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Kurt Busch puts Penske on the pole yet again

  Kurt Busch: Mr. Pole Day (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   BROOKLYN, Mich.
   Whatever angry Kurt Busch told Roger Penske last month, it's sure paid off.
   For the fourth straight week Penske has the pole.

   Kurt Busch, though he's still winless this spring, took the top starting spot Saturday for Sunday's Michigan 400, and as strong as Busch has been each Sunday lately, he should have a real good shot this time around too…..unless this race turns into another fuel mileage game.
   "It's been a great week," Busch says. "We'll have a great pit stall, and in fuel mileage races that's really important."
    Most races at this wide two-mile track lately have been settled by fuel mileage. And the past several tour events this spring have been fuel mileage games.
    It was six weeks ago that Busch exploded and said his team was going the wrong way in engineering. Penske shook things up, and the results have been clear.
   "With the way I wanted to go, and felt what was wrong, to steer the ship in the right direction and see the results is rewarding,"  Busch says. "We just got back to basics, and the results are showing on the track."
    Busch had Kansas in the bag two weeks ago, but fuel mileage was key, and he didn't have quite the right game. But teammate Brad Keselowski did and pulled off the win.
   Last Sunday at Pocono Denny Hamlin was the man to beat, until a flat tire fouled up his brake lines midway. Busch then took command, but Jeff Gordon had a better pit stop the last time around under green, and Gordon edged Busch for the win.
   As much as Busch and crew chief Steve Addington have struggled this season, they've hung on in the top 10, in what has been a yeoman's job of driving by the 2004 tour champion.
   "At one point there was this feeling of 'Wow – we're going to lose this edge if we don't steer in a different direction," Busch said. "I'm thankful everyone was able to pull together and understand that we should just try something different. 
    "It's great to see the results pop up so soon.  I had no idea we were right around the corner."
    The turnaround has been stunning.
    "This,"  Busch said, somewhat in relief, "is a first time we have had a pole without spinning or wrecking our primary car. 
     "It's that way because the first few times after the big changes that we made, our car was very different to drive.  Basically it came down to core setup in the car, and the core pieces we're bolting on the car. 
     "It's not like we changed chassis design over night, but there are small things we've added.
     "We can see it throughout the garage.  Everybody is pushing the envelope in all areas – It's just not aerodynamics, it's just not engine, it's not just ride height."
   Indeed, while Jack Roush's teams opened the season very strong, there appears to have been some change in dynamics the past four or five weeks.
   And it's clear that Busch and Penske are coming on strong.

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