Busch's Chances at Victory Fade Late at Homestead M&M's Driver Challenges for Top Spot, but Scrape with Wall Ends Hope for Win No. 5 One day after Kyle Busch captured his first career NASCAR Nationwide Series championship in style by winning...
Busch's Chances at Victory Fade Late at Homestead
M&M's Driver Challenges for Top Spot, but Scrape with Wall Ends Hope for Win No. 5
One day after Kyle Busch captured his first career NASCAR Nationwide Series championship in style by winning Saturday's Ford 300, the driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) looked as if he might end the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season with another trip to victory lane.
But after teammate Denny Hamlin passed Busch following a late-race restart in Sunday's Ford 400 Sprint Cup event, Busch's car scraped the outside retaining wall in turns three and four and all Busch could do was hold on for a disappointing eighth-place result.
"I just got beat on the restart," said Busch, who brought home his career best Sprint Cup finish in the season-ending race at Homestead. "We had a chance to win the race and I feel like I let the guys down. They deserved to win. I was trying to catch Denny after that and ended up overdriving the car and scraped the fence. It's so hard to catch someone when they get clean air like that. I was just holding on to it there at the end and got all I could. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys gave me a great car. We started off really loose, but we just kept working on it. The guys were flawless on pit road all night long and I really wanted to finish the season right with a win for M&M's and Toyota. It's just disappointing because we had a shot to win and we didn't get it done."
Despite starting 30th in the 43-car field, Busch showed early in the 267-lap race that he had a much better car than his qualifying result showed, and he proved it by moving into the top-20 in just 10 laps. As the South Florida sun began to set, the M&M's Toyota became even stronger. With help from head wrench Rogers, who kept tuning the No. 18 Toyota to better handle the track's corners, Busch cracked the top-10 by lap 107 and nudged his way into the top-five by lap 120.
The talented 24-year-old held steady within the top-five until a crucial sequence unfolded 49 laps from the finish following what would be the final caution period of the day.
With Busch in third, the M&M's team finished off their stellar day on pit road as they got the No. 18 Toyota out in second behind Kyle's older brother Kurt, who took only two tires to Kyle's four. But on the ensuing restart on lap 221, Hamlin, who slotted in at third, was able to get inside Busch and pass him for good two laps later. From there, Hamlin pulled away from his teammate as Busch tried mightily to catch him, so much so, that Busch slapped the outside retaining wall in between turns three and four with 23 laps to go. After the scrape, Busch did all he could to hold on for the best finish possible, salvaging a top-10 finish -- his 13th of the 36-race Sprint Cup season.
Hamlin went on to win the Ford 400, beating Jeff Burton by 2.632 seconds to score the eighth victory of his Sprint Cup career, his fourth of the season and his first at Homestead.
His other JGR teammates -- rookie Joey Logano and David Gilliland -- finished 24h and 29th respectively.
Finishing third was Kevin Harvick, while Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five. Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and A.J. Allmendinger comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were seven caution periods for 31 laps, with four drivers failing to finish the race.
Hamlin was JGR's lone representative in the 12-driver Chase for the Championship and he finished fifth, 317 points behind recently crowned champion Johnson, who won his record fourth consecutive Sprint Cup title. Busch finished the season 13th in the standings, 68 points ahead of 14th-place Matt Kenseth, while Logano's final place was 20th. Logano won the Raybestos Rookie of the Year award to become the third JGR driver to accomplish the feat. Former JGR driver Tony Stewart won the award in 1999, while Hamlin accomplished the feat in 2006.
The 2010 Sprint Cup season kicks off Feb. 5-14 with the traditional Speedweeks at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.