Last August Kyle Busch became the first NASCAR driver to ever a sweep a complete weekend with victories in all three of the sports’ national touring series events at Bristol Motor Speedway. His encore this weekend at the famed short track proved to be nearly as impressive, although with no Truck Series race on the schedule he had to settle for just two victories instead of three.
Busch, who captured Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday by leading 266 of the race’s 300 laps, would complete the sweep again with a strong first-place run in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Unfortunately the good fortune didn’t extend to his teammates as a late tire issue relegated Joey Logano to a 23rd-place finish and damage from an early wreck left Denny Hamlin with an ill-handling car and a 33rd-place finish.
Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in the 12th position and was stellar from the outset yet again. Navigating his way to the front of the field Busch took the lead for the first time on lap 85. From there Busch spent the rest of the day inside the top-five and much of that was spent trading out of the lead position with Jimmie Johnson. As the leaders came down pit road for the final stop of the day late in the race, Busch was running in the second position, but the M&Ms crew put together a stellar stop to put him back out in front. Busch knew what to do from there as he would never relinquish the lead and went on to capture his first win of the 2011 season. In all he would lead seven times for 153 total laps.
Joey Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in the 18th position and would report an apparent issue with his engine early in the race. Despite the problems he managed to race his way back inside the top 20 through the first third of the race and had entered the top 15 midway through the 500-lap affair. Logano continued to get stronger as the race went on and appeared set for a top-ten finish, but a problem with his right front tire following the day’s final pit stop would prove costly. The tire would give way with about 20 laps remaining and the trip to make repairs under green conditions would set him back several laps and leave him with a frustrating 23rd-place finish.
Hamlin qualified the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota in 25th position and found early misfortune on the tight confines of the half-mile track. With several cars wrecking in front of Hamlin on lap 28 he was unable to avoid contact and it caused damage to his No. 11 Camry. Although the FedEx team worked quickly to make repairs the damage affected the handle on the car and Hamlin was unable to keep it on the lead lap. Further diagnosis showed that the toe of his car had been knocked out causing an extremely loose race car and it was all Hamlin could do to keep the car on the track and out of trouble. He would ride it out to a 33rd-place finish 12 laps off the pace.
Carl Edwards finished second behind Busch, while Jimmie Johnson was third, Matt Kenseth fourth, and Paul Menard rounded out the top-five. There were 10 cautions for a total of 59 laps and 17 lead changes among eight different drivers over the course of the 500-lap race.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to the west coast next week at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA on Sunday, March 27. The race will begin at 3 PM ET with live, high-definition coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 2:30 PM ET. The race will also be broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 128.
It’s been seven months since Kyle Busch last visited Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and made NASCAR history by sweeping all three NASCAR national touring series races in a single weekend when he won the Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series races last August.
And in his return to the .533-mile oval in Saturday’s Scotts EZ Seed 300 Nationwide Series race, Busch showed no let up. The driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) was as fast as ever, leading twice for a race-high 268 laps en route to his 45th career Nationwide Series victory.
“It was all in the team,” said Busch, who started fifth but needed only 31 laps before he took the lead. “These guys gave me a great racecar. We unloaded yesterday and played around with a lot of different setups to see exactly what we wanted to put underneath this Z-Line Designs Camry and get it here to victory lane. It was a great effort by everybody.”
On lap 265 of the 300-lap race, Busch notched an impressive milestone – 10,000 laps led in Nationwide Series competition.
“Anytime you’re able to break any kind of series record with the likes of Sam Ard and all the guys who made this series what it is, it’s big,” Busch said. “Kevin Harvick in his heyday was really good, and that was just a couple years ago. Of course, Mark Martin in his time, and all the guys – (Larry) Pearson and (Tommy) Houston and all those boys. It’s cool and I enjoy it. There’s still plenty more time, hopefully, to make some more records.”
Busch now has 89 victories across NASCAR’s top three divisions (Sprint Cup – 19; Nationwide – 45; Camping World Truck – 25). He could add to that total again this weekend with a win in Sunday’s Jeff Byrd 500 Sprint Cup Series race.
“I wish there was more opportunities for this on Sunday,” said Busch, who has four Sprint Cup wins in 12 career starts at Bristol. “I know what these guys go through and what kind of stuff they do on a daily, let alone weekly, basis in order to keep these cars competitive week in and week out. It’s like J.D. (Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing) says, ‘If we’re not competitive and we’re not winning races, then we’re not going to be here very long.’ I feel like these guys thrive on success and getting to victory lane. I give all the credit to them, but I would say that for some reason the Nationwide cars just suit my style perfectly. I don’t know what it is. I’ve always been really good in the Nationwide cars, ever since I started. In my first race I finished second, and I’ve had a lot of great success over the years with Hendrick Motorsports and NEMCO Motorsports and now with Joe Gibbs Racing. All in all, it’s fun. Let’s go do some more.”
When Busch entered victory lane upon the completion of the Scotts EZ Seed 300, it marked his second Nationwide Series win of the season and his third at Bristol. He is now just five wins shy of breaking the all-time Nationwide Series win record of 49, currently held by Mark Martin, who won the previous Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas.
“You all keep making a big deal that Mark got one away from me, well I caught back up one today,” Busch told the assembled media in his post-win press conference. “There’s still a few more before I get there, but I’m sure he’s watching and we’re hunting him down.”
Busch’s JGR teammates – Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry, and Brian Scott, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry – finished fifth and 12th, respectively.
Finishing .524 of a second behind Busch in the runner-up spot was Kasey Kahne. Dale Earnhardt Jr., came home third, while Elliott Sadler and Logano rounded out the top-five. Harvick, Carl Edwards, Jason Leffler, Brad Keselowski and Aric Almirola comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 46 laps, with 12 drivers failing to finish.
The next event on the Nationwide Series schedule is the March 26 Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., where Busch is the reigning champion. The race starts at 5:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with its pre-race show at 5 p.m.
HACKETTSTOWN, N.J. (March 17, 2011) – Mars, Incorporated announced today that it is continuing its partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) through a new multi-year deal. The deal will extend the winning partnership that has brought the No. 18 Toyota to victory lane 14 times since 2008. The centerpiece of the partnership will continue to be the popular M&M’S® brand as the primary paint scheme on JGR’s No. 18 Toyota.
“From connecting with NASCAR fans to engaging our retail partners, our partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing has proved to be tremendously successful,” explained Debra A. Sandler, Chief Consumer Officer at Mars Chocolate North America. “We’re thrilled to extend this partnership and look forward to celebrating more wins both on and off the track.”
“Mars and its iconic brands are a big part of the Joe Gibbs Racing family and we’re excited to continue what has become a winning relationship,” added Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing. “We are blessed through our relationship with Mars and the privilege to continue our partnership for years to come. Their brands have been a big part of our sport for a long time and we’re honored to carry them on the No. 18. Everyone at JGR is committed to ensuring they experience the type of success on and off the track deserving of such an outstanding company.”
“Our partnership has worked so well because everyone at Mars welcomed us from the very beginning and it’s grown from there.” said Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Toyota for JGR. “This is great news for everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and our fans, but also shows how dedicated Mars is to our sport. We’ve really enjoyed our trips to victory lane with all of the Mars brands and we are committed to doing our part to continue a winning partnership and friendship.”
The multi-year partnership will continue the current level of Mars sponsorship of the No. 18 Toyota in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the sport’s top series.
About Mars, Incorporated:
In 1911, Frank C. Mars made the first Mars candies in his Tacoma, Washington kitchen and established Mars’ first roots as a confectionery company. In the 1920s, Forrest E. Mars, Sr. joined his father in business and together they launched the MILKY WAY® bar. In 1932, Forrest, Sr. moved to the United Kingdom with a dream of building a business based on the philosophy of a “mutuality of benefits” for all stakeholders – this vision serves as the foundation of the Mars, Incorporated we are today. Based in McLean, Virginia, Mars has net sales of more than $30 billion and six business segments including Petcare, Chocolate, Wrigley, Food, Drinks and Symbioscience. More than 65,000 Associates worldwide are putting our Mars Principles in action every day to make a difference for people and the planet through our performance.
Mars brands include: Chocolate – M&M’S®, SNICKERS®, DOVE®, GALAXY®, MARS®, MILKY WAY® and TWIX®; Petcare – PEDIGREE®, WHISKAS®, SHEBA®, CESAR® and ROYAL CANIN®; Wrigley – ORBIT®, EXTRA®, STARBURST®, DOUBLEMINT® and SKITTLES®; Food – UNCLE BEN’S®, DOLMIO®, EBLY®, MASTERFOODS® and SEEDS OF CHANGE®; Drinks – ALTERRA COFFEE ROASTERS™, THE BRIGHT TEA CO.™, KLIX® and FLAVIA®; Symbioscience –SERAMIS®, CIRKU™ and COCOAVIA™.
What does Bristol Motor Speedway mean to you?
“Bristol is such a special place to every driver. When you pull off Exide Blvd. and see this huge arena where we actually get to race, it’s unbelievable to me. My family attended a lot of races when I was growing up, and Bristol was one of the tracks we had to see. I came here for the first time when I was 13 or 14 years old and it has been special ever since. Pre-race gets your chills going and it’s awesome to hear the rumble of the cars inside the track.”
How special is it to have the race named after former track president Jeff Byrd?
“I have only been around for five or six years, so I didn’t get to know Jeff (Byrd) as well as some of the other drivers, but you can’t say enough about what he did for the track and their fans. He did a lot to make Bristol fun for the competitors, but kept it such a fun experience for the fans. Whenever people ask what track they should go see a race, I always tell them — and I’m sure a lot of drivers do, too — that they have to watch a race at Bristol. Jeff is a big part of that.”
How has the progressive banking changed the racing at Bristol?
“We’ve seen the new race track at Bristol provide great racing and great finishes over the past couple years. It just allows so much more passing. For me, it brings out the best racing. You don’t have to dump a guy if you’re faster than them. One thing that hasn’t changed is the trophy. It has been the same trophy for years, and I love the old-school type trophies. The Bristol trophy has a lot of history to it, and hopefully I can add one to my collection.”
As a basketball fan, who do you think will win the NCAA tournament?
“I am going to have to go with Duke this year. I think they have the coach and the experience to make a deep run in the tournament. It seems like a couple of those guys have been there forever, but that’s what you need when it’s ‘one-and-done.’ All of those guys went through it last year. I’m just surprised that the (Virginia Tech) Hokies didn’t make it. I thought they were in after they beat Duke a couple weeks ago, but I guess not.”
Las Vegas Recap: Denny Hamlin and the #11 FedEx Racing team posted its best finish of the season with a seventh-place result in the most recent race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (March 6). A pre-race engine change negated a 17th-place starting position and moved Hamlin to the rear of the field for the green flag, and the team was never able to capitalize on strategy to improve track position. Picking off positions during long green flag runs and tidy work on pit road helped the #11 Toyota move up in the running order during the 267-lap event won by Carl Edwards. The finish moved Hamlin up six spots — from 14th to eighth — in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings after three of 36 races, as the team heads east following an off-weekend for a 500-lap race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Hamlin is 18 points behind leader Tony Stewart.
Back at Bristol: Hamlin is making his 11th career Cup Series start at Bristol this weekend in the #11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, looking for that elusive first win on the half-mile, high-banked ‘bullring.’ The 30-year-old has three top-five finishes and five top-10 results in 10 previous trips to the track, including a second-place run in the spring 2009 event. Bad luck has bitten the #11 FedEx team a couple times in previous spring races at Bristol. In 2007, Hamlin led 177 of 504 laps before fuel pickup issues 20 laps from the finish caused intermittent power and a 14th-place result. One year later, Hamlin led 98 laps — including at the start of a ‘green-white-checkered’ overtime finish — when pickup issues arose again and yielded a sixth-place finish. Hamlin finished 19th in the spring 2010 event at Bristol after an early cut tire and contact with the wall caused damage to the #11 machine. A broken drive shaft in the most recent race at Bristol last August relegated the team to a 34th-place finish, 27 laps off the pace after extensive time in the garage for repairs. In total, Hamlin has led 282 laps at Bristol, with an average finish of 14.6.
Kyle Busch Quotes
How satisfying was it to win all three races at Bristol last August?
“It was pretty cool because, when you come so close and then don’t get it, it’s pretty frustrating. In 2009, we won the Truck race and we were leading the Nationwide race and we got crashed out, and then we ended up winning the Cup race. So, it was probably a year delayed. There have been some other times we’ve come close to getting it done at other places, too. It was pretty special. It was cool to be able to put it all together in a complete weekend, with the truck, with the Nationwide car and with the Cup car.”
What is it about Bristol that you’ve figured out?
“It’s just kind of really worked well together. It’s a fun place that you go to that you like going to. You enjoy the race around there. We grew up at the (Las Vegas Motor Speedway) Bullring and stuff like that. Maybe not as banked as Bristol is, but I love going and racing at Winchester (Ind.), Slinger (Wisc.), and Salem (Ind.), where I’ve raced before. Those are all really high-banked racetracks that are a half-mile in distance, or a quarter. They’re really fun to race around and you kind of get a great feel for racing in a bowl. You go down the straightaway and you slam it into the corners and you mash the gas and you kind of sling right back out of the corners. It’s a lot of fun to do that. It’s kind of an art. Some guys are really good at it, and some find a knack that makes them really good at it and make it seem easy. I remember last spring we were horrible there. You can definitely snap that string pretty quickly.”
What is it about Bristol Motor Speedway that makes it so unique and a place that fans love?
“Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the best racetracks on the circuit. All the fans love it because of the excitement, the run-ins, and the close-quarter action with all the cars being packed on top of one another at a half-mile racetrack with us 43 lunatics running around in a tight circle. With the fans, the atmosphere there always makes for a good time. We have the SAFER barrier on the outside wall taking up a little bit more racing room up off the corners since they’ve run the wall further down the straightaway. But it’s taking up some racing room and it makes the racing even tighter and we are probably going to see some more action.”
You’ve won four Sprint Cup races at Bristol. What is it that makes you so good there?
“I’m not exactly sure what makes me so good at Bristol. I’ve just had a lot of success there, but I’ve also had some misfortune there, too. Ever since I got through my rookie year, I’ve just taken a liking to the place. Of course, I’ve been able to get some help from my brother. He’s always been really, really good there. But when they changed the track to this current surface, I just really took to it right away. I really liked it and I’ve been fast there but, also, I’ve had great racecars from Joe Gibbs Racing. I’ve been able to win the last three Camping World Truck Series races there, too, so it’s just a fun racetrack no matter what series I’m running there. You really have to be on your game because, you make one mistake or someone else makes one mistake, like what happened in the fall Nationwide Series race there in 2009 with a car with a flat tire coming down the track and essentially ending our day, that’s it. Hopefully, we can keep that good luck going there in the Sprint Cup Series this weekend with our M&M’s Toyota.”
How have you had to change your driving style there since the track was resurfaced?
“Your driving style has had to change at Bristol a lot. Bristol used to be a track where you could charge the corners a little bit and get it right in and down to the bottom of the track. You kind of would go through the middle of the corner and then slingshot out on the exits. And now it’s just so smooth that you’re easy in, you’re kind of easy through the center, and easy off. The track is a little slower than I think it was because they reduced some banking in order to put sort of the progressive banking into it to make the outside groove better for the fans.”
What makes you want to race in all three series during the season?
“For me, it’s experience on the racetrack. You’re able to go out there and you’re able to spend the time on that Goodyear tire for that particular race track for that particular week, whether it’s a day race or a night race. You get all that experience in – that’s what I like to do. I learn so many things during the race that I can correlate to my Nationwide car or my Cup car. I like to be able to give that information to Dave (Rogers, crew chief). Another thing, too, is when I’m working with Eric Philips (18 Truck Series crew chief) and with Jason Ratcliff (18 Nationwide crew chief) – they have way different mindsets and thoughts and processes of how to make a vehicle go better and faster than Dave Rogers might have. I can take all that information I learned all the way back and forth across all three and try to increase the level of competition in all of those. My encyclopedia fills up quickly.”
Kyle Busch Notes: ‘You Belong at Bristol’
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (March 15, 2011) – Those who have seen the commercials for Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway over the last year are familiar with the tagline, ‘You Belong at Bristol,’ which extolls the virtues of the exciting racing and the overall fan-friendliness to be enjoyed on and around the .533-mile concrete oval, which has long been a fan favorite on the NASCAR circuit.
Much like Bristol’s loyal patrons, Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), also considers the half-mile track one of his favorites, and he’s very much looking forward to Sunday’s Jeff Byrd 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race there. Look no further than his recent record at the bullring nestled in the mountains of northeast Tennessee and it’s easy to understand why the talented 25-year-old has proven he belongs there, particularly in victory lane.
Busch didn’t immediately take to Bristol, however. During his rookie year in 2005, he posted finishes of 28th and 33rd. But Busch’s record in his last 10 starts at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” has been nothing short of amazing. After bringing home finishes of eighth and second in 2006, Busch captured his first Bristol win in March 2007. The track was resurfaced after that March 2007 win and, since then, nobody has been better at Bristol than Busch. The Las Vegas native has added three more wins, four top-five finishes and six top-10s in the last seven races contested on the current surface.
While those numbers are impressive, Busch’s most notable Bristol feat occurred in his most recent visit there last August, when he became the first driver in history to win all three of NASCAR’s national touring series events in the same weekend. Busch won the Wednesday-night Camping World Truck Series race, added a win in the Friday-night Nationwide Series race, then wheeled his No. 18 Toyota to victory and into the history books in Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race. Busch led four times for a race-high 282 laps in the Sprint Cup race, bringing his weekend total to 514 laps led out of a possible 956.
Busch is also nearing another racing milestone this weekend as he finds himself closing in on the 20,000 career laps led mark across NASCAR’s top three series. His current total is 19,079 career laps led in Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series racing.
With a scheduled 800 total laps of racing on the docket this weekend, Busch can conceivably take a huge chunk out of the 921 laps he needs to lead in in order to reach the magic number of 20,000. At the very least, he’ll be shooting for his fifth Sprint Cup win at the high-banked half-mile oval and look to prove once again why he belongs as Bristol.
Joey Logano Quotes
Logano Quotes on Bristol
“I like Bristol. It’s a fun track. I don’t think you will find a driver or a fan that doesn’t get excited for Bristol. But as for luck, I don’t have any there. Every time I go there now all I want is one uneventful race in the Home Depot Toyota. Hopefully we’ll have an uneventful race this weekend, that’s what I’m looking forward to there. We were doing great for 400 laps in March at Bristol, and then I got a speeding penalty on the only green-flag stop of the day. Fast cars have never been an issue, and we’ve always qualified well which is huge at Bristol, but for some reason I can’t get to the finish without something happening. That’s kind of been the story of this season too, so maybe Bristol is the place that will change all that. Heck, why not?”
The Home Depot Team Notes of Interest
Joey Logano is looking for his first top-10 finish at Bristol Motor Speedway and is hoping to do just that in the Jeff Byrd 500. Despite having great qualifying efforts at the half-mile track, Logano has been unable to finish on the lead lap in his four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts. Logano’s finishes are attributed to two blown tires (August of 2010), a pit road speeding penalty (March of 2010), an early-race incident (August of 2009) and an engine failure (March of 2009).
About the last race: The Home Depot Toyota was running in the 10th position at Las Vegas Motor Speedway when green-flag stops began on lap 235 of the 267-lap race. Zipadelli made the call for a two-tire stop on lap 241 to gain track position, but the NASCAR Official in the pit told the team there had been a tire violation on the stop and Logano would have to serve a penalty. It dropped Logano from sixth to 23rd and one lap down to the leader.
The Home Depot Team is currently tied for 28th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings following the third race of the 2011 season. The team has accumulated 53 points so far this season and sits 38 points out of the series top 10.
Logano will be back running double duty this weekend. Aside from piloting the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in the Jeff Byrd 500 on Sunday, Logano will once again race the No. 20 Toyota in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event on Saturday. Logano has two top-10 finishes in the Nationwide Series at Bristol in four starts.
Logano will make two public appearances at the track this weekend to meet and greet with fans. Logano will be at the GameStop display on Friday night for the Food City Race Night from 7 – 8 p.m. at the track, and Sunday morning he will make a stop at to the Toyota Pit Pass Stage at 9:30 a.m.
The No. 20 Home Depot Team is taking chassis #278 for Logano this weekend in an attempt to turn this 2011 season around. This is the chassis Logano drove to a fourth-place finish at Richmond last fall and to a 17th-place finish at Kansas Speedway. The back-up chassis is #275 that Logano most recently drove to a sixth-place finish at Martinsville Speedway in October.
How do you feel heading to Bristol this weekend?
“Racing at Bristol is like a knife fight in a phone booth. It’s a race that really gets you going. People always talk about the top speeds we do at places like Daytona and Talladega where we hit 200 mph. But 200 mph at those places feels nothing like the 150 mph or so that we hit at Bristol. Bristol is one of the most physically demanding race tracks we visit.”
How do you grade the 2011 season so far for the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Team?
“If I had to give us a grade it would probably be an average grade. Obviously it hasn’t been what we wanted but it’s not as bad as it could have been. We’ve been fast for the most part everywhere. We just haven’t really produced the finishes that we want. The finishes haven’t been as bad as the potential they had of being at both Phoenix and Las Vegas.
“There is a certain level of this that was to be expected coming into the new season with a new driver, new crew chief, new car – basically a new everything. There are a lot of unknowns so you have to plan for a little bit of that but the team has done a great job. We are looking forward to lowering the numbers in our finish column and start plugging away at this season.”
How much pressure do you put on yourself?
“There is pressure in any professional sport. It’s the nature of the beast. You can’t be a competitor for a living and not deal with pressure. I love it. The more, higher intense pressure situations the better I seem to do and the more fun I have. I love competition. I love pressure. I love for things to be put in my lap and it being up to me to go out there and get the job done.”
Shore Lodge Team Notes
Brian Scott will make his fourth career Bristol Motor Speedway start this weekend in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Scotts EZ Seed 300 in Bristol, Tenn.
In three previous starts at the half-mile track, Scott’s best finish is 15th place. Scott earned his best Bristol finish during the last Nationwide Series race to take place at Bristol – last August’s rain-shortened event.
In addition to the three starts in the Nationwide Series, Scott has two Bristol starts in the NASCAR Camping World
Truck Series. Scott finished 19th in his first ever Bristol start in 2008 and followed that up one year later with a fifth-place run during the 2009 Truck Series race.
Chassis #116 is the car Scott will race this weekend in Bristol. The car is a brand new chassis for Joe Gibbs Racing.
The backup car for this weekend is Chassis #106 which is also new for 2011. Chassis #106 was used at the test Scott participated in at the Walt Disney World Speedway in January and it has been the backup car for the last two Nationwide Series events.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series enjoyed an early off-weekend along with Sprint Cup Series teams last week. Scott took the time off to relax in Charleston, S.C.
To access information on Brian Scott and No. 11 Team visit: www.joegibbsracing.com and follow twitter.com/bscottracing and twitter.com/joegibbsracing.
Kyle Busch had the makings of another winning performance in Saturday’s Sam’s Town 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Unfortunately, the Las Vegas native’s drive for victory ended abruptly with an accident that left him a disappointing 30th at his home track.
The driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) led three times for a race-high 84 laps, but the lap-131 accident left Busch’s machine heavily damaged and unable to complete the full 200-lap distance.
Busch had the dominant racecar early in Saturday’s event. He wrestled the lead from Kevin Harvick on just the ninth circuit around the 1.5-mile oval and seemed to have the race firmly in control as he began lapping cars that were in the top-10. Just past the lap-120 mark, however, things got difficult for Busch.
Under caution on lap 126, Busch pitted for four tires and fuel, along with track bar, air pressure and wedge adjustments in hopes of remedying a loose handling condition that was beginning to hamper Busch’s car. Because there were varying pit strategies among the lead-lap cars, Busch was forced to restart in 10th on lap 129 as several cars ahead of him opted for fuel-only stops.
Busch quickly tried to make up his lost track position on the ensuing restart, and that’s when trouble struck. He maneuvered his Z-Line Designs Camry to the high side of the racetrack coming out of turn four and then shot down to the apron of the frontstretch in an attempt to pick up spots at the front of the field. Unfortunately, the left front of Busch’s car caught a patch of infield grass, which caused him to lose control.
The Z-Line Designs Toyota spun to the bottom side of the racetrack, and while Busch did a masterful job of attempting to regain control, he ran out of real estate and his car made contact with the inside retaining wall just past the exit of pit road. Busch was able to drive the car back to the garage, but the damage was too severe to repair.
“I had a really big run off the top and I didn’t want to go to the outside. I wanted to kind of get down and be on the bottom so I could get into the white line in turn one,” said Busch, who has failed to finish three out of the last four Nationwide Series races at Las Vegas. “I didn’t even make it that far. I got to the bottom of the ‘22’ (Brad Keselowski) and he came down to block a little bit. I didn’t want to run into him so I went into the grass and I know the grass typically doesn’t work, so I looked kind of stupid doing that. Tried to hang onto it, and just couldn’t get it back straight in enough time and got into the inside wall. I hate it for the guys at JGR and all the guys at Z-Line Designs and everybody that was out here cheering for us today. Another tough day in Vegas.”
Denny Hamlin didn’t gamble, yet he still came up short in Saturday’s Sam’s Town 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) finished seventh after leading twice for 28 laps around the 1.5-mile oval.
Hamlin and Carl Edwards were the class of the field in the last half of the 200-lap race, and after each pitted with less than 20 laps to go, it appeared it would be a battle to the finish between the two veterans. Unfortunately, a handful of drivers still on the lead lap had varying pit strategies and successfully gambled that their fuel could carry them to the finish. That left a disappointed Hamlin in seventh-place, while an equally disappointed Edwards finished just ahead of Hamlin in sixth.
“We knew it was going to be close,” said Hamlin, who now has three top-10 finishes in six career Nationwide Series starts at Las Vegas. “I knew some guys were going to stretch it to make it. You just hope that it doesn’t come down to that and it did.
“We were pretty good – better than I thought we were going to be today. It seemed like we were a little bit off on speed all day yesterday. We got a little bit of that back today. I have to say thanks to Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and this whole Interstate Batteries team. I’m proud of them. This is a new team with a new crew chief and everything, and it was a good experience.”
While taking a positive outlook after a tough finish, Hamlin obviously would have preferred to go head-to-head with Edwards in the final laps.
“We were so equal,” Hamlin said. “He was a little bit better than me on the long runs. That’s part of racing, though. You have to have the right fuel strategy and have everything go the right way, and it just didn’t happen.”
Brian Scott drove the No. 11 Shore Lodge Toyota to a 14th-place finish. Early in the race, while running in the Top-10, Brian made contact with the outside wall, damaging the right side of his car. A trip to pit road revealed only cosmetic damage was the result of the accident. One trip to pit road and several stops during later caution periods enables Kevin Kidd and the No. 11 crew to repair the car and return it to competitive speeds.
With 50 laps remaining, Brian was able to make a comeback and return to the Top-10. However, a stop for fuel with less than 5-laps remaining relegated him to a 14th-place finish. Though a higher position was wanted, Brian and the crew showed Championship form by not letting their early troubles define their race.
Mark Martin bolstered his all-time Nationwide Series victory mark by winning the Sam’s Town 300. It was his 49th career Nationwide Series win, his first of the season and his fourth at Las Vegas. The victory was Martin’s first win in the Nationwide Series since 2008 when he won at Las Vegas.
Justin Allgaier finished 1.221 seconds behind Martin in the runner-up spot, while Keselowski, Danica Patrick and Trevor Bayne rounded out the top-five. Carl Edwards, Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jason Leffler and Kenny Wallace comprised the remainder of the top-10.
In finishing fourth, Patrick became the first female to score a top-five finish in a Nationwide Series race. She is now the highest-finishing female in a NASCAR national series event. Sara Christian finished fifth at Heidlberg, Pa., on Oct. 2, 1949 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
There were six caution periods for 27 laps, with 15 drivers failing to finish.
The Nationwide Series takes a rare weekend off before returning to action for the March 19 Scotts Turf Builder 300 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with its pre-race show at 1 p.m.