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Sunday, June 8, 2008
Kyle Busch's epic triple ends with disappointing thud at Pocono

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Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo

Kyle Busch was racy for awhile, but two wrecks left him last.

LONG POND, Pa. -- Kyle Busch's much ballyhooed three scoops of NASCAR during one weekend ended with a Lap 47 crash on Sunday in the Pocono 500.

Busch's weekend consisted of three races, in three days, in three states, on NASCAR's top three levels. Things started out well for Busch in the Sam's Town 400 Craftsman Truck Series race on Friday, where the 23-year-old finished second at Texas Motor Speedway only hours after qualifying 10th for the Pocono Cup race.

But trouble started on Saturday morning when Busch tagged his No. 18 Toyota into the inside retaining wall during a practice session for the Pocono race, forcing him to a backup car and the back of the field for Sunday's start. Saturday night's Nationwide Series race added more frustration as a green-flag stop with 52 laps to go in Nashville, Tenn., took him from the top five to two laps down before eventually finishing 20th.

On Sunday, Busch got into Jamie McMurray on the front stretch of the mammoth Pocono track, forcing Busch to the garage while his crew made repairs to his car to get back in the race.

"I saw [McMurray] get high, get loose -- and thought he faded back further than what he did when the 84 [A.J. Allmendinger] passed him," Busch said. "Didn't know he was still out there. We broke the mirror trying to adjust it there before the race and I couldn't see anything out of the right-rear quarter panel. So I couldn't clear myself. The spotter didn't say anything, so I apologize to McMurray for wrecking their day."

Busch did make it back on track but spun on his own on Lap 178 and finally finished 43rd. McMurray finished 20th.

Busch's cushion as the Sprint Cup Series leader took an even bigger hit. Jeff Burton gained 121 points on Busch and now trails him by only 21.

-- K. Lee Davis

Newman working on deal with Penske, but listening to others

Team owner Roger Penske said he does not believe uncertainty surrounding primary sponsor Alltel will affect negotiations with driver Ryan Newman.

Communications company Alltel last week indicated it has agreed to sell its business to Verizon in a deal that should conclude by the end of this year. Verizon will not be able to replace Alltel as a sponsor on Newman's car, NASCAR officials said, citing the ATT/Cingular issue involving Richard Childress Racing and Jeff Burton's car in 2007.

"We have not had any discussion strategically how that [sale] will affect the brand at this point," Penske said on Sunday at Pocono Raceway. "They have a number of options. It's way too early for me to speculate what's going to happen with the sponsorship. We're waiting to see when the transaction, if it happens, when it gets executed and what's going to be the brand strategy."

Penske said his team could absorb any financial issues if Alltel has to withdraw.

"We have a long-term commitment with Alltel, and I'm certainly sure they wouldn't leave us high and dry," Penske said. "We're a team that can operate with or without a sponsor. We have done it in the past."

Newman, who joined Penske Racing with Alltel in 2002, continues to negotiate with Penske Racing. Newman, whose contract expires at the end of this year, said he is not concerned about his future.

"I know that once you're in this place [Sprint Cup racing], you're pretty much locked in unless you screw up," Newman said. "There's no point in being emotional about something that doesn't require emotion."

Newman also said he is talking to other teams.

"I have to do that to be fair to myself," Newman said. "I'm not leading the points, and if I was, it would be a no-brainer. It's not like marriage. It's not like we're locked in for life. You can stop with whoever you're dating and date someone else. You can have more than one phone number in your phone."

Penske said the negotiations with Newman have been "very open."

"I've talked to drivers, and drivers have talked to us," Penske said. "[Newman] and I have had very open conversations for several months. It's good that everybody gets a chance to see what's out there and what are the opportunities and at the time we've got to make a decision, we'll make it."

Penske said there is nothing to a rumor that he is interested in buying Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

"Chip's been a friend of mine for a long time, and I think that all came out of a comment, 'How can we work together to get better?' " Penske said.

-- Angelique Chengelis

What's up, Jacques?

Villeneuve

Barry Green, business manager for Jacques Villeneuve, said the former Formula One champion definitely wants to be in the Sprint Cup series in 2009.

Green, who denied reports last week that he and Villeneuve planned to start their own Cup team, said Villeneuve has turned down several offers to race in Europe.

"He wants Sprint Cup," Green said. "We are far from having a deal for 2009 put together. We would like to see him do a handful of races this year."

Green said "it's a given" Villeneuve will compete in the Nationwide race in Montreal on Aug. 2, but was not prepared to say which team he will be with.

Villeneuve entered this season with Bill Davis Racing. He did not qualify for the season-opening Daytona 500 and never attempted another Cup race because he had no sponsorship. Villeneuve split shortly after with then-business manager Craig Pollock.

Davis said he is interested in continuing the relationship with Villeneuve.

"Barry is trying to salvage something," Davis said. "We've got a good relationship with Barry and Jacques, and if they get something worked out, we would be all ears."

-- A.C.

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