Busch Finishes a Solid Second in All-Star Race at Charlotte
M&M’s Team Leads Three Times for 19 Laps in Non-Points Event
Despite bringing home his career-best finish in six NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race appearances, Kyle Busch came up just short in his bid for a win in the non-points event Saturday night at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) led three times for a total of 19 laps around the 1.5-mile oval to bring home a solid second-place finish.
“This was a good race for us with our M&M’s Camry,” said Busch after completing just his second Sprint All-Star Race, with the other coming in 2009. “We came up a little bit short, but we got beat by a faster car. The best I could’ve done was something on a restart and I didn’t get a great one there – that final one, but I still kept up with him (Carl Edwards) a little bit, but he was just too fast. He got away from me and spread the gap too far. By the time I was trying to run him back down on the top side there, it just took me too long to get back to him. A few more laps, maybe I would’ve got him, but all you had was 10 (laps).”
It took me too long to find a lane that would really start helping me
The 100-lap Sprint All-Star Race is made up of four segments consisting of 50 laps, 20 laps, 20 laps and 10 laps. The All-Star Race is open to drivers and owners who have won a race in 2010 or 2011, in addition to All-Star Race winners and Sprint Cup champions from the past 10 years.
After winning the pole on Friday, Busch led the field to the green and held the point for three laps before relinquishing the top spot to Greg Biffle. Despite losing the lead early, Busch had a strong car and stayed among the top-three for the majority of the event.
During the first two pit stops, crew chief Dave Rogers made air pressure and track bar adjustments in hopes of fixing a tight handling condition with Busch’s M&M’s Camry.
While Rogers helped improve the handling of Busch’s M&M’s Camry throughout the night, it appeared that Carl Edwards was the class of the 21-car field. In fact, Busch took the lead with a nifty move on the restart that began segment three on lap 71, but Edwards eventually reeled Busch in and retook the lead on lap 86 just prior to lap 90.
Prior to the final 10-lap segment of the All-Star Race, all cars were required to perform a four-tire pit stop. The No. 18 M&M’s Toyota came into the pits in second and exited in the same position, where it set up the final shootout with Edwards leading and Busch restarting beside him. On the final restart, Edwards quickly pulled away, and while Busch began to reel him in during the final few lap of the race, he didn’t have enough time to challenge Edwards for the win.
“We definitely had a car that was coming there, but Carl just got so far out there on that last restart,” Busch said. “It took me too long to find a lane that would really start helping me run him back down. I was trying to make sure I didn’t get passed from behind, but as soon as I got a gap behind me, I would move around and try to make some ground up elsewhere. I was making it, but not fast enough.
“We did everything right there at the end on pit road that we could. We just made some minor adjustments and those minor adjustments helped. I didn’t think we were a long-run car, but there at the end we were a long-run car. It’s great that we came out here and we finished second with our M&M’s Camry – we finally finished one of these races. That’s a way in the right direction anyways, and now we know what we got beat by. We’ll just come back here next year and try to do it.”
Busch’s JGR teammate, Denny Hamlin, finished seventh.
Busch’s other JGR teammate, Joey Logano, finished fifth in the preliminary Sprint Showdown, which was won by David Ragan by .475 of a second over Brad Keselowski.
The 40-lap Sprint Showdown consisted of two 20-lap segments, with the top-two drivers from the final segment advancing into the All-Star Race. Unfortunately for Logano, his fifth-place finish did not qualify him to participate in the All-Star Race.
Busch finished .443 of a second behind Edwards in the runner-up spot, while David Reutimann, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle rounded out the top-five. Matt Kenseth, Hamlin, David Ragan, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman comprised the remainder of the top-10.