ANOTHER TOP-THREE FOR BUSCH AT NASHVILLE Z-Line Designs Driver Perseveres Despite Handling Issues for Second Straight Third-Place Run A second-consecutive top-three finish in the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) was...
ANOTHER TOP-THREE FOR BUSCH AT NASHVILLE
Z-Line Designs Driver Perseveres Despite Handling Issues for Second Straight Third-Place Run
A second-consecutive top-three finish in the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) was a moral victory, of sorts, for Kyle Busch during Saturday's NASCAR 300 Nationwide Series race at Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tenn.
Fighting handling problems that ranged from loose on corner entry to tight on exit for the duration of the 225-lap event, Busch felt he and his JGR teammates had done well to keep the Z-Line Toyota up front for most of the day -- including a 10-lap stretch in the lead during the latter stages -- and be preceded by only race-winner Kevin Harvick and runner-up Reed Sorensen across the finish line when the checkered flag flew.
"It was a decent run for us," said the 24-year-old from Las Vegas, who finished second in last year's April race at Nashville before coming back to score his first career victory at the 1.33-mile concrete oval in the June event. "The car was challenging all weekend for us. We just never could find the balance that we were looking for. It was a good effort by the team. The guys did a great job on pit road all day. We made a lot of changes. There wasn't just one change that we made on a pit stop. We made about five changes every pit stop just trying to find something. Unfortunately, we just started so far behind the eight ball, to begin with, that we just had a hard time getting back to where we needed to be. The car was good, there, toward the end of the race and we were able to get a third-place finish. I'm pleased with the effort, a little disappointed by the result, but we could have been a lot worse."
It was the second consecutive third-place Nationwide Series finish for Busch, who came home third at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway two weekends ago after driving the Z-Line Designs Toyota to his first Nationwide victory of the season in February at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
Saturday's race turned out to be an exercise in perseverance for Busch and the No. 18 team. He started sixth and stayed in or near the top-five before pitting under green for wholesale changes on lap 102, which dropped him from seventh to 15th place. By lap 113, Busch was back to seventh, and then up to fourth when the team brought him in for another round of major changes under caution on lap 133. That dropped him back down to 13th, where he stood on lap 144 when crew chief Jason Ratcliff opted for a fuel-only stop under caution that would give Busch enough fuel to get him to the end of the race. He restarted in fourth, grabbed third from Paul Menard on a lap-152 restart, and then inherited the lead for the first time on lap 182 when JGR teammate Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski gave up the top-two spots when they needed to stop for fuel under green.
Busch led until lap 192 when the caution flag waved for the eighth time, forcing a call to pit for tires for the final 30-lap sprint to the finish. He restarted second, gave up the spot to Sorensen behind the race-leading Harvick, and just could not catch the two front-runners the rest of the way.
"On that last restart I just couldn't get to the outside of (Kevin) Harvick," Busch said. "If I could have gotten there, I might have been able to hold him off and get through (turns) three and four, but I just couldn't get there. It was a tough fight all day. Overall it was a good day. I have to thank the guys. They plugged away all weekend. They did an awesome job trying to come back. We fought through this thing. I can't thank Jim Sexton (Z-Line Designs President) and his wife Monica enough. Unfortunately, we just didn't quite have what it took to keep up with those guys today. We probably had a fourth- or fifth-place car and we ended up third. It was a good run for us, but we would certainly like to be up there fighting for the win."
Harvick finished .199 seconds ahead of Sorensen for his 36th victory in 241 career Nationwide Series races. It was his second victory and fourth top-10 finish of 2010 and his second victory and fourth top-10 finish in four races at Nashville. The third-place finish was Busch's fourth top-10 finish in nine races at Nashville.
Rounding out the top-five were Justin Allgaier and Brad Keselowski. Carl Edwards, Scott Wimmer, Logano, Michael Annett and Brendan Gaughan comprised the rest of the top-10.
The race featured eight caution periods for 43 laps, with 12 drivers failing to finish.
While Busch is not running the full Nationwide Series schedule, the No. 18 Toyota is competing for the owner's title, and it moved up one position to fifth in points after today's third-place finish in round five of 35. The No. 18 Toyota trails the point-leading No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing entry by 56 points. JGR has won the past two Nationwide Series owner's championships.
The next event on the Nationwide Series schedule is the April 9 Bashas Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Ariz.