News & Media

Another practice spin, another pole for Busch

June 11, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service,

LONG POND, Pa. -- Kurt Busch has found a qualifying methodology that works -- even if it's a bit unconventional.

Busch won the pole for Sunday's 5-Hour Energy 500 at Pocono Raceway after spinning his No. 22 Dodge in Friday's practice and doing enough damage to force the use of a backup car.

5-Hour Energy 500

2.Paul Menard171.42252.502
3.Jeff Gordon171.35052.524
4.Denny Hamlin171.17452.578
5.Regan Smith171.16552.581

With only 10 laps of practice time on the backup, Busch toured the 2.5-mile triangular track in 52.454 seconds (171.579 mph) in Saturday's time trials to win his second consecutive Coors Light pole award and the 14th of his career.

* Out Front with Miss Coors Light: Rachel chats with Kurt

That was a week after Busch spun in Friday practice and won the pole in a Saturday qualifying session at Kansas Speedway.

Busch edged Paul Menard (171.422 mph) and Jeff Gordon (171.350 mph) for the top starting pot in Sunday's race.

Even though Busch has used the spin-to-win approach for the past two weeks, he'd prefer not to make a habit of it.

"It's a matter of knowing where the edge is -- but not stepping over it," Busch said. "[Friday], honestly, I missed my shift point, and it got me into trouble. Just trying new things -- changing the rear gear, changing the transmission, just being in a different zone of elements and changes.

"Normally, in the last three years, we haven't messed with gears at all. So it was cool to do that and mess with it, and it bit me, but [Saturday] I went right back after it. I was aggressive, and I used the same procedure I was using [Friday] in practice to get the pole [Saturday]."

Busch wrecked his primary car two laps into Friday's second practice session. By then, his crew had made significant adjustments to the No. 22 Dodge. So when the backup car rolled out of the hauler, Busch's crew had to work like madmen to install the same changes in the backup.

"This 22 crew, the 2 car guys [of teammate Brad Keselowski], everybody back at the shop, the fab guys here -- what an effort," said Steve Addington, crew chief for the 22. "When we unloaded the backup car, we had made so many changes during practice with the primary car [that] we didn't get a lot of track time with the backup.

"The work they did to get this car ready was awesome. To lay down a lap like that is pretty impressive -- and that guy that sits behind the steering wheel isn't too damn bad, either."

Four-time Pocono winner Denny Hamlin qualified fourth at 171.174 mph, one spot ahead of Regan Smith (171.164 mph). Series points leader Carl Edwards, Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman, David Reutimann and Mark Martin will start from positions 6 through 10, respectively.

Because there was a consistent cloud cover over the track throughout the session, there was little difference in track temperature and grip from beginning to end.

"We really thought it would rain, so we posted a good lap in practice, which made us go out late," said Menard, the 43rd of 44 drivers to make a qualifying attempt. "When you look at hourly forecasts, it was 70 degrees from start to finish, so the track conditions didn't change a lot.

"It might have gotten a little bit hotter, but I think we got a little bit of cloud cover right at the end of qualifying, so that probably helped."

Mike Skinner crashed during his qualifying run and failed to make the 43-car field.


• Kurt Busch's second consecutive pole gives him 14 in 378 career Cup Series starts.
• It's the second time in Kurt Busch's career he has claimed back-to-back poles. The previous time was in 2006 (Bristol and California).
• It's Kurt Busch's first Pocono pole in 21 starts on the Tricky Triangle, though he has finished 13th or better in his past eight races there.
• Kurt Busch is the eighth different pole winner in the past eight Pocono races which held qualifying.
• Kurt Busch joins Carl Edwards and Juan Montoya as the only drivers to score two poles in 2011.
• Kurt Busch has won just once from the pole -- Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2002.
• This was the third consecutive pole for Penske Racing; the last time the team accomplished that was in 2007 at Charlotte, Dover and Pocono.
• Paul Menard (second) scored his best Pocono start in nine races; his previous best was 17th in June 2008.
• Jeff Gordon (third) extended a streak of six consecutive top-10 Pocono starts.
• Denny Hamlin (fourth) will start in the top 10 at Pocono for the fifth consecutive race.
• Regan Smith (fifth) scored his second top-five start in six races at Pocono; his other four starts were all 24th or lower.
• Carl Edwards (sixth) will start in the top 10 for the ninth time in 14 2011 races, the most among all drivers.
• Ryan Newman (eighth) extended a streak of six consecutive top-10 starts at Pocono, tying Jeff Gordon for longest current streak.
• Tony Stewart (15th) ended a streak of four consecutive top-10 Pocono starts.

* Video: Skinner slides out of Turn 1, hits SAFER barrier