July 7, 2009
Last Lap Fireworks Drop Busch from First to 14th in Coke Zero 400
Date: July 4, 2009
Las Vegas Native Involved in Last Lap Accident While Vying for the Win
Event: Coke Zero 400 (Round 18 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (2.5-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 8th/14th (Running, completed 160 of 160 laps)
Winner: Tony Stewart of Stewart-Haas Racing (Chevrolet)
Kyle Busch led only one lap in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, but that independent lap happened to be one lap short of allowing Busch to take home an Independence Day win.
The driver of the No. 18 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) was involved in some last lap fireworks on July 4 as contact with the No. 14 car of Tony Stewart thwarted a win just a few yards short of the finish line. Instead of celebrating his 16th career Sprint Cup victory and his second point-paying win at Daytona, Busch instead had to settle for a 14th-place finish.
“We went for it right there at the end,” said crew chief Steve Addington. “This is a product of restrictor-plate racing with these racecars. What are you going to say? Everybody on this race team worked their tails off and we had a good racecar. I can’t say anything. I’m not pointing any fingers at Tony. He was trying to win the race, Kyle was trying to block him for the win and we got turned around.”
Starting from the eighth spot, as the 43-car field was set by points when Friday’s qualifying session was rained-out, Busch quickly moved into the top-five by lap 11. Addington made adjustments to the No. 18 Toyota that progressively improved its tight-handling condition, providing Busch the opportunity to patiently click off laps as he rode in second-place for most of the event behind either Stewart or his JGR teammate Denny Hamlin.
The Fourth of July fireworks that undid Busch’s run to the checkers began when a late caution set up a double-file restart with just four laps remaining. Stewart led the field to the green flag with Hamlin on his outside and Busch settling in behind Stewart in third. While the field shuffled a bit on the restart, the fireworks commenced on the race’s final lap.
With drafting help from Hamlin, Busch was able to overtake Stewart on the outside as the duo came off turn four. As they crossed the stripe for the white flag lap, Busch led until the two returned to turn four for the final time.
As Busch hugged the yellow line and blocked Stewart’s first attempt at a pass with the checkered flag just yards away, Busch moved high to block Stewart’s second attempt to pass on the outside. Contact was made, and Busch spun hard into the SAFER Barrier that lines the outside retaining wall. To make matters worse, the No. 9 car of Kasey Kahne plowed into the rear of Busch’s car as it slid down the banking. The impact pushed Busch across the start/finish line before JGR teammate Joey Logano delivered another powerful hit to what was left of the No. 18 Toyota.
Despite the multiple impacts, Busch emerged from his battered racecar unhurt. Making it official was the obligatory evaluation in the infield care center, where Busch was promptly seen and released.
“It’s a big disappointment,” said Addington. “We sat there, Kyle was patient all night long and sat there and rode. Jeff (Dickerson, spotter) kept telling him to just click off laps and we didn’t have any power issues. We were just fine. We took care of our tires all night long to be there at the end because we needed to have a good points day and we were in a position to go for the win and he did and we end up wrecked. What are you going to say?”
With 18 of 36 races in the books, Hamlin continues to lead the JGR trio in the championship point standings, as he maintained his sixth-place position. He currently has 2,302 points and is 417 markers behind series leader Stewart. Busch kept hold of the eighth position. He now has 2,234 points and is 485 points arrears Stewart. Logano gained one spot and currently sits in 20th. He has 1,847 points and is 872 points back of the lead.
Stewart’s margin of victory over runner-up Jimmie Johnson was 0.110 seconds, while Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five. Marcos Ambrose, Brian Vickers, Matt Kenseth, Juan Pablo Montoya and Elliott Sadler comprised the remainder of the top-10. Logano finished 19th.
There were eight caution periods for 30 laps, with six drivers failing to finish the 400-mile race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the July 11 LifeLock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. The race begins at 8 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by TNT beginning with its pre-race show at 7:30 p.m.