The NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) entered the 2013 season today at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway where the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 54 Monster Energy team, with driver Kyle Busch, started strong with a seventh-place qualifying position, and continued with 22 laps led during the race event. The No. 54 machine was marred with a late-race engine issue that placed the team in a 32nd finishing position.
Early in the race the team discovered a tight-handling car when Busch drove out of the corners. He felt the condition worsened however throughout the race. Crew chief Adam Stevens tackled the condition with tire air pressure adjustments and track-bar changes over the course of five pit road visits. Another hurdle presented itself when engine temperatures appeared high. At the time, Busch declared he could stabilize the overheating issue, but knew it could grow into a larger problem by the end.
While battling through the condition, Busch found himself in the middle of a pack that ultimately elevated the engine temperature to a point that caused it to expire. Although Busch had led event laps and was trading positions within the top-10 competitors, the new team’s initial season run came to a close as Busch brought the ailing machine back to the garage, firming up a 32nd-place result.
Busch commented afterwards, “Last year we ran our cars at 260 (degrees) or 270 all day and today I was about 250 to 260 so I thought being less I was going to be okay and not hurt anything. I never really thought I pushed too much water out, but there at the end it just started to heat up, the oil temperature got hot and the thing never wanted to cool back down. I assumed it was short lived, what was going to happen.
Hate it for all my guys. It was entirely my fault – just pushing too hard during most of the day. Running behind Matt (Kenseth) there trying to get air and I couldn’t get air. He (Kenseth) kept backing up to me to get pushed and I’m like, ‘Man I can’t.’ I just went a little too long.”
Tony Stewart recorded his 19th Daytona NASCAR Nationwide Series victory, and seventh-time in the last nine season opening events. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Elliott Sadler, Matt Kenseth and BrianVickers finished 15th, 16th and 19th respectively. Sam Hornish Jr., Alex Bowman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch’s own team driver Parker Kligerman completed the top-five finishers. There were seven caution periods for 26 laps of the race along with 34 lead changes across 20 drivers.
The No. 54 Monster Energy team stands 32nd in the Owner’s Point standings, 34 points from the lead.
Kyle Busch Motorsports/Joe Gibbs Racing