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Busch and Team Lowe’s Racing Third at Bristol

  • Mar 27, 2004

BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 27, 2004) – With only three laps remaining in Saturday’s Sharpie Professional 250, it appeared that Kyle Busch would post a ninth-place finish in his Bristol Motor Speedway debut.

Instead, the chaotic final laps helped Busch and his No. 5 Team Lowe’s Racing crew score a third-place finish—their first top-five of the 2004 NASCAR Busch Series season.

The disorder began when the No. 32 of David Stremme made contact with the outside retaining wall with three laps remaining in the 250-lap event.  As drivers slowed to avoid Stremme, Busch managed to pass several cars on the on the high side.  NASCAR chose not to display the caution flag, allowing Busch to move to the fifth position on the leaderboard.

Stremme then made contact with Johnny Benson, which brought out the final caution flag of the race.  In the confusion, Mike Bliss, who was second at the time, brought his car to pit road on what turned out be the white-flag lap.  This miscue allowed Busch to move into third and post the best-ever finish by a Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate in the Sharpie 250 at Bristol.

“I didn’t see exactly what happened to the ‘32,’“ Busch said of the last laps.  “I just saw him in the fence and then we came through.

“Guys were squirting low, down the back straightaway, and I knew that (the No. 32) was going to bounce off and go low so I just stayed up against the wall and got three cars there.”

Starting 12th in Saturday’s event, Busch moved into the top 10 by the completion of the first lap and remained there until the third caution flag came out on Lap 67.  Busch told his crew that the oil and water temperatures on his No. 5 Lowe’s/Shop Vac Chevy were running a little high, and that he was fighting a tight-handling condition.

The crew removed tape from the car’s grill to try and alleviate the cooling problem, and worked on the car’s handling by making wedge and tire-pressure adjustments.

Busch returned to the track in 12th for the Lap-86 restart, and quickly found his way back into the top 10.  During the long green-flag run that followed, the tight-handling condition returned, dropping Busch back to 11th.

When a caution flag came out for an accident involving Ashton Lewis Jr. on Lap 174, Busch brought his car to pit road for the final time.

To help the car’s handling, tire specialist Lisa Smokstad adjusted the air pressure in the new Goodyear Eagles the team bolted to Busch’s Team Lowe’s Racing entry.  With fresh tires and enough fuel to go the distance, Busch returned to the track in 10th for the Lap-179 restart and kept his nose clean for the next 40 circuits.

When the engine on Robby Gordon’s machine gave out around Lap 233, it left oil on the racing surface.  NASCAR determined it would take some time to clean up the fluid, so the decision was made to red-flag the event and bring the cars to pit road while track workers removed the oil.

With less than 10 laps remaining, Busch was shown in ninth when the race returned to green-flag conditions.  He remained there until making his daring high-side pass after Stremme hit the outside retaining wall with two laps remaining.

Asked about his team’s remarkable jump from ninth to third in the final laps, crew chief Lance McGrew said, “I’d rather be lucky than good.  The car was pretty tight all day, and Kyle was just out there making laps and getting experience.  We wound up getting a couple of spots handed to us there at the end with people crashing out in front of us.

“We had about a 10th-place car and ended up finishing third, so like I said, I’d rather be lucky than good.”

With the finish, Busch got a boost in the Busch Series driver standings, and is now tied with Robby Gordon for seventh place overall, just 153 points back of leader Kevin Harvick.

The No. 5 Team Lowe’s Racing crew now heads to Texas Motor Speedway, site of the O’Reilly’s 300 Busch Series event.  FOX will broadcast the race live on Saturday, April 3 at 3 p.m. ET.

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