Kurt Busch unlucky in Las Vegas race

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Phoenix Racing press release

Vegas Is Anything But Lucky For Hometown Boy Kurt Busch
Late-Race Accident Ends Trouble-Filled Day

Kurt Busch, Phoenix Racing Chevrolet
Kurt Busch, Phoenix Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

Sometimes no luck is better than any luck. The Kobalt Tools 400 on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was one of those days for Kurt Busch. The driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services/TAG Heuer Chevrolet team battled myriad issues, from a melted air hose to a flat tire to pit road miscues. A late-race accident ended the day for the No. 51 Chevrolet team, leaving 2004 Sprint Cup Champion Busch with a 35th-place finish.

The end result was a far cry from how the day began for Las Vegas native Busch. He started 12th but pushed the No. 51 Chevrolet to sixth place on the first lap. Although the car was tight in the center of turns and loose on acceleration, Busch stayed in the top nine through the first 40 laps. Routine pit stops started on lap 44 when Busch, along with many of the front-runners, came to pit road. The caution was displayed for the spinning car of Timmy Hill as Busch reached his pit box. In an effort to avoid losing a lap, crew chief Nick Harrison called for right-side tires only. But it was too late, as the leader passed Busch while he was exiting pit road. After re-entering the pits for left-side tires and air pressure adjustments, Busch restarted the race one lap down in 28th place.

That bit of misfortune was countered with a lucky strike on lap 74 when the second caution was displayed with Busch in the “lucky dog” position that moved him back to the lead lap. The team made a pit stop for four tires, fuel and adjustments, with the No. 51 Chevrolet returning to the track in 27th place. Busch got busy, working his way back into the top 20 by lap 100. He was in 18th place when green-flag pit stops started on lap 120.

One of the most bizarre incidents of the day unfolded as Busch came to pit road for his scheduled stop. The rear air hose melted after being exposed to the exhaust, which required a lengthy stay on pit road. The team elected to only change right-side tires to make up for the lost time, but Busch once again was a lap down to the leaders and in 27th place. The third caution waved just a little later, on lap 128, for fluid from an engine failure on the No. 93 car of Travis Kvapil. The team used the caution to enter the pits and change left-side tires, while making another round of adjustments.

Busch was in 27th place for the restart on lap 134 and immediately reported an extreme loose handling condition due to one of the air pressure adjustments. Simultaneously, he reported a tire was going flat. Busch stayed on the track until the last possible moment but eventually had to pit on lap 145 to keep from crashing the No. 51 Chevrolet. The team changed four tires and discovered the right-rear tire was leaking. Busch returned to the track in 32nd place, three laps down to the race leaders.

Throughout the next several laps, Busch passed the other cars running on the same lap, climbing back into the top 30 by the time the field completed lap 200. The laps continued to wind down, and Busch was in 28th place when misfortune struck on lap 255. Busch ran over a piece of debris that cut his tire and sent him crashing into the retaining wall. The damage was extensive enough that he was unable to drive it back to the garage. Busch’s race was over, and he was scored with a 35th-place finish.

Tony Stewart led three times for a race-high 127 laps to score his 45th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, his first of the season and his first at Las Vegas. He has now won a Sprint Cup Series race at every track on the circuit except for Darlington (S.C) Raceway and Kentucky Speedway, the latter of which conducted its first race just last season.

Stewart is just one victory behind 1956 and 1957 Sprint Cup Series champion Buck Baker for 14th on the all-time series win list.

Jimmie Johnson finished .461 of a second behind Stewart in the runner-up spot, while Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five. Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray, Trevor Bayne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. comprised the remainder of the top 10.

There were eight caution periods for 33 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 267-lap race around the 1.5-mile oval.

With round three of 36 complete, Busch is 29th in the championship standings, with 44 points, 81 behind series leader Biffle.

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags busch, chevrolet, phoenix racing