EVENTFUL DAY NETS BUSCH TOP-10 AT NEW HAMPSHIRE M&M's Driver Remains Fourth in Standings After First Chase Race While the race results show that Kyle Busch started ninth, ran 300 miles and then finished ninth in Sunday's Sylvania 300 NASCAR...
EVENTFUL DAY NETS BUSCH TOP-10 AT NEW HAMPSHIRE
M&M's Driver Remains Fourth in Standings After First Chase Race
While the race results show that Kyle Busch started ninth, ran 300 miles and then finished ninth in Sunday's Sylvania 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, it doesn't begin to tell the story of his eventful day at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
The driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) fought an ill-handling racecar and overcame contact with four-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson on two different occasions to rally for a solid top-10 finish and remain fourth in the standings after round one of the 10-race Chase for the Championship.
"Yesterday in practice I thought I was driving the car right and apparently I didn't set the car up right," said Busch, who notched his sixth top-10 finish in 12 career Sprint Cup starts at New Hampshire. "We were about two-tenths off yesterday and I thought it was just a factor of those guys getting more speed out of their cars. In essence, we were off. It was mainly my fault. The guys fought hard and Dave (Rogers, crew chief) made some good calls with our M&M's Camry. Any time we got speed through the middle of the corner we couldn't get down the straightaways. We were battling back and forth with tight and loose. We just got what we could out of it today. Fortunately, our bad day right now is ninth versus some other guys."
After jumping up two spots to seventh on lap two of the 300-lap race around the 1.058-mile oval, the Las Vegas native battled a racecar that was tight in the center of the corner and lacked the rear grip needed to be competitive with the leaders. Throughout the first three pit stops of the day, Rogers and the M&M's team worked hard to remedy the handling issue with a combination of air pressure, wedge and track bar adjustments.
Even with their best efforts, Busch still struggled with his car's handling woes as the race ran well past its halfway point. Despite having an ill-handling racecar, the talented 25-year-old managed to hang near the top-10 until a series of events beginning with a pit stop on lap 208 dropped him down the running order.
After fast service by the M&M's team gained him spots on pit road and helped him restart 10th on lap 212, Busch quickly moved up to seventh. But as Carl Edwards made contact with Busch's JGR teammate Denny Hamlin and sent him spinning in between turns three and four, Busch slowed down and was subsequently tagged by Johnson in the left-rear quarterpanel. Fourtantely for Busch, the contact wasn't enough to puncture his left-rear tire. With no immediate need to pit for tires, he and the team thought they dodged a bullet.
Not so fast. Shortly after the ensuing restart, another spin, this time by older brother Kurt Busch while coming out of turn two, forced Kyle to dive down low, and again Johnson made contact with Busch's left-rear quarterpanel. This time, Busch wasn't as fortunate as he was sent spinning. The good news was that he did not make contact with the wall and only suffered cosmetic damage to his M&M's Toyota. However, Busch did have to come to pit road for a fresh set of Goodyear tires and was forced to restart in the 20th position on the lap-235 restart.
With less than 70 laps remaining, Busch's day looked bleak. Yet, patience allowed him to pick his way through the field, and thanks to some late-race attrition with a multi-car crash on lap 243 and leaders Tony Stewart and Jeff Burton running out of fuel on the next to last lap, Busch managed to salvage a solid top-10 finish on what proved to be a difficult day.
"Both wrecks, there was a time when someone spun out in front of me but Jimmie (Johnson) never saw it and drove over the back of me and spun me out the second time," said Busch. "It's just a product of not being able to see, I guess. Unfortunately, we had to battle back and fight back through there. We were able to recover the best we could from our spin, but that was it."
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule -- the second race of the 10-race Chase for the Championship -- is the Sept. 26 AAA 400 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. The race begins at 1 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ESPN. A pre-race show will air at noon on ESPN2.