August 3, 2009
Busch Soldiers to 16th-place Finish at Pocono
Date: Aug. 3, 2009
M&M’S Team Rebounds from Contact with Wall; Moves to 13th in Points
Event: Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 (Round 21 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Location: Pocono (Pa.) Raceway (2.5-mile triangle)
Start/Finish: 14th /16th (Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)
Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), rebounded from a late-race brush with the wall to finish a respectable 16th in Monday’s rain-postponed Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.
After starting 14th due to qualifying being rained out and the field set by owner points, Busch moved into the top-15 and stayed there for much of the first 150 laps around the 2.5-mile triangle.
While Busch, crew chief Steve Addington and the M&M’s crew methodically worked on the car’s handling throughout the first 375 miles, it was the last 125 miles that were the most interesting.
With the final scheduled pit stop of the 200-lap race taking place on lap 166, some cars opted to stay out and gamble on fuel, some pitted for only two tires and some, like Busch, opted for four tires and fuel.
The extended stay on pit road for four tires rather than two put Busch back in 19th, but with 30 laps remaining and four fresh tires, he was in great position to make a charge for a much-needed top-10 finish.
He began his surge toward the front when the green flag dropped on lap 170, and just two laps later, found himself in an incredible five-car battle for 12th-place with Scott Speed, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Mark Martin.
Unfortunately, as the five cars came off of turn three on lap 173, Busch brushed the wall hard with the right side of his M&M’s Toyota and dropped several positions. A caution just three laps later gave Busch an opportunity to pit for repairs, and once the No. 18 team completed its work, Busch restarted in 30th-place on lap 179.
Throughout the final 21 laps, which included one caution period, Busch managed to gain 14 spots and ultimately ended up finishing 16th.
“There at the end, we managed to salvage something out of a day that could have ended up much worse,” Busch said. “We ended up on a little bit of a different strategy than some of the other guys and the cautions didn’t fall right for us and track position was so important. We fought tight for most of the day, but it got loose on me trying to gain some spots after a restart. We just never really got the handling exactly where we wanted it.”
Despite not getting the desired top-10 result, Addington was able to take some positives from the day.
“I think we started off the best we’ve had here at Pocono,” Addington said. “We made a slight adjustment on it on fairly early in the race. One particular run we got really loose, but we weren’t making big adjustments there. We were just taking little swipes at it. We got it pretty good where he was fairly happy with it at one point.
“But it comes down here to two tires or four tires and when you pit for fuel. We played our strategy and the cautions fell and kind of got us behind. He got back in traffic there and drove it down into (turn) three and it got loose on him and he got into the fence. We had to come in and work on it and put tires on it. Kyle did a great job of getting back up to 16th. It’s a pretty decent effort from where we were about 25 laps to the finish.”
Busch’s JGR teammate, Denny Hamlin, won the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500. It was Hamlin’s fifth career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his third at Pocono. Busch’s other JGR teammate, Joey Logano, finished 27th.
Juan Pablo Montoya finished .869 of a second behind Hamlin, while Clint Bowyer, Sam Hornish Jr., and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-five. Brian Vickers, Martin, Gordon, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 10 caution periods for 39 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 500-mile race.
With 21 of 36 races in the books, Hamlin leads the JGR trio in the championship point standings, and his victory bumped him up one spot to fifth. He has 2,713 points and is 475 markers behind series leader Stewart. Busch gained one spot to climb to 13th. He has 2,462 points and is 101 markers arrears 12th-place Greg Biffle. Logano maintained his 19th position. He now has 2,165 points and is 1,023 markers back of the lead.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Aug. 9 Heluva Good! at The Glen road course race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. The race begins at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with its pre-race show at 1 p.m.