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Kurt Busch wins at Pocono, passes Earnhardt in Chase standings

Aug 6, 2007 - 12:01 AM LONG POND, Pennsylvania (Ticker) -- Kurt Busch chased down Dale Earnhardt Jr. and gained some serious ground in the Chase for the Nextel Cup standings.

Busch had the dominant car throughout and ran down Earnhardt with 46 laps left to win Sunday's NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway.

It was the first victory this season and 16th career for Busch, who snapped a 51-race drought without a win. The 2005 winner of this race, Busch had not won since visiting Victory Lane at Bristol in March 2006.

"I feel like a newborn kid again," said Busch, who led a track-record 175 laps in his Dodge Charger. "I'm ready to run for this Chase."

The 2004 series champion, Busch entered Sunday's race 13 points behind Earnhardt for the 12th and final spot in the Chase standings. But thanks to Sunday's victory, Busch climbed seven points in front of Earnhardt.

"In the big picture, we didn't gain many points on Dale Jr. today or any of the guys, because they ran well," said Busch, who has made up a total of 243 points over the last four races.

The only problem Busch experienced came on pit road, where his crew lost a lug nut during a caution, relegating his Dodge to ninth on the lap 143 restart.

But Busch had nothing but words of praise for his team and new crew chief Pat Tryson, who joined Penske Racing six races ago.

After struggling in his first two starts under Tryson's guidance, Busch ran third, sixth and 11th, respectively, over the next three events. That positive chemistry culminated with Sunday's win - the first this season for Penske Racing.

"This is all due to Pat Tryson," said Busch, who averaged 131.627 miles per hour and won $212,108. "When he came aboard these past five or six races - it's been a pleasure.

"I'm going to name this car the 'Pat Tryson Special.' ... What an awesome day for this team, for Penske."

Reed Sorenson was in front off the restart on lap 143, but Earnhardt charged to the lead two laps later. However, Busch made his way back to the front on lap 154 and continued to dominate until pitting under green with 28 laps left.

Most of the leaders pitted along with Busch, allowing younger brother Kyle Busch to take the lead. But big brother Kurt reclaimed the lead for good two laps later when Kyle went to pit.

From there, Kurt Busch was in cruise control en route to becoming the 18th multiple race winner at Pocono's 2 1/2-mile tri-oval.

"It was just that good of a car," he said. "But you never can count your chickens before they hatch. We just kept working at it.

"I think the setup ended right where we started the race, because we were a little loose to start. We had to tighten it up, and then we freed it up there at the end. It was just a stellar performance by this car."

Chevrolet Monte Carlos finished second through sixth in this 200-lap event. Earnhardt ran second from the pole, followed by defending race winner Denny Hamlin, points leader Jeff Gordon and reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson.

Earnhardt delivered his best performance this season and his highest finish since running second at California last September.

"We had a real bad handling car at the start of the race," Earnhardt said. "Even though we were up in the top 10, the car was just wicked tight.

"I'm real proud of my team. I've got to thank (crew chief) Tony Eury Jr. and the whole team for figuring out a way to get us up there."

Tony Stewart finished sixth while Ryan Newman placed seventh in a Dodge. Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin and Casey Mears rounded out the top 10 in Chevrolets.

The race featured 17 lead changes among 11 drivers and included seven cautions totalling 27 laps.

Gordon still owns a comfortable 366-point cushion in the standings over Hamlin, who won both races here last year. Matt Kenseth remained third - 45 points behind Hamlin - after running 14th in a Ford Fusion.

"We actually had a stronger car than the last time we were here," said Gordon, who won the rain-shortened Pocono 500 here on June 10. "If the No. 2 car (Busch) didn't exist today, then maybe some of us had a chance at winning. All I can say is wow."

"It was a solid run for us," said Hamlin, who rebounded nicely from a 22nd-place finish last week at Indianapolis. "This is what we needed to get back on track."

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