February 14, 2010
Busch Not in Right Place at Right Time in 52nd Daytona 500
Date: Feb. 14, 2010
M&Mís Team Leads Three Laps but Finishes Disappointing 14th
Event: 52nd Daytona 500 (Round 1 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway
Start/Finish: 7th/14th (Running, completed 208 of 208 laps in a green-white-checkered finish)
Winner: Jamie McMurray of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (Chevrolet)
Kyle Busch showed promise throughout Sundayís 52nd running of the Daytona 500, but the driver of the No. 18 M&Mís Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) couldnít find the right line with the momentum needed to make a charge for the lead in the closing laps of the season-opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. As a result, Busch finished a disappointing 14th.
"We just didnít end up being in the right place at the right time at the end,"said Busch. "We had a pretty good M&Mís Camry and thought maybe we had a shot there behind Denny (Hamlin). But, those guys got together at the front and just killed our momentum and I ended up losing a bunch of spots because of it. We were just too far back on the last restart and I dug all I could but the bottom line just didnít go. Itís disappointing we couldnít find the right line in the end to get a better finish out of it since we were way better than that all day."
After starting seventh in the 43-car field, Busch hung around the top-10 for much of the first half of the race, even taking the lead from laps 95-97. In between two red flag periods that lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes and 45 minutes, respectively, to repair a hole on the racing surface in turn two, Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers battled a car that was bit tight on the bottom of the 2.5-mile oval but otherwise handled well.
Busch held his ground in the lead draft until the final pit stop took place just after the second red flag period was lifted on lap 167. There, the M&Mís team performed a perfect four-tire pit stop that helped Busch restart in the sixth position on lap 169.
While Busch dropped back a bit after the ensuing green flag, he worked his way back to the sixth position and appeared poised to have a shot at the leaders when the caution waved for a three-car accident with just five laps remaining in the raceís scheduled 200-lap distance.
The caution period lasted from laps 195 to 198, and after the restart on lap 199, Busch attempted to move toward the front when the yellow caution flew again on lap 200 for a three-car accident in turn three. At this point, NASCAR would make as many as three attempts to finish the race under green in its traditional green-white-checkered format, but only if a caution came out before the leader took the white flag for the final lap.
Two green-white-checkered attempts were needed, and during the caution prior to the first attempt on lap 203, Busch and JGR teammate Hamlin plotted over the team radio to work together over the final laps, as Hamlin restarted fifth with Busch directly behind him in seventh on the inside line.
But as the green flag flew on lap 203, the cars of Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle made contact and jumbled the entire field behind them. As a result, Hamlin and Busch lost much of their momentum and positions. To add insult to injury, the caution waved on lap 204 for another three-car incident that froze their positions.
On what turned out to the be the final restart of the day on lap 207, Busch sat in the seventh position on the inside line, but the bottom lane didnít have the momentum of the outside line, and Buschís attempt to race toward the front stalled.
"I think our performance was better than our finish,"said Rogers. "Kyle just said it was tough to pick the right line at the end, and this aero package has definitely made it difficult to race. I think even if youíre a little bit better than the guy in front of you, if you donít have a lot of help youíre not going to make the pass."
Buschís JGR teammates Ė Hamlin and Joey Logano Ė finished 17th and 20th, respectively.
Jamie McMurray won the Daytona 500 to score the fourth Sprint Cup victory of his career, his first of the season and his second at Daytona. It was McMurrayís first Daytona 500 victory as his other win at the 2.5-mile oval came in the July 2007 Coke Zero 400.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished .119 of a second behind McMurray, while Biffle, Clint Bowyer and David Reutimann rounded out the top-five. Martin Truex Jr., Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Juan Pablo Montoya comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine cautions for 40 laps, with 10 drivers failing to finish the race which was extended eight laps via the green-white-checkered finish.
With the first of 36 races in the books, Busch is 13th in the championship point standings and leads the JGR trio with 126 points, 64 markers behind series leader McMurray. Hamlinís 17th-place effort has him 17th in the standings with 117 points, 73 points arrears McMurray. Logano has 108 points and sits 20th in the standings, where he is 82 points out of first.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Feb. 21 Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. The race starts at 3 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 2 p.m.