June 14, 2009
Busch Finishes Unlucky 13th in Michigan’s Irish Hills
Date: June 14, 2009
M&M’S Team Battles Extremely Loose Handling Condition for Most of LifeLock 400
Event: LifeLock 400 (Round 15 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn (2-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 2nd /13th (Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)
Winner: Mark Martin of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Kyle Busch’s first of two visits to Michigan’s Irish Hills region was anything but lucky.
The driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) battled a loose handling condition for much of Sunday’s LifeLock 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, relegating him to an unlucky 13th-place finish.
“The car was just loose and we never did touch it, I don’t think,” said crew chief Steve Addington. “We got better for a couple laps and then it would just switch over to being loose. We’re going to take the car back to the shop and evaluate everything on it. We’ll look and see if something gave up or broke. We’re searching right now because he’s (Busch) been happy with the car in practice. We’re just scratching our heads right now to try to figure out what went wrong. We’ll get it. It’s still early. We just need to get some solid runs here to stay in this ‘Chase’ – up in the top-12. I thank everybody on this car for working hard. We appreciate M&M’S and Toyota and everybody for sticking with us.”
After a solid qualifying effort on Friday enabled him to start the 200-lap race on the outside of row one, Busch quickly took the lead from pole-sitter Brian Vickers by the time the field completed the first circuit. Busch held the lead for the first 10 laps, but the Las Vegas native soon began battling a loose handling M&M’S Toyota that allowed Jimmie Johnson to slide past him on lap 10. Busch wouldn’t lead another lap for the remainder of the race.
As the loose condition worsened, Busch dropped to the sixth-place prior to the first pit stop of the day on lap 39, where Addington threw air pressure and track bar changes at the M&M’S Toyota to help tighten up the car’s wayward handling. But after running just two laps, Busch radioed to Addington that the car was even worse than before, a trend that would continue throughout the 400-mile race.
For the remainder of the event, Addington made a bevy of changes to the M&M’s car, including more track bar and air pressure adjustments, along with spring rubber and wedge changes.
Making things even worse for the No. 18 team, the race featured only three caution periods for a total of 14 laps. The lack of cautions hindered Busch and Addington from getting more opportunities to make changes, as they completed an unusually small numbers of pit stops – five.
To add insult to injury, the race finished with a long, 43-lap green flag run where Busch and the remainder of the field were forced to conserve fuel just to make it to the finish, preventing Busch from making a hard run at anyone in front of him.
Busch’s JGR teammates – Denny Hamlin and rookie Joey Logano – finished third and 25th, respectively.
With 15 of 36 races in the books, Busch leads the Team Interstate trio in the championship point standings. His 13th-place finish maintained his ninth-place standing in the points, where he is 329 markers behind series leader Tony Stewart. Hamlin gained two spots to climb to 10th in the standings and is now 340 points behind Stewart. Logano maintained his 25th-place standing and is 744 points out of first.
Mark Martin beat Jeff Gordon by 2.992 seconds to win the LifeLock 400. It was his third win of the season, the 38th of his career and his fifth at Michigan. Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle rounded out the top-five. Juan Pablo Montoya, Stewart, Kurt Busch, pole-sitter Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were three caution periods for 14 laps, with five drivers failing to finish the race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the June 21 Toyota/SaveMart 350k at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. The race begins at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by TNT beginning with its pre-race show at 12:30 p.m.