September 12, 2009
Busch and Team Put Forth Valiant Effort at Richmond
Date: Sept. 12, 2009
M&M’S Team Finishes Fifth, but Miss Chase by Just Eight Points
Event: Chevy Rock & Roll 400 (Round 26 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Richmond (Va.) International Raceway (.75-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 8th/5th (Running, completed 400 of 400 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), finished a solid fifth in Saturday night’s Chevy Rock & Roll 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. But despite Busch’s seventh top-five finish of 2009, he and the M&M’s team came up just eight points shy of making the 12-driver Chase for the Championship.
Brian Vickers – Busch’s primary competitor in securing a spot in the Chase – finished seventh in Saturday night’s race, giving him a season-to-date total 3,203 points to Busch’s 3,195.
“It’s a conglomerate of points that we sacrificed all year,” Busch said. “It’s unfortunate for the whole M&M’s organization. Victoria Mars was here tonight hoping that we could make it into the Chase for everyone there. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to. We didn’t have the best of years to be consistent, and unfortunately, that bit us. We can always look toward the rest of the year to try to win some races and go out with a bang and try to build on something for next year.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit this year with these cars for some reason. Last year I took to them real quick. Thanks to Joe (Gibbs) and J.D. (Gibbs) and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing. It wasn’t tonight – it was a good, strong top-five finish. That was a hard battle all night. My arms are sore, my back is sore, but it was fun to be able to race all these guys. Vickers put up a whale of a fight there at the end. I just want to thank M&M’s, Combos, Snickers – we missed it.”
Despite the disappointing outcome, the M&M’s team didn’t go down without a fight. Busch raced among the top-10 throughout the 400-lap race and the M&M’s pit crew gave him outstanding service throughout the evening, gaining him precious spots nearly every time the No. 18 Toyota came to pit road. In fact, the over-the-wall team did not lose a spot off pit road all night, and gained at least one spot on all but one pit stop.
“The pit crew has earned a steak dinner a few times here these past couple weeks,” said Busch. “They’ve done a phenomenal job. They kept us in the game tonight. We lost some spots on the racetrack. Every time I came down pit road, it gained us a spot or two, and when you’ve got a crew like that – that you can count on to gain you spots – it’s the world.”
With 20 laps remaining, Busch was seventh and Vickers was fourth with a 31-point advantage. Then the yellow caution flag waved, giving Busch one more chance to close the gap.
Quick pit work by the M&M’s crew got Busch out in front of Vickers and when the race restarted on lap 386. Busch was in sixth and Vickers was in seventh – giving Busch a chance to move ahead of him in points.
Unfortunately, while Busch got up to fifth, Vickers held off the hard-charging cars of Sam Hornish Jr., and Kevin Harvick to keep the 12th and final spot in the Chase.
“It’s very, very frustrating,” Busch said. “I’m heartbroken, but the good Lord put me in this predicament for some reason and someday I’ll find out what it is. Right now, I’m not quite sure. We’ll take this and go the rest of the year and try to win some more races. We just need to work on our consistency. We picked up at some tracks that we needed to and we faltered at some tracks that we thought we were good at. Just wasn’t our year and wasn’t meant to be for some reason.”
Busch’s JGR teammate, Denny Hamlin, beat Kurt Busch by .378 of a second to win the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 and score the sixth victory of his Sprint Cup career, his second of the season and his first at Richmond. The win was especially meaningful to Hamlin as he grew up in Chesterfield, Va., just 22 miles from Richmond International Raceway.
“Congratulations to Denny,” Busch said. “He’s wound up here about winning in his hometown, so congrats to the whole FedEx team.”
Four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon was third and Mark Martin was fourth. Clint Bowyer, Vickers, Hornish, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman comprised the remainder of the top-10.
Busch’s other JGR teammate, Joey Logano, finished 14th. He is currently 19th in the standings with 2,705 points.
Richmond marked the last race of the regular season, as the Chase for the Championship is now on. Representing JGR in this year’s Chase is Hamlin. This is Hamlin’s fourth appearance in the Chase. His best finish was third in 2006, his first full season of Sprint Cup competition.
Only the top-12 drivers in points are eligible to compete for the Chase for the Championship. NASCAR recalibrated the points for those in the top-12 as soon as the Richmond race was over, with each driver getting 5,000 points, plus 10 bonus points for each of their respective wins during the 26-race regular season. For drivers starting the Chase with identical point totals, their seed was determined by the traditional tiebreaker of best finishes beyond race victories.
Ranked in order of where their bonus points seeded them, the drivers competing for this year’s championship are:1.Mark Martin (5,040 points)
2.Tony Stewart (5,030 points, -10)
3.Jimmie Johnson (5,030 points, -10)
4.Denny Hamlin (5,020 points -20)
5.Kasey Kahne (5,020 points, -20)
6.Jeff Gordon (5,010 points, -30)
7.Kurt Busch (5,010 points, -30)
8.Brian Vickers (5,010 points, -30)
9.Carl Edwards (5,000 points -40)
10.Ryan Newman (5,000 points, -40)
11.Juan Pablo Montoya (5,000 points, -40)
12.Greg Biffle (5,000 points, -40)
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule – the first race of the 10-race Chase for the Championship – is the Sept. 20 Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. The race begins at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ABC beginning with its pre-race show at 1 p.m.