Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Joe Gibbs Review: Subway Fresh Fit 500




Post-race media surrounding #18 Kyle Busch
Credit: Génette Wood

The Joe Gibbs Racing team finished all over the race board this week. In the Sprint Cup Series, the high note was a second place finish by Kyle Busch to the low note of a DNF for Joey Logano. One thing that the entire team seemed to have in common was that they all missed "The Big One." Six of the eight cautions in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 came out before the race reached its halfway mark and it only involved one JGR car (Busch's spin on Lap #59). After a long green flag run, Logano brought out the only other JGR-related caution.


Joey Logano, #20 Home Depot Toyota (Started: 6th, Finished: 33rd)
Sunday's race proved to be a tough one for Logano and the #20 Home Depot Toyota team. On the comical side of things, the race team's regular radio frequency happened to be on the same frequency as one used at a nearby golf course. On the negative side of things, a cylinder in Logano's engine let go around the time the second caution flag waved (Lap #34). Bryan Cook, who posts updates on the JGR Twitter account, praised Logano after the early engine troubles, saying, "He was upset when it first went sour, but he's cool now. This is mental discipline."

He continued to make a competitive run; however, on Lap #105 Logano was put a lap down by the current race leader Tony Stewart (#14 Office Depot Chevrolet). On Lap #218, Logano brought out the seventh caution of this eventful race when his engine finally let go. The #20 Home Depot Toyota limped back to the garage and Logano left Phoenix with his first DNF of the season.

Logano is currently 29th in the points standings.


Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx Toyota (Started: 12th, Finished: 11th)
The #11 FedEx Toyota team experienced an up-and-down race day at Phoenix International Raceway. Every time Hamlin made a great run, he would fall back somewhere near his original starting position of 12th on the grid. Hamlin worked his way into the top 10 and found himself in first position just a few laps before the second caution flag waved. A long stop on pit road shuffled him back into 12th position.

He claimed the lead on the restart following the red flag stop for "The Big One" but conceded the lead to Ryan Newman (#39 Army/Tornados Chevrolet) as his engine began overheating due to debris that was on the track.

The sixth caution fell within five laps of Hamlin's scheduled green flag stop. The #11 FedEx Toyota had not pitted after the red flag; therefore, it needed a full tank of gas and four tires which caused the team to restart 13th.

Again, Hamlin made his way back into the top 10 after caution number eight but slipped into his final position of 11th after being passed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. (#88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet).

Hamlin is currently 14th in points standings.


Kyle Busch, #18 Combos Toyota (Started: 4th, Finished: 2nd)
This weekend certainly started out charmed for the younger Busch brother. After dominant wins in both the Camping World and Nationwide Series, Phoenix fans expected Busch to take the lead early in the Cup Series race. After a brief battle with older brother Kurt (#22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge), Kyle did not disappoint and proved that he had a strong car that was fast. However, he lost the race lead to the #99 Scotts/Kelloggs Ford Fusion piloted by Carl Edwards.

The fourth caution found the spotlight yet again on the #18, when Busch forced the #99 of Edwards onto the rumble strips outside of turn three, causing Edwards to wreck. Busch took the blame for the wreck, saying over the radio, "We are just a ping-pong ball out there." Adjustments to Busch's car after "The Big One" shuffled him back into the top 20 but he quickly made it into the top 10.

After caution number seven, brought out by teammate Joey Logano, Busch restarted in the second position and looked to beat leader Jeff Gordon (#24 Dupont Chevrolet) for first. At 22 laps to go, Busch passed Gordon for the lead and extended it to a 15-car lead within two laps. However, Gordon reclaimed the race lead with just eight laps to go and Busch had to settle for a second-place finish. Busch, though disappointed, had this to say: "[Gordon] is my hero ... It's no surprise that he beat us."

Busch claimed the top spot in the points standings and heads to his hometown track of Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a three-point lead over the competition.

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