Late Accident Ends Busch’s Chances for Victory at TalladegaM&M’s Pretzel Driver Runs in Top-10 All Day but Finishes Disappointing 35th
Kyle Busch was in the top-10 for much of Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, but a late-race accident on the backstretch forced him to settle for a disappointing 35th-place finish.
Talladega and its sister track, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, are the only two restrictor-plate tracks on the NASCAR schedule. At Talladega, as was the case in the season-opening Daytona 500, drivers had to align themselves in two-car drafts to make any headway toward the front of the field. The system creates a dicey game of bumper cars that sometimes leads to drivers involuntarily spinning out their drafting partners.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Pretzel Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), was a victim of that dicey game of bumper cars as his teammate, Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Toyota, sent him spinning on lap 140 of the 188-lap race.
Logano was pushing Busch’s car and, as the duo exited turn two at the top of the track, they were attempting to pass the two-car tandem of Regan Smith and Paul Menard. Suddenly, Busch lost control and his car began to spin around, with the nose of his Camry headed toward the inside of the racetrack. The front end of his No. 18 M&M’s Pretzel Toyota then slammed into the right side of Matt Kenseth’s No. 17 Ford, which was pushing the No. 22 Dodge of Kyle’s brother Kurt.
The impact briefly lifted both right-side tires of Busch’s machine off the pavement before it slammed back to the ground and then did two complete 360-degree spins before ending up with the driver’s side of the car up against the outside retaining wall on the backstretch.
“Joey (Logano) and I worked great all day,” said Busch, who failed to finish in the top-10 for only the third time in eight starts this season. “We didn’t have any issues. We had to go to the top to get around some of those guys. I got spun out – it was nothing Joey did wrong. It’s just a product of what we’ve got. So far, at every restrictor-plate race, I’ve been spun out – maybe it’s something I’m doing.”
I got spun out – it was nothing Joey did wrong.
After the accident, Busch was able to drive his car to pit road so crew chief Dave Rogers and the M&M’s Pretzel team could survey the damage. It was quickly determined that the car needed to be taken to the garage area for extensive repairs, including a completely new front end, radiator and minor repairs to the rear portion of the machine.
The repairs took just more than 30 minutes, but the incredible effort by the Rogers-led M&M’s Pretzel crew helped Busch complete five more laps under caution, which gave him 144 total laps and moved him from 37th to 35th place. He moved past Kasey Kahne and Kenseth, who each completed only 139 circuits. It also allowed Busch to acquire 10 Sprint Cup Series points while Kenseth received nine and Kahne was awarded eight for today’s finishes. Had the No. 18 team not made the repairs, Busch would have only received eight points.
“It’s not the day we wanted,” Busch said. “But Dave and the M&M’s Pretzel guys had a plan and worked really hard so we could run five slow laps under caution and gain some points. They really did a heck of a job, even though they knew we were only going out there to run a few laps.”
Busch’s JGR teammates –Logano and Denny Hamlin – finished 10th and 23rd, respectively.
Busch continues to lead the JGR trio in the Sprint Cup Series point standings, but he dropped four spots to sixth. He has 257 points and is 38 markers behind championship leader Carl Edwards. Hamlin jumped up three spots to 17th. He has 195 points, 100 markers behind Edwards. Logano moved up four spots to 24th and has 179 points, 116 markers back of Edwards.
After a rare off weekend to celebrate the Easter holiday, the Sprint Cup Series returns to action April 30 with the Crown Royal 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.