Dover International Speedway
Busch Rallies From Last To Finish Fourth at Dover
M&M’s Team Notches Sixth Top-Five Finish of 2011, Remains Third in Points
Forced to start at the rear of the field in Sunday’s FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks because of an engine change, Kyle Busch immediately went to work on the 42 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers in front of him as soon as the green flag dropped on the 400-mile contest at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
The driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) put in a workman-like performance, using patience and tenacity to bring home a solid fourth-place finish.
“Considering how far behind we were when this weekend started, this was a great finish for our M&M’s Camry,” said Busch, who now has seven top-five finishes in 13 career Sprint Cup starts at Dover. “We had our engine failure in the first practice on Friday and I put it in the fence in the second practice, so I got us behind. It was my fault. The guys did an awesome job with what we had. We put something under it knowing this is how we ran here in the past, and it just didn’t work today.
“It seemed like it was really, really hard to pass, and a lot of guys really struggled with the rubber build-up on the surface, and we did too. If you can make up ground on restarts, you had to try to do the best you could. Fortunately for me, I was in the right lane and I could do that. I made the outside work. The M&M’s Camry for the first couple laps after a restart was pretty good, but then it seemed like you couldn’t go anywhere. We gave it all we had. We came from a long ways back and the guys on pit road helped me out, too. All in all, we’re happy to get out of here with a fourth.”
Even though he started last in the 43-car field, Busch moved up the leaderboard quickly. The talented 26-year old rose to 30th by lap 10, 20th by lap 30, and all the way into the top-10 following a two-tire stop by the M&M’s pit crew on lap 43.
Despite the steady march toward the front, Busch battled an extremely tight handling condition that was compounded by an overall lack of grip. Crew chief Dave Rogers threw everything he had at the M&M’s Toyota throughout the first three pit stops of the day, but to no avail. On the team’s fourth pit stop, Rogers made wholesale changes with air pressure and track bar adjustments, along with removing a left-rear spring rubber.
The changes made an impact. Unfortunately, the car’s handling swung the opposite direction – going from being extremely tight early in a run to being way loose by the end of a run.
Rogers had his next chance to fix what ailed the No. 18 machine on lap 218, using a combination of wedge and air pressure adjustments. While Busch said his M&M’s Camry was as good as it had been all day, it still didn’t handle the way he would’ve liked.
From there, Busch somehow kept his ill-handling racecar within sight of the leaders, and a top-10 finished appeared to be a lock. But a caution on lap 364 sent nearly everyone to pit road and shook up the running order.
Wily veteran Mark Martin elected to stay out, and by doing so, inherited the lead. Everyone else pitted, with a mix of two-tire and four-tire strategies. Busch took four tires, and lined up in 12th place for the final restart on lap 366.
... we ended up looking really good considering ...
From there, Busch put on a passing clinic, gaining six spots on the opening, green-flag lap and rallying to fourth by lap 369. He held that spot for the final 31 circuits around the 1-mile oval, bringing home his sixth top-five finish this season.
“We took four tires on that last stop and then we kind of worked our way up and passed most of those guys on the restart,” Busch said. “You just had to get as much as you could right then and there on the first two laps of the restart because after that you were pretty much single-file. It was a tough race for us, but we ended up looking really good considering how our weekend was.”
Busch’s JGR teammates – Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin – finished 16th and 27th, respectively.
Using a two-tire pit strategy on his final stop, Matt Kenseth won the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks to score his 20th career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his second at Dover.
Martin finished 2.122 seconds behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Marcos Ambrose, Busch and Brian Vickers rounded out the top-five. Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were six caution periods for 28 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish.
With round 11 of 36 complete, Busch still leads the JGR trio in the championship point standings. He remained third with 379 points, 37 markers back of series leader Edwards.
Hamlin moved up three spots to 13th in the standings with 304 points, 112 markers back of the top spot. Logano dropped three spots to 28th in the standings with 238 points, 178 behind Edwards.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the May 21 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.