By Eric Mauk: James Finch didn't bother going to Sonoma to see his car run the road course yesterday, but Busch's strong effort may change his mind.
Phoenix Racing owner James Finch is an old-school stock-car guy. A Florida native, Finch grew up watching NASCAR’s finest do battle on the huge Daytona, Darlington and Talladega ovals – not on the road courses of Watkins Glen, Riverside or Sonoma.
His disdain for road courses appears to be such that despite the fact that Kurt Busch drove his team’s #51 Chevrolet at Sonoma yesterday, Finch stayed home and watched on TV.
What he missed was one of the tougher drives of the year by Busch, who carried a damaged car race all the way to the front and gave it a chance to win before settling for a third-place finish on Sunday.
“I want to thank James Finch who is at home,” Busch said after the race. “He said, ‘To hell with that road racing stuff I don’t need that’. Over the years, James Finch has only specialized in superspeedway cars. Now we are building mile-and-a-half cars, short track cars and they pieced this road race car together Monday at midnight. And here we are. We had a shot at winning.”
Busch recovered from a mid-race trip to the Turn 11 tires to resume the fight, but the contact left the Phoenix car with a broken panhard bar, which made the car a handful every time Busch powered into a corner.
I want to thank James Finch who is at home. He said, ‘To hell with that road racing stuff I don’t need that’.
“I made a mistake,” Busch admitted. “I got into those tires in turn 11 and for years they have never been bolted down. They were bolted down this time. It bent the right front up and it broke the panhard bar. I just made that one mistake and if you’re not perfect in this game in Sprint Cup then it’s tough.”
Busch was right behind eventual race winner Clint Bowyer on the green-white-checkered restart at the end of the race, eyeing a chance to take the #51 Chevy to Victory Lane. He ceded second to Tony Stewart on the last lap and ended up third, but gained the respect of Stewart for what he had to deal with on the last laps.
“What everyone probably didn’t see was that something was wrong with his car, Stewart said of Busch. “Something in the rear end was breaking and he was driving the wheels off that thing. I don’t know how he kept it on the race track. Every time he would go in the corner it would get tight on him. He did a really good job of keeping that thing going.”
The first chance NASCAR fans will get to see if Finch has a change of heart is on August 12 when the series heads to Watkins Glen for the second of the year’s two road-course events.