News & Media


Busch stands his ground and grabs third at Pocono

August 08, 2011, Dave Rodman, NASCAR.com

LONG POND, Pa. -- After pit strategy put No. 22 up front, he held position in heated battle with No. 48

Kurt Busch doesn't back down, he doesn't roll over and he doesn't give up, and Sunday at Pocono Raceway, when he had to endure a soggy rollercoaster ride of a day he persevered for a telling third-place finish.

Busch, who's already virtually a lock for the Chase, did himself and his No. 22 Penske Racing team a few favors by jumping two spots in the standings, to fourth.

Finger pointing


Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson weren't happy with each other at Pocono and had plenty to say about it.

But he even more effectively delivered a message to his competitors, but most importantly to five-time defending Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, of how he would race the rest of this season.

"For us to beat the No. 48, I mean, we've had our battles and a lot of times I come out on the short end of the stick," Busch said. "But what I saw [Sunday] was good, hard racing; where one guy jukes at the other, the other guy jukes back and rubs you a little bit -- that's racing.

"That's what race fans love to see. That's what they bought this ticket for. That's what they're sitting in the grandstands rooting on their favorite driver for is to see him get out there, mix it up clean and bring it home just like we were, third and fourth."

Not surprisingly, Johnson didn't see it quite the same. He actually visited on pit road with Busch to discuss it immediately after the race.

"It was more like a lot of yelling," Johnson said. "Man, I worked [Busch] over for 10 or 15 laps and had the opportunity to screw him up and had the opportunity to run into him and never did it. Then, off of [Turn] 2 he claims I turned down on him, and I don't have a clue. He ran over me on the corner exit and that's where it all started."

"We were racing hard," Busch insisted. "I think that's what we saw on TV and exactly that's what should be reported. There are a lot of times when the No. 22 [Busch] is on the short end of the stick of the No. 48 [Johnson]. And I raced him hard [Sunday]. I'm glad I did -- I have no regrets in it."

Busch was adamant in his version, as much as Johnson was in his.

"What we do is just race hard on the track every week," Busch said. "That's the way I'd like it to be documented, and if we watch the tape, we'll see that the No. 48 swerved into us first and I know that, before even watching the tape."

Whichever version is more accurate, Busch might need to cross Johnson off his favor-request list.

"It was a good battle -- man, I worked hard to get by him," Johnson said. I got to the outside of him off of [Turn] 2 and I don't know, he ran over the side of me off of [Turn] 2. I didn't really understand, as I took a lot of patience and gave him a lot of courtesy throughout the course of the day running him down.

"I could have run into him. I could have moved him a lot of different ways to get that position, but I didn't. I went down there and passed him, and off of [Turn] 2 he ran me up into the wall -- or tried to. And I held my ground so I wouldn't get smashed in the fence."

Both Johnson and Busch knew what was at stake, as winner Keselowski and Kyle Busch, who fruitlessly chased him into second place, did as well.

"Well, track position is everything," Johnson said. "I have no problem racing hard. And we raced really hard all day long. I just don't understand why, when I finally get position on [Kurt], he's got to run all over the side of me down the straightaway.

"It was a great race. The thing is here, track position is everything. And every driver is at 10/10ths, trying to get what they can, when they can, because you can't pass. And it took me that entire fuel run to set-up that pass and I finally got it done and then that problem happens. So that's where my frustration comes in.

"For us to beat the No. 48, I mean, we've had our battles and a lot of times I come out on the short end of the stick."

--KURT BUSCH

"I'm not going to run people over to pass them. That's just not me. I worked on him for however many laps trying to get by him clean, fair and square and as I got next to him we had that issue off of [Turn] 2. I just keep filing things away. I'll remember this stuff. There's a couple of other guys out there that have been pushing their luck, too."

For Busch, who led 38 laps, Sunday marked a day in which his crew chief, Steve Addington, made a measured call to pit right before the race was red-flagged for a little more than 100 minutes. Sitting silent on pit road, Busch's car was 26th. But when the race restarted, he was on the front row.

With 76 laps to go, it worked perfectly in their favor, even if the finale was a brawl.

"[Sunday] was definitely a hard fought battle," Busch said. "Early on we were able to benefit from our good qualifying position and run up front, exchanged the lead back and forth a little bit with [Joey] Logano and [Denny] Hamlin, running right there at third, fourth, fifth -- just clicking away laps.

"But we always start off good when the track's fresh, and then we just start to slide more and more and more as the track rubbers-in. And we were struggling just kind of hanging on to a top-10 spot. And the rains came, and we pitted right before the rain.

"At the time I thought my crew chief was crazy. That would have trapped us 26th if we didn't get it back underway. But luckily we did. And it looked like the Penske guys were the smartest guys when it came to the rain delay, because we came out of there 1 2 after that restart."

The best of it all for Busch was watching his 27-year-old teammate prevail, after Busch had taken a favor from Keselowski and his crew chief, Paul Wolfe.

"We borrowed Brad Keselowski's setup, we put it in race morning [and] went for it," Busch said. "And I could do nothing but smile all day to say thanks to a teammate and congratulations to him in Victory Lane, even with his sore foot.

"That's what I try to do each and every week is give my best effort and not give up, no matter what comes at us. Some days it feels like we're just running an uphill battle and can't quite run the lap times that it takes. I feel like we're a very good top-10 car, but we really have to work hard and find a unique way to get these top fives.

"And so I'm never going to lay down behind the wheel. When I show frustration, people get excited, 'oh wow, he's lost focus' [but we] just brought home another third-place finish."