Busch Brings Home Pocono-Best Second-Place Finish Consistent M&M's Pretzel Team Notches Eighth Consecutive Top-10 Finish Kyle Busch and the M&M's Pretzel team continued their string of front-running consistency in 2010, this time earning Busch's...
Busch Brings Home Pocono-Best Second-Place Finish
Consistent M&M's Pretzel Team Notches Eighth Consecutive Top-10 Finish
Kyle Busch and the M&M's Pretzel team continued their string of front-running consistency in 2010, this time earning Busch's best NASCAR Sprint Cup Series result at the 2.5-mile triangle that is Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The driver of the No. 18 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) finished second to teammate Denny Hamlin in Sunday's Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500, giving the organization a stout 1-2 finish at one of NASCAR's quirkiest venues.
Busch started from the pole and led four times for a total of 32 laps to bring home his eighth straight top-10 finish. He's now just 19 points behind championship point leader Kevin Harvick, with his sights set firmly on being in the number one spot when the checkered flag drops on the season finale Nov. 21 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"I'm really proud of the way that Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and these guys gave me a great racecar," said Busch, whose previous best Pocono finish of fourth came in his very first start at the Tricky Triangle in June 2005. "That M&M's Pretzel Camry was good. We kept messing with it all day, trying to make it a little bit better.
"Denny has this place figured out. I did the best I could. I went from about an 'F' at knowing how to get around here today to about an 'A,' and an 'A' didn't get it done. I'm really happy for Denny and the guys. It's good to see JGR running so well here."
After a rain shower delayed the start of the race by nearly 90 minutes, Busch led the first four laps before yielding to Hamlin. Over the course of the next 150 laps, Busch never dropped lower than fourth, with crew chief Rogers tinkering with ways to make the M&M's Pretzel Toyota better off turn one's exit, as that was the one section of the racetrack that proved the most troublesome for Busch.
While there were several long green flag runs, Rogers worked to improve the handling of Busch's ride with a mixture of track bar, air pressure and wedge adjustments during the course of the race. But as the marathon event wound down, strategy came into play during the third caution period of the day on lap 155. On the very next lap, Busch came to the service of his M&Ms Pretzel team, who gained their driver multiple spots off pit road, vaulting him back into the lead for the lap-159 restart.
"That was a really nice job by those guys on pit road today," Busch said. "I think that M&M's team is the best week in and week out on pit road. They are fast. They don't get the credit they deserve. I say it every week -- those guys win me a lot of races and get me a lot of good finishes. Today was another one of those days. Unfortunately, either I wasn't good enough or the car wasn't good enough to keep the lead all the times I got it."
As the race restarted with 42 laps to go, the caution flag waved again just two laps later. Several cars that didn't have the track position to win headed to pit road to top off their fuel tanks in hopes of making it the rest of the way without another pit stop. Rogers and the No. 18 team knew they couldn't make it to the end on fuel, so they elected to stay out and hold onto their track position.
As Busch fell back a few spots on the next restart, he and other front-runners caught a break on lap 168 when the track's yellow caution light blinked on again. The time to pit was now, and Busch made a fuel-only stop that would take him to the finish. The splash-and-go propelled Busch up two spots in the running order to 14th when the race restarted on lap 172.
With several other teams staying out and hoping to make it to the end, Busch appeared to have his work cut out for him. But, he patiently worked his way up four more spots to 10th when the next caution came out on lap 176. On the ensuing restart, the Las Vegas native again made several strong moves to gain position, working his way to third as the laps wound down.
But as leader Hamlin, second-place Tony Stewart and Busch were bearing down on the start/finish line to take the white flag for the final lap, Busch's other JGR teammate, Joey Logano, was spun by Harvick in turn three, bringing out the race's final caution and setting up a green-white-checkered finish.
With his fuel cell nearly empty, Busch saved as much gas as possible. He was able to slip past Stewart, who also had to feather his throttle in an effort to save fuel, but he just didn't have enough to get by Hamlin.
"I felt like if I had a shot at him, I better get alongside of him off turn one," said Busch of the lap-200 restart and his chances of catching his teammate. "I just could never get there. Got into turn one, saw him drive it off in there pretty far, and the '14' (Stewart) followed. I kind of braked a little sooner than I normally had been, turned to the bottom, got underneath both of them, and got a good run off of turn one. Tony (Stewart) and I battled it out, hashed it into turn two. We came out of there on top. We just set sail to the white flag and then the checkered."
Hamlin's win the Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 was his 12th career Sprint Cup victory, his fourth of the season and his fourth at Pocono. Finishing fourth behind Busch and Stewart was Harvick, while Jimmie Johnson Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya, Clint Bowyer and A.J. Allmendinger comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 27 laps, with 13 drivers failing to finish the 204-lap race, which was extended four laps beyond its originally scheduled distance due to the green-white-checkered finish.
With 14 of 36 races in the books, Busch continues to lead the JGR trio in the championship standings. He maintained his hold on second-place and now has 2,044 points and is just 19 markers back of series leader Harvick. Hamlin picked up two spots, rising to third in points. He has 1,927 points and is 136 point arrears Harvick. Logano gained one spot to climb to 17th. He has 1,585 points and is 478 markers down to Harvick and 101 points back of 12th-place Bowyer, who currently holds the final spot in the 12-driver Chase for the Championship with 12 races remaining before the Chase begins.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the June 13 Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.