Bristol Certainly Not Kind to Busch This Day Doublemint Driver Caught in Lap-23 Wreck, Soldiers to 32nd-Place Finish
Kyle Busch’s bid to win a sixth career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway barely lasted five minutes Sunday after he was caught in a lap-23 incident during the Food City 500 that heavily damaged the No. 18 Doublemint Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR).
Busch and the rest of the 43-car field were just getting settled in for 500 laps of racing around the .533-mile, high-banked concrete oval when, while running 12th, he and Marcos Ambrose were collected by the No. 5 racecar of Kasey Kahne and the No. 78 of Regan Smith, who were stopped sideways against the outside SAFER Barrier entering turn one. Busch limped his No. 18 Toyota back to the garage with heavy front-end damage. The crew worked fast and furiously to cut away bent sheet metal and replace key front-end components and got Busch back on track 72 laps later, in 39th place, without hood and front fenders.
From there, Busch made up seven positions and brought his wounded racecar home in 32nd place, 77 laps down and ahead of Ambrose (36th), Kahne (37th) and Carl Edwards (39th), who also was involved in the incident. Smith wound up 24th.
“What happened today was really nobody’s fault,” said crew chief Dave Rogers, who guided Busch to his last two Bristol victories in back-to-back fashion in August 2010 and March 2011. “The (No.) 5 got turned sideways going into (turn) one, the (No.) 78 got into him, and then the (No. 9) and us got into them. It’s just a product of racing here. Nobody did anything wrong. But I’m really proud of our guys today. A lot of really good teams were involved in that early wreck, and we were the first ones back out there on the track and we were running pretty competitive laps the rest of the way, all things considered.
“We picked up seven points by getting back out there and finishing the race the way we did,” Rogers said. “As you know, every point is important. It’s just a shame we were out before the track even got a chance to get rubbered up. We had some things we really thought we were onto with the car as far as what we’re going to want to do in preparation for the Chase (for the Sprint Cup championship), but we never had a chance to see how the car would react. It’s a shame for Kyle because he has been so good here lately. But he’ll be back strong next week at Fontana. He’s a competitor, so that would have been the case whether we won here today, or whether we got wrecked out.”
Busch’s JGR companions – Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry – finished 16th and 20th, respectively.
Brad Keselowski won the Food City 500 to score his fifth career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his second consecutive victory at Bristol.
Matt Kenseth finished .714 of a second behind Keselowski in the runner-up spot, while Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers rounded out the top-five. Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jimmie Johnson and Paul Menard comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 49 laps, with five drivers failing to finish the 500-lap race.
With round four of 36 complete, Hamlin leads the Team Interstate trio in the championship point standings. He is fifth with 137 points, 20 behind series leader Greg Biffle. Logano stands ninth with 126 points, 31 out of first, and Busch is 15th with 99 points, 58 away from the top spot.