Sunday Michigan Notebook: Banzai move nets Kurt Busch eight positions in one lapEarly in the Pure Michigan 400, Dale Earnhardt Jr. teased his legion of fans with the prospect of a third victory at Michigan. Earnhardt led twice for 20 laps and at one point opened a lead of more than two seconds over his closest pursuer.
By: By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Kurt Busch was upset -- understandably so.
A four-tire pit stop under caution on Lap 158 of Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway -- with most of his rivals making quicker stops for two tires -- dropped the driver of the No. 78 Chevrolet from sixth place to 14th for a crucial restart on Lap 162.
With a Chase spot on the line, and his chief rivals for a berth in NASCAR's postseason ahead of him in the running order, Busch took matters into his own hands as soon as the green flag waved.
"I was all fired up," Busch said after the race. "We were running 14th. (Martin) Truex was ahead of us. (Brad) Keselowski was ahead of us. (Greg) Biffle was ahead of us (Kasey); Kahne was ahead of us.
"You can't run 14th and gain on guys. And I had a restart where the seas parted, and I went to the high side and we got a lot of positions on that one restart. So, we'll just keep plugging away. We've got three (races) to go (before the Chase) and we're in the mix."
With a breathtaking move to the outside, Busch gained eight positions on the restart lap and was back in sixth place by the time he reached the start/finish line. He parlayed that gain into a third-place finish and jumped from 11th to ninth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings.
"It was a game-changer," Busch said of his bold move on the restart. "That one moment was our race."
CLOSE CALL FOR DILLON
Thirteen laps into Sunday's race, Austin Dillon lost control of his car and collected the No. 36 Chevrolet of J.J. Yeley.
Dillon wasn't driving just any car. He was behind the wheel of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet SS, subbing for injured Tony Stewart for the first time.
Dillon, however, rallied from the mishap, regained a lap he lost speeding on pit road in an attempt to stay ahead of the pace car and ultimately finished a creditable 14th. More important, he kept the No. 14 in the running for a spot in the owners' Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
"I definitely scared myself at the beginning," Dillon said. "It was too early to be wrecking out there. I apologized to the No. 36 team and J.J. Yeley. I didn't mean to get into them like that at all. I just grabbed the brakes and locked them down in the rear, couldn't steer out of it.
"Luckily, we had saved enough car where we could work on it, get some track position. (Crew chief) Steve (Addington) made some great calls on track position. I can't say enough about those guys (the crew). They did a great job."
JUNIOR IN JEOPARDY?
Early in the Pure Michigan 400, Dale Earnhardt Jr. teased his legion of fans with the prospect of a third victory at Michigan. Earnhardt led twice for 20 laps and at one point opened a lead of more than two seconds over his closest pursuer.
Earnhardt's race came to grief, however, when he blew a right front tire on Lap 135 of 200 while running eighth and pounded the Turn 2 wall.
"(The car) was down on the splitter getting into the corner," Earnhardt said. "I got it slowed down pretty good and then started getting close to the wall and put a little brake in it, and it blew the tire out…
"It's just kind of frustrating. It's just bad luck. We need to shake that. We just can't keep having this every week."
Winless this year, Earnhardt fell one position to seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, just 20 points ahead of 11th-place Kasey Kahne. Another star-crossed run could in one of the next three races could knock him out of a Chase position.
Earnhardt, however, isn't in panic mode.
"There are guys in worse positions than us," he said. "I think we'll be all right. We're not an 11th-place team. We're a top-five team. We're consistent. We're more consistent than most. We just got to shake this luck, whatever is going on.
"It's something different every time. We've got good speed, and we've just got to keep our head up and keep working hard, and things will be all right."