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Busch, Gordon and Edwards savour road success

Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards might not be the top three drivers who come to mind for road courses, but at Infineon they kept out of trouble and it all came good.
If there's a story of the NASCAR Cup season, then it has to be the turnaround of Penske Racing.

Kurt Busch started strongly enough with success at the season curtain-raising Budweiser Shootout at the Daytona International Speedway in February; but then things went abruptly downhill from there and left the team in despair, culminating in Busch's controversial team radio rant during the Richmond 400 in April. That led to the removal of the team's technical director Tom German which rapidly seemed to result in the team suddenly taking three consecutive pole positions in June, a win for Busch's team mate Brad Keselowski at Kansas - and now a stunning, dominant victory for Busch himself at the Infineon Raceway at Sears Point, Sonoma in California.

"It was one of those unbelievable days where having a game plan going in, we weren't questioning it, it was just old school on how we were going to make it on two stops," explained Busch in the post-race winner's press conference. "With the pace dropping off like we saw it in practice, it was going to take one of those perfect efforts to make sure we maintained our lap time throughout the run to be able to make it on the stops and not worry about tires as well as the fuel strategy side of it.

"It was great calculations by the guys ... When you have those good omens, it's great we were able to put the solid effort together in the pits, in the strategy department and out on the racetrack as well," he said, adding: "The car, it drove itself. I have all my guys to thank."

One of the key guys to thank was his crew chief Steve Addington, who devised the strategy and more importantly put together a set-up that suited not just his driver, but the new-style tyres all the teams were using at Sonoma. No one else seemed to be able to figure out how to run on them and not have performance drop off after 20 laps, which forced them into a two-lap strategy, but somehow Addington and his crew performed some genuine alchemy and managed to turn rubber into gold capable of running over 30 laps at a time.

"A lot of guys said that they couldn't make it on two stops," said Busch. "So we knew that there was going to be teams pitting around lap 10, lap 15 to get those fresher tires, so my thought was inside the car, well, I need to continue to push this car hard and run a lap time that won't allow those guys with fresh tires to chop off and be able to catch us ... It was just one of those feelings where the crew was helping me, I was helping them, and the race played out perfectly for us."

"We stuck to it. We had a game plan," agreed Addington. "Kurt said he was going to try to get a couple of positions there at the start, gain a couple positions. I was thinking, Okay, if we start 11th, we'll get to seventh or eighth. Drove by, took the lead. That made it easier on me and my guys to make a decision! We felt like we had the speed in our car to go to our lap, didn't matter what everybody else was doing ... That's worked out the best for me in road course races, is to hit those laps we had planned."

Coming home in second place felt like a win for Jeff Gordon, who had struggled with the #24 in the first half of the race. "We made a lot of adjustments," said Gordon. "Gosh - rubbers in the rear, track bar, wedge, everything else. You know, I didn't really think any of those things were making a big difference.

"But we also were never in clean air. There at the end, that was the furthest forward we had been all day," he pointed out. "I don't know if the track came to us, what happened. It seems like that setup, the adjustments we made, being in cleaner air, started working for me. I had enough grip to really use the curbs. By using those curbs, I could get up off the corners better.

Despite the result, Gordon was sticking to his comments that "It was nuts, just crazy, crazy" and is no fan of road racing at Infineon.




Related Pictures

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Joey Logano leads the first five laps of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 before giving way to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin on Sunday at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. [Picture Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Kurt Busch leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 on his way to winning on Sunday at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. [Picture Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Kurt Busch captures the checkered flag for the Toyota Save Mart 350 on June 26, 2011 at Infineon Raceway. [Picture Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Kurt Busch celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Toyota Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway on June 26, 2011 [Picture Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #19 DrawTire Ford, leads Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Dollar General Toyota, and the rest of the field during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 presented by ZLOOP at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, races to win Sunday, August 17, 2014 in the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet SS finished second. This was Gordon`s third win of the season. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, celebrates with a burnout after winning the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday, August 17, 2014 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. This was Gordon`s third win of the season. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
With General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, holds the Michigan Heritage Trophy after winning the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday, August 17, 2014 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. This was Gordon`s third win of the season. In 2013, MIS began awarding the Michigan Heritage Trophy as a recognition and celebration of the automobile and it`s importance to the race track and the manufacturers competing in NASCAR. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, celebrates with his crew after winning the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday, August 17, 2014 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. This was Gordon`s third win of the season. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 17, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 17, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 17, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, lead the field to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 17, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, races Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 17, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, captured the pole position Friday, August 15, 2014 for Sunday`s Pure Michigan NASCAR Sprint Cup 400 race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. The was Gordon`s second pole position this season. He set a new track record in the final round of qualifying with a lap of 206.558 mph. Gordon is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, celebrates capturing the pole position Friday, August 15, 2014 for Sunday`s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. The was Gordon`s second pole position this season. He set a new track record in the final round of qualifying with a lap of 206.558 mph. Gordon is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 15, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, qualifies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 15, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images)

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