Joe Gibbs Review: Jeff Byrd 500

Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR
And Kyle Busch sweeps Bristol--again!--to the tune of . . . cheers?

From one driver in Victory Lane to two drivers a total of 12 laps down, Joe Gibbs Racing had yet another bittersweet Sunday at the race track.

Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx Express Toyota (Started: 25, Finished: 33)

An early wreck forced Hamlin and several other drivers to take evasive maneuvers. Unfortunately for the #11, another driver evasively maneuvered into the left rear quarter panel of the FedEx Express machine. Hamlin went down a lap as his pit crew tried to bandage the crunched metal.

Things began to look up for the #11 team when Hamlin fought his way into the Lucky Dog position. He won back the lost lap when the competion caution came out on Lap 51 but never again attained higher than 29th position. The car, which handled well during practice and even ran in the top three, was loose and seemed to have a mind of its own. At one point, Hamlin commented that he was trying to hold the car straight while it steered itself.

Valiant attempts to fix the car brought Hamlin back to the pits during every caution. In the end, the damage proved to be too much and Hamlin ended up 11 laps down.

Hamlin dropped to 17th in the point standings.

Joey Logano, #20 Home Depot Toyota (Started: 18, Finished: 23)

Logano battled a mysterious problem that appeared to be engine related for the first 100 laps of the race. After qualifying 18th, he dropped to 25th by lap 63. He told crew chief Greg Zipadelli that he was losing power on the straightaways.

As suddenly as the problem appeared, it disappeared. Logano broke into the top-20 and passed lapped teammate Denny Hamlin on Lap 220. Logano continued to pick off his lead-lap competitors and managed to break into the top-10 with nearly 60 laps to go.

New troubles for the #20 on Lap 482 came in the middle of a long green flag stretch that found teammate Kyle Busch pulling away from Carl Edwards (#99 Aflac Ford Fusion) and Jimmie Johnson (#48 Lowes Ford Fusion). Logano salvaged the green flag run in spite of a broken wheel and made it to pit road without bringing out what would have been the 11th caution of the day.

The Home Depot pit crew was able to fix the wheel and Logano finished a lap down in 23rd position.

Logano is 30th in point standings for the second week.

Kyle Busch, #18 M&M's Toyota (Started: 12, Finished: 1)

Either Kyle Busch likes Bristol or Bristol likes Kyle Busch.

Since being repaved in 2007, the notoriously fickle track lends itself to clean racing, and the #18 of Busch was a fine example on Sunday afternoon. Though he qualified 12th, Busch wasted no time breaking into the top-10. By lap eight, he ran eighth.

Busch took the lead for the first time on Lap 84 but lost it to Martin Truex, Jr. (#51 Napa Auto Parts Toyota) just nine laps later. After a long green flag run in the top-five, caution number four on Lap 246 (brought out by Bobby Labote in the #47 Little Debbie Toyota) allowed Busch to get four new tires and make a renewed run for first.

On Lap 270, Busch reclaimed first from Johnson in the #48. Lap traffic forced the #18 to slow and allowed Johnson to pass Busch three laps before the day's fifth caution.

Busch kept running in the top three and reclaimed the lead on Lap 430, following the seventh caution. He continued to lead the field to green in the following three cautions, but the #99 of Carl Edwards and the #48 of Johnson battled Busch for first. On Lap 474, Edwards took the lead, but Busch surged back to the front and proved his was the stronger car just one lap later.

Lap traffic became Busch's final obstacle as he raced to the white flag. He held off the #99 and #48 long enough to give Joe Gibbs Racing their first Sprint Cup win of the season. This became Busch's 5 consecutive Bristol win (counting all three of NASCAR's national series), and second consecutive weekend sweep.

Busch's standard bow atop the winning #18 was met with more cheers than boos. Perhaps his statement during driver introductions readied the fans to see him in Victory Lane?

"Why can't we all just be friends?"

Busch rose to 6th in point standings.
Joe Gibbs Review: Jeff Byrd 500 Joe Gibbs Review: Jeff Byrd 500 Reviewed by Génette Wood on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 Rating: 5