Bad Luck Bug Strikes Busch Again at Martinsville; Three Separate Cut Tires Relegate M&M's Team to 29th-Place Finish When it comes to this year's installment of the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, if Kyle Busch didn't have any bad luck,...
Bad Luck Bug Strikes Busch Again at Martinsville; Three Separate Cut Tires Relegate M&M's Team to 29th-Place Finish
When it comes to this year's installment of the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, if Kyle Busch didn't have any bad luck, he wouldn't have any luck at all.
This time, Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), suffered cut tires on three separate occasions that relegated him to a 29th-place finish in Sunday's TUMS QuikPak 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
The cut tires added to the string of bad luck for the No. 18 team during this year's Chase, as a myriad of issues have now forced him to finish 28th or worse in four of the first six Chase races and have derailed once-promising title hopes for the talented 23-year old.
"We just can't seem to catch a break," said Busch, who has finished 38th and 29th, respectively, in the two Sprint Cup events at Martinsville in 2008. "The first part of the race, I couldn't get the car stopped like I wanted it to and it was too tight in the center of the corner. I have no idea what caused all the right-front tire problems for us, but we just need to take a look at it further and find out why, so it doesn't happen again."
After starting ninth, Busch bided his time and hung within the top-15 throughout the first 150 laps of the 504-lap race that was extended four laps beyond the scheduled distance by a green-white-checkered finish. But as the made his way through the center of turns one and two on lap 163, his right-front tire gave way and he rode the brakes hard to keep his M&M's car off the turn two SAFER barrier. As he slowed to a stop, trying to keep his car off the wall, both Tony Raines and Sam Hornish, Jr., blew right-front tires behind him and the caution quickly followed.
But as he made his way to pit road after already losing one lap because of the cut tire, NASCAR officials held him in his pit stall for two more laps as they deemed he stopped on the track to purposely bring out the caution. Raines and Hornish, Jr., were not penalized.
To add insult to injury, Busch cut right-front tires two more occasions -- on laps 350 and 462 -- forcing him to make his way onto pit road for a green-flag stop each time. He eventually finished the race seven laps down.
Busch's JGR teammates -- Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart -- finished fifth and 26th, respectively. Hamlin brought home his fourth top-five finish in seven Sprint Cup starts at Martinsville while Stewart suffered a fate similar to Busch by cutting right-front tires on two separate occasions and finishing the race four laps down.
Jimmie Johnson won the TUMS QuikPak 500 to score his 39th career Sprint Cup victory, his sixth of the season and the fifth of his career at Martinsville. Johnson held off runner-up Dale Earnhardt, Jr., by 0.708 of a second, with Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon and Hamlin rounding out the top-five. Casey Mears, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex, Jr., comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 12 caution periods for 76 laps, with four drivers failing to finish the 504-lap race.
All three JGR drivers are represented in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup. Stewart continues to lead the JGR trio in points, as he dropped one position to eighth-place position in the standings, where he is now 338 markers arrears series leader Johnson. Hamlin gained one position and is now 11th in the standings, 420 points out of the lead. Busch dropped three spots to 12th in points and is 445 markers behind Johnson.
With four races remaining before a champion is crowned following the season-finale Nov. 16 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the top-12 drivers competing for the title are as follows: