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Las Vegas Nationwide Race Recap

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.

Sprint Cup Races in Vegas

Denny Hamlin would prove to be the biggest mover on the track today after starting from the back of the field following an engine change and climbing his way to a seventh-place finish to lead Joe Gibbs Racing in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Unfortunately Hamlin’s good fortune did not extend to his teammates as an engine failure left Kyle Busch with a 38th-place finish and a late pit road tire penalty limited Joey Logano to 23rd.

Hamlin qualified the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota in the 17th position but had to go to the back of the field to start the race. Often cited for his patience on the track, Hamlin certainly displayed that characteristic today as he methodically worked his way up through the field and into the top ten. Although he gained seven spots over the course of the first seven laps of the race, but Hamlin’s ascent would not always come that fast as the field spread out on green flag runs over the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Speedway. Hamlin continued to climb his way toward the front of the field however and by lap 174 he was closing in on the top ten. Once inside the top ten Hamlin continued to show patience and brought the No. 11 FedEx Ground Camry home with a solid seventh-place effort.

Joey Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in the sixth position and quickly proved that his qualifying effort was consistent with the quality of his car. In fact, Logano spent almost the entire day inside the top ten and really much of that racing inside that top six. As the laps wound down it appeared certain the No. 20 Camry would finish in contention for a spot in the top five, but as the teams hit pit road for a final time the Home Depot crew was assessed a tire penalty that would force Logano to serve a pass-through penalty and ultimately leave him a lap off the pace. Although in position for the lucky dog spot, the much needed caution would never come as the race remained green and left Logano with a disappointing 23rd-place finish.

Busch started the No. 18 Snickers Peanut Butter Squared Toyota in the fifth position and was strong through the early going of the race. Unfortunately the first sign of trouble would hit on lap 96 as a blown tire would take him up into the wall. Although he was able to get back out on the track and appeared to have time to overcome the setback, the No. 18 Camry would lose its engine about 20 laps later. With flames shooting from underneath the car, Busch’s day would be over just 107 laps into the 267-lap race, and the Las Vegas native would have to settle for a 38th-place finish.

Edwards captured the victory, with Tony Stewart second, Juan Pablo Montoya third, Marcose Ambrose fourth, and Ryan Newman rounded out the top-five. There were seven cautions for a total of 35 laps and 21 lead changes among 14 different drivers over the course of the 267-lap race.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will take a week off before returning at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 20. The race will begin at 1 PM ET with live, high-definition coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at Noon ET. The race will also be broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 128.

Kyle Busch One Spot Short of the Sweep

Kyle Busch was just a few laps from accomplishing yet another weekend NASCAR sweep, but he was forced to settle for a strong second-place finish in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. While Busch earned the second-place finish, his teammate Denny Hamlin battled to an 11th-place finish, while engine issues forced Joey Logano to settle for 33rd-place.

Busch started the No. 18 Combos Toyota in the fourth position but wasted no time in moving to the front of the field and claiming what was a familiar spot for him over the course of the weekend. Busch, who became the first driver to ever sweep a weekend with victories in all three NASCAR national touring series last summer in Bristol, entered the day with dominating victories already in the Truck Series race Friday night and Nationwide Series race on Saturday. In fact, Busch led all 200 laps in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race.

Busch was able to claim the lead early today and held that until the team made a decision to come to pit road following an early debris caution. The decision shuffled him back in the field, but a two-tire change on lap 51 would put him back near the top 10. On lap 59 Busch would get loose following contact by Ryan Newman and was forced down into the side of Carl Edwards. The contact required a trip down pit road, but the M&Ms team was able to keep Busch on the lead lap. Restarting at the back of the field on lap 67 proved to be good fortune however as Brian Vickers spun to set off a chain reaction that took out a number of cars in the middle in the field. Things started to settle down from there with longer green flag runs. Busch would get stronger as the race went on and pit strategy with about 29 laps to go would pay off as Busch, riding in second at the time, brought his No. 18 Camry down pit road for the final time one lap before leader Jeff Gordon. When the pit stop cycle was over, Busch was in first. He was able to get a great jump on the day’s final restart with 22 laps remaining to maintain the lead but Gordon was just a bit better on the long runs and went around Busch for the lead once again with just eight laps remaining. Busch held on from there for an impressive second-place run.

Denny Hamlin qualified the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota in the 12th position and had climbed into the top 10 by lap 10 of the race. An early debris caution allowed Hamlin to remain out on the track while many of the leaders made the determination to come down pit road. The track position proved vital as he would take the lead on lap 32. Pit strategy would continue to shuffle the field through the early portion of the race, but as the race settled in to longer green flag runs the No. 11 Camry was unable to make up the necessary ground to get back to the front. Over the last 22 laps Hamlin was able climb his way back toward the top ten to earn an 11th-place finish.

Joey Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in the sixth position and was solid through the early going moving up into the fourth spot. The team made the decision to come down pit road for fresh tires and fuel which caused a shuffle of track position. Shortly after a competition caution prior to lap 40 the team diagnosed an engine issue that limited Logano’s ability to power up to full speed. The result put him toward the rear of the field in 38th position. Amazingly Logano was able was to improve his position on the track while nursing the engine as he steered clear of several early wrecks. Unfortunately his luck would run out with just about one hundred laps remaining as his engine finally gave way. Logano, who had been as high as 24th, would have to settle for a disappointing 33rd-place finish.

Gordon captured the victory, with Busch second, Jimmie Johnson third, Kevin Harvick fourth, and Ryan Newman rounded out the top-five. There were eight cautions for a total of 43 laps and 29 lead changes among 12 different drivers over the course of the 312-lap race.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next Sunday, March 6. The race will begin at 3 PM ET with live, high-definition coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 2 PM. The race will also be broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 128.

 

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Kyle Busch Dominates Phoenix Nationwide Race!

Could there be a more perfect example of domination? Kyle Busch lead every lap Saturday during the 200-mile NASCAR Nationwide Series race in Phoenix. His white and green Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry started first and finished there, only to be challenged for the victory briefly by Carl Edwards during the final 50 laps. For Joe Gibbs Racing as a whole it was a stellar day with both Joey Logano and Brian Scott also finishing in the top-10.

Kyle would jump to a substantial lead at the beginning of the race and every restart thereafter. Often he was running more than a second faster than his closest competitor. However, as the race neared it’s completion, the No. 60 car started mounting a charge. Several times in the past, Kyle has dominated a race, only to be passed by Carl Edwards in the closing laps. Both he and crew chief Jason Ratcliff knew that they would have to stay on top of a car that tightened up after 20 laps if they were going to beat Edwards at the end. A pit stop with 33 laps to go meant the No. 60 would be right on Kyle’s rear bumper. Indeed, during the final laps, Carl would get along side Kyle using the inside lane, but was unable to clear the No. 18 Toyota for the lead off the turns. Without a doubt, it was a team effort that propelled the defending Owner’s Champions to victory as the pit crew delivered flawless pit stops throughout the day.

Joey Logano drove the No. SportClips Toyota Camry to a solid finish of 6th, but was never able to make a charge for the win due to his tight race car. Overall, it was an uneventful day for the 20-year-old who raced as high as 4th place early in the race.

Brian Scott, in his second race for Joe Gibbs Racing, battled a tight car as well, which saw him drop to 14th position during the first half of the race. Several adjustments to the chassis by his crew chief Kevin Kidd, good pit stops by his crew, and impressive driving by Brian later returned him to the top-10. Brian saved the car late the race when the rear end stepped away from him while running 7th. He would eventually come home in 9th position.

Stay tuned for more from Phoenix including quotes and photos!

Daytona 500 Recap & Photos

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The Daytona 500 took on a new look thanks to the newly paved surface at Daytona International Speedway, but high speed excitement remained the primary characteristic of the Great American Race.

Although all three Joe Gibbs Racing entries were able to avoid the big accident for the majority of the race, misfortune would ultimately find the trio before the end of the race and spoil any opportunity for the team to kickoff its 20th Anniversary season with a victory. Kyle Busch would finish the race in eighth, while Denny Hamlin came home 21st and Joey Logano ended in 23rd.

Throughout speed weeks it became evident that the fastest way around the track would be having two cars partner to race in pairs. While the style of racing created high speeds it also created a very slim margin of error as the slightest wrong bump could send cars spinning across the track.

Kyle Busch would have that experience on just the fourth lap of today’s Daytona 500 as contact with Michael Waltrip sent the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota across the track. Busch did a fantastic job however of staying off the wall to minimize the damage to the Camry. On lap 29 a large accident took out several contenders, but fortunately all three Joe Gibbs Racing entries were able to avoid the wreckage. From that point on Busch and teammate Denny Hamlin made a decision to take their time toward the back of the field in hopes of avoiding the potential wreckage of others.  With about 50 laps to go Busch made his way toward the front of the field and spent the rest of the day running inside the top 10 despite having to change drafting partners multiple times. Unfortunately for the M&Ms team he would radio in as the field prepared for a green-white-checkered finish that he had a tire going down. Busch brought the No. 18 Camry down pit road for fresh tires and restarted for the final time in 16th position. He was able to race his way back into the top 10 over the final two laps to finish the day in eighth place. He did manage to lead a lap on three different occasions.

Watching so many others get caught up in accidents through the first half of the race, Denny Hamlin seemed relatively content keeping his No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota toward the back of the field through much of today’s race. Once Hamlin decided it was time to go to the front however, it didn’t take long for him to get there. Hamlin got on the bumper of the No. 39 car and the FedEx Camry pushed the duo to the front of the field. He would take the top spot on lap 165 and spent the rest of the day among the leaders at the front of the field. Unfortunately for Hamlin he would be unable to avoid contact when several cars field wrecked in front of him with just four laps to go in the race. The resulting trip down pit road would force him to fall a lap off the pace and the FedEx team would have to settle for a disappointing 21st-place finish.

Joey Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota toward the back of the field but was able to find the partners to push his way toward the front. Logano proved strong enough to get to the front of the field when desired as he pushed Ryan Newman and Robby Gordon to the front of the field during separate runs. Misfortune would find Logano on lap 167 however, when Brad Keselowski lost control of his car and spun down into him. At first the damage appeared minimal but when The Home Depot Toyota came to pit road the right rear of the car needed more extensive repairs. Logano would lose two laps to field and ultimately finished 23rd.

Rookie Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 in only his second Sprint Cup Series start of his career. Carl Edwards was second, followed by David Gilliland, Bobby LaBonte, and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five. There were 74 total lead changes among 22 different drivers and 16 cautions for 60 laps. The race was extended eight laps for two green-white-checkered attempts.