here at Chicago, but I guess we shouldn’t get that greedy having to start from the rear and all. “
Newman started third in the event and ran in the top 10 for most of the race despite battling a loose condition in his car at the beginning of a run and then dealing with a tight handling car as the run progressed. On lap 140, Newman brushed the wall, causing minor damage to his car’s right-front fender and escalating its tight condition. Newman had fallen to 10th by the time the caution flag waved on lap 154 when McMurray crashed.
During the second of seven caution periods, Newman’s car received four fresh tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment, but because of the fender damage, Newman had to pit again on lap 158 for repairs. Newman restarted in 14th and hovered just outside the top 10 after moving up to 11th in seven laps. The car, however, was back on the loose side.
Newman battled his way back into the top 10 for good on lap 216 and got as high as sixth before having to settle for an eighth-place finish.
“We would have been all right if I hadn’t brushed the wall, “ Newman said. “We never could get track position for our Alltel Mobil 1 Dodge after that. We just weren’t any good on the restarts. We had a good car and good stops all day. We just weren’t in the right spot at the end. “
Kurt Busch raced to a sixth-place finish and moved into 14th in the standings. He is 77 points out of 12th.
The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series is off this weekend, but resumes July 29 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a 17-race stretch that concludes the season. The Allstate 400 at the Brickyard marks the return of ESPN to NASCAR’s premier series.
Monday, July 16, 2007