Changes at Penske working for Busch

Credit: Karel Zubris for Skirts and Scuffs
Along with some luck, changes in the way things are being done at Penske Racing appear to be going the right way for Kurt Busch. For the second week in a row, the driver of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge overcame a crash in practice to take the pole position.

Busch outran Paul Menard with a lap of 171.579 mph (52.454 seconds) during qualifying for Sunday’s 5-Hour Energy Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway. Busch was forced to switch to a backup car for Saturday’s time trials after hitting the wall in his primary car on the second lap of practice a day earlier.

“An honest thank you to my guys, especially the ones back at the shop preparing the cars, to pull a backup out that’s a pole winning car, that’s something you really wouldn’t hear about back in the day,” Busch said. The words meant a lot coming from Busch, who recently has garnered much attention for lashing out at his team on the scanner.

Last week at Kansas, Busch scraped the wall during practice, but the car was able to be repaired. The next day, he claimed his first pole of the season. 

The pole for the 5-Hour Energy 500 marks the third straight for Penske Racing. The organization seems to have turned a corner after a rough stretch of races for the organization’s No. 22 and No. 2 teams. The team’s struggles hit a low at Richmond, when Busch, running three laps down, went on a profanity-filled rant on the radio directed at his crew. Busch specifically voiced his displeasure with Penske Racing technical director Tom German, who has since left the organization to attend graduate school.

Since Richmond, Busch's teammate Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, earned the pole for the Coca-Cola 600. After winning the pole at Kansas, Busch went on to lead a race-high 152 laps in the STP 400, looking like a contender for the win for much of the day until fuel strategy relegated him to a ninth-place place. But Busch's loss was Keselowski's gain, as Keselowski brought Penske its first win in 2011.

Trying to explain the turnaround, Busch said, “It’s just been some procedures, some processes, and maybe just looking at the data a little bit differently,” as well as “a couple different personnel changes.”

“It honestly was, hey, do we want to make this Chase? We’ve got to make some changes. Let’s look at how we can evaluate what we were doing because heading in the direction we were, we were scraping those top 10s or maybe running 15th. That’s not going to get it done when you want to win the championship,” Busch said.

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With rain in the forecast for Saturday, teams were counting on qualifying to be rained out and therefore gambled on their setups for Friday’s first practice session. Under the new qualifying rule, the speeds from that session determine the qualifying lineup. If the session had been rained out, the qualifying order would then become the race’s starting lineup. After a morning storm, however, the rain subsided and Saturday’s qualifying session was able to get under way with little delay.

Rounding out the top five starting positions for Sunday’s race are Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Regan Smith.
Changes at Penske working for Busch Changes at Penske working for Busch Reviewed by Rebecca Kivak on Saturday, June 11, 2011 Rating: 5