Speeding Penalty Thwarts Strong Run for Busch at Las Vegas Despite Disappointing 15th-Place Finish, M&M's Team Moves Up to 12th in Points Defending race-winner Kyle Busch had a solid top-five finish in his sights, but a pit road speeding penalty...
Speeding Penalty Thwarts Strong Run for Busch at Las Vegas
Despite Disappointing 15th-Place Finish, M&M's Team Moves Up to 12th in Points
Defending race-winner Kyle Busch had a solid top-five finish in his sights, but a pit road speeding penalty with just 51 laps remaining hampered his chances for a repeat win at his hometown Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
As a result, the driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) finished a disappointing 15th in Sunday's Shelby American NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
"Our M&M's Camry wasn't bad all day," said Busch, who won the 2009 Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas, his first at his hometown track. "We were a little tight early in the race and our balance was good, but we just didn't have the speed we needed out of it. We ran a really patient race but, on our last stop there, I used too much rear brake and slid across the line coming in. Totally my fault. I feel bad for the guys since we had a good car and we didn't end up finishing where we ran all day long."
After starting a solid fifth in the 43-car field, Busch sat comfortably within the top-five for the first 80 laps of the race. While he briefly dropped to ninth on Lap 119, the talented 24-year-old moved back into the top-five just two laps later. Although Busch was happy with the balance of his M&M's Camry, he asked crew chief Dave Rogers to help him find some more speed, which Rogers did through several changes in air pressure and track bar adjustments as the race wore on.
The Las Vegas native held strong within the top-five for much of the next 100 laps as the race went caution-free from laps 113-230. Late in the lengthy, green-flag run, on lap 216, Rogers brought Busch to pit road for what would be his final stop of the day. The M&M's team performed another solid pit stop of 13.4 seconds and sent Busch back out in great shape for the final sprint to the finish. Unfortunately, as Busch entered pit road, NASCAR officials detected he exceeded the pit road speed limit and assessed a drive-through penalty, which Busch served on Lap 220. The penalty sent Busch a lap down to the leaders and dropped him from sixth to 17th place in just a matter of a few laps.
With less than 50 laps remaining, it appeared as though Busch would struggle to get his lap back and have a chance at a top-10 finish. But he caught a bit of a break when the caution flag flew for the last time on lap 230. Busch and the M&M's team elected not to pit and opted instead to receive the wave-around, during which all cars on lap down that elect not to pit get their lap back after being sent by the pace car prior to the restart.
Busch restarted 17th on lap 233, but with the race going caution-free for the final 34 laps, he was only able to gain two more spots before the checkered flag.
Busch's JGR teammates -- Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin -- finished sixth and 19th, respectively.
With three of 36 races in the books, Logano leads the JGR trio in the championship point standings in eighth place with 413 points, 93 markers back of leader Kevin Harvick. Busch moved up one spot to 12th with 375 points, 131 markers arrears Harvick, while Hamlin is tied for 21st with 304 points, 202 markers back.
Jimmie Johnson won the Shelby American to score his 49th career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his fourth at Las Vegas.
Harvick finished 1.874 seconds behind Johnson, while Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-five. Logano, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were seven caution periods for 29 laps, with five drivers failing to finish the 267-lap race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup Series schedule is the March 7 Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga.