Busch Fights To Fifth-Place Finish at Daytona
Interstate All Battery Center Driver Recovers From Late-Race Crash To Score Ninth Top-Five of 2011
Kyle Busch rallied from a late-race accident to score an impressive fifth-place finish in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The driver of the No. 18 Interstate All Battery Center Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) notched his ninth top-five finish of 2011.
Daytona and its sister track, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, are the only two restrictor-plate tracks on the NASCAR schedule. As was the case in the season-opening Daytona 500 and the April race at Talladega, 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 partner.
Busch, who started 38th, and his JGR teammate, Joey Logano, who started 37th, worked together all night long as they did in earlier Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series races at Daytona and Talladega, including last night’s Nationwide Series race where Busch pushed Logano to victory on the final lap.
During the Coke Zero 400, Logano and Busch communicated well, pitted at the same time and were never far apart during the first 159 laps of what was scheduled to be a 160-lap race. Sometimes they would run up front – Busch led five times for 11 laps – or sometimes they would just ride in the back of the pack waiting for the race to near its end.
As they were running ninth and 10th, respectively, on the high side of the racetrack entering turn three on lap 159, Kasey Kahne’s car touched the Chevrolet piloted by Jeff Gordon, who was inside of Busch. The right side of Gordon’s car slid slightly into the left side of Busch’s Toyota, forcing Busch’s No. 18 machine into the SAFER Barrier on the outside retaining wall.
While the contact from Gordon and the brush with the SAFER Barrier were both minor, the impact still caused the right-front tire on Busch’s car to go flat. He was forced to pit one lap later for new tires and minor repairs, but his partner, Logano, had no damage and stayed out on the racetrack.
That meant Logano would restart near the front of the pack, while Busch would take the green flag in 28th. Busch and Brad Keselowski decided to work together in an attempt to charge toward the front of the field during the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, but a 15-car accident in turn one immediately after the restart brought out another caution before the duo could begin to really work together.
Several cars then had to pit because of the accident and Busch, who stayed out on the track, was able to restart in 15th on lap 169. From there, he and Gordon worked together and during the final, green-white-checkered finish, and they managed to move up to fifth (Busch) and sixth (Gordon) when the checkered flag flew.
“I can’t say enough about this Interstate All Battery Center Camry,” Busch said. “It definitely was a good racecar. I was working with Joey (Logano) all day long and it was really, really good. I can’t say enough about Joey and how well we worked together. Then, we got caught up in that wreck there. We came to pit road and had to fix it. We had a flat right-front. We got back in traffic and I worked with the ‘2’ (Keselowski) and they all wrecked down there (in turn one).
“We stayed out – a couple of guys came to pit road and we gained some track position there. Then, we got separated from the ‘2’ again so I just got with the ‘24’ (Gordon) who was behind me and he never lifted, I don’t think, the last two laps. So, we just dug a hole through the bottom side and made it up there. Again, I can’t say enough about this Interstate All Battery Center Camry. The guys did a great job for me and gave me a really fast racecar. I wish I could’ve worked with Joey and him or I could’ve won this thing, but still it was a good day.”
Busch’s JGR teammates – Logano, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry – finished third and 13th respectively.
David Ragan won the Coke Zero 400 to score his first career Sprint Cup victory.
His Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Matt Kenseth, finished in the runner-up spot as the race ended under caution. Logano, Kahne and Busch rounded out the top-five. Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard, Juan Pablo Montoya and A.J. Allmendinger comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were six caution periods for 21 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 170-lap race, which was extended 10 laps due to a green-white-checkered finish.
With round 17 of 36 complete, Busch continues to lead the JGR trio in the championship standings. He gained two spots and now sits third with 576 points, 10 markers back of new series leader Harvick. During each race, bonus points are awarded – one point for leading a lap, one point for leading the most laps and three points winning the race. Busch has accumulated 22 bonus points this season, more than any other driver. Harvick is next best with 20 bonus points.
Hamlin remained 11th in the standings with 495 points, 91 markers out of the top spot and three back from 10th-place Ryan Newman. Logano gained three spots and now sits 20th with 439 points, 147 markers behind Harvick and 59 back of Newman.