Commentary

Kurt Busch struggles with car, opens Chase by finishing 25th

Finishing 25th was not the way Kurt Busch wanted to start the Chase. Given a balky carburetor Sunday, he was lucky he finished at all, writes K. Lee Davis.

Updated: October 16, 2007, 6:23 PM ET
By K. Lee Davis | ESPN.com

LOUDON, N.H. -- Kurt Busch didn't want to finish 25th in the first race of the 2007 Nextel Cup Chase for the Championship, not after fighting so hard to make the playoffs.

First and last name
Busch

One of the hottest drivers in NASCAR since crew chief Pat Tryson joined the team 10 races ago, Busch fell from a tie for fourth place in the Chase all the way down to the 12th and final spot, 102 points behind co-leaders Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.

And although Busch wasn't in much of a mood to talk after the race, he still flashed the confidence that got him in the Chase in the first place.

"We lost power," he said before being informed by Tryson that the car had suffered a carburetor failure. "We tried to troubleshoot it the best we could. It's kind of tough to accept this one, but we'll move on. Penske/Jasper gives us some great power -- enough to sit on some poles and win races. We just didn't need this to happen at this point.

"It'd have been nice -- maybe at Charlotte where I don't run so good -- to have a motor failure. It's tough, but all in all, we still finished 25th. We could have finished 43rd."

Tryson didn't know what happened to the carburetor on the Penske Racing No. 2 that forced numerous pit stops and eventually put his driver a lap down.

He did know despite the problems, it wasn't a disaster.

"We have to try to win races and get back up in the points," Tryson said. "But Jimmie Johnson finished 39th in this race last year and went on to win the championship. There's nothing you can do about it but go back out and try to win races.

"Four or five races from now the standings will probably look a lot different than they do now and hopefully we will be back up there."

Busch qualified well on Friday, putting the car third -- on the inside of the second row -- but never showed much in Sunday's race at New Hampshire International Speedway. Tryson brought his driver into the pits repeatedly to try to diagnose the problem.

At first it was hoped it was just a loose spark-plug wire or a bad plug, but the crew couldn't find a cold cylinder. Tryson's best guess is that the problem with the carburetor was a malfunctioning throttle needle.

"It's one of those freaky things and sometimes a part breaks," Tryson said. "It's a carburetor we've run before … . We'll just have to take it apart and see what happened."

Busch had finished no worse than 11th since Tryson came aboard, surging from from 16th to make the Chase.

At least Busch and Tryson can fall back on the knowledge that they had a competitive car before the carburetor failure. And they can carry that into the final nine races of the Chase.

"We had a good handling car; it's a shame. We felt we had a top-5 car," Tryson said. "Maybe we would have had something more for them there with more time to work on it. It's disappointing "

Although it was a disappointing result, Sunday's finish could make Busch more determined.

"Yeah, we'll make it up," he said. "We got into this Chase by working hard and we'll still do it."

K. Lee Davis is a motorsports editor at ESPN.com. He can be reached at kevin.davis@espn3.com.