Busch Rolls the Dice and Comes Up Short in Miami; M&M's Team Finishes 10th in Point Standings Despite 19th-Place Finish
Despite the fact that gas prices have plummeted in recent weeks, Kyle Busch still experienced pain at the pump in the late stages of Sunday's Ford 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), was in fourth-place with two laps remaining in the 267-lap event, but a dry fuel tank relegated him to a 19th-place finish.
Despite the disappointing finish, Busch ended the season 10th in the Sprint Cup point standings, just two points ahead of 11th-place Matt Kenseth.
"I tried to save as much fuel as I could there over the last run but we came up a couple laps short," said Busch, who brought home his best career finish at Homestead, besting his 2007 result by one position. "We really didn't have much to lose so I thought it was worth a shot. We had a good year and I just want to thank M&M's and Toyota for their support this year."
After starting eighth, the talented 23-year old fought an early race condition that made his car tight in the center, but loose off the corner. Crew chief Steve Addington went to work on the M&M's Toyota throughout the first few pit stops, calling for wedge and air-pressure adjustments to fix the handling of the car.
Once the sun went down behind the turn one grandstands and the night air cooled the surface of Homestead-Miami Speedway, Busch's No. 18 Toyota came alive. By lap 146 of the 267-lap race, the Las Vegas native had moved up to fifth-place and remained in or near the top-five for much of the remaining laps.
The turning point of the race came on lap 200, when Busch and the rest of the field pitted under caution. When the race returned green on lap 203, Addington told Busch to save as much fuel as possible in case they decided to go the final 67 laps without again making a trip to pit road.
After a brief caution from laps 208-211, the race went the final 56 laps under green and the M&M's team decided to roll the dice and try to stretch their fuel tank. Just when it looked like he might make it to the finish, Busch reported the fuel tank had run dry with two laps to go. As he slowly limped to pit road with a empty gas tank, the No. 18 team added more fuel and were finally able to re-fire the engine and finish the race, albeit one lap behind several leaders who were able to make it the rest of the way on fuel.
Despite the disappointing finish, Busch and Addington were encouraged by a strong season in which the M&M's team won eight races, notched 17-top five and 21 top-10 finishes.
"We had a great season -- I can't complain about it," Addington said. "I have to thank everybody at M&M's and the Mars family that came on board this year and gave us all the support we needed. This is an awesome feeling to end up finishing in the top-10 in points."
Busch's JGR teammates -- Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin -- finished ninth and 13th, respectively.
Carl Edwards won the Ford 400 to score his 16th career Sprint Cup victory, his series-high ninth of the season and his first at Homestead. Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five. Kasey Kahne, Travis Kvapil, Casey Mears, Stewart and Martin Truex Jr., comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were seven caution periods for 31 laps, with two drivers failing to finish the 267-lap race.
All three JGR drivers were represented in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup. Hamlin ended up being the lead JGR driver in points, as he secured the eighth position in the final point standings. Stewart and Busch wound up ninth and 10th, respectively.