Monday, March 19, 2012

Gibbs Garage: Frustration at the Food City 500 for Joe Gibbs Teammates

Kyle Busch returns to the track after repairs
Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images

For the past two seasons, Kyle Busch needed a broom in Thunder Valley. His sweep of all three NASCAR races in August 2010 was followed by winning both events in March 2011. In 14 Sprint Cup starts at Bristol Motor Speedway, he has five wins, 10 top-10s and has led an incredible 1,375 laps.

But Busch’s day at the Food City 500 on Sunday turned sideways early on when he was swept into Kasey Kahne and Regan Smith, who were wrecking along the outside wall. Busch’s No. 18 plowed into the No. 5 car, ripping off much of the driver’s side door. After spending 72 laps in the garage for repairs, Busch returned to the race in 39th position, minus his hood and front fenders.

Thanks to the efficient overhaul of the racecar by the No. 18 crew, Busch was able to run pretty well the rest of the race. Crew chief Dave Rogers said he was proud of his team’s effort. “We picked up seven points by getting back out there and finishing the race the way we did,” he said. Busch finished in 32nd place with the Wrigley Doublemint Toyota.

Joey Logano had the best showing of the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers, finishing 16th for the second week in a row. However, it was a letdown after Saturday’s Nationwide race, where he started on the pole and finished 4th.

For most of the Food City 500, the Home Depot Toyota was tight in the center of the corners. During an almost 200-lap green flag run, Logano had few chances to pit for adjustments, so he went a lap down. Later he positioned himself as the next “Lucky Dog” recipient, but no caution flag flew.

Logano said, “We came out of Bristol with a car in one piece and a solid finish and we are still top 10 in points. We just need to work better at having a car that handles early in the race. It’s still early and Jason and I are still learning together. We will keep getting better and I still think good things are coming.”

“Top 10” seems to be the theme of Joey Logano’s season so far. He started in the top-10 the last three races and had top-10 finishes at Daytona and Phoenix. Leaving Bristol, Logano is entering his fourth straight week sitting in the top 10 of the Sprint Cup points standings.

Denny Hamlin didn’t have the best day on the track, but he stole the show during driver introductions as he danced down the red carpet to the song “Teach Me How to Dougie.” If you missed it, the video is well worth the view.

After rolling off 20th, Hamlin fought the handling on his car all day, starting out a little loose, then too tight for most of the race. Just past the halfway mark, Hamlin’s car had a loose right front wheel. He returned to pit road for the crew to check lugnuts, left loose on a recent stop, and exited the pits in 25th place, 2 laps down. The No. 11 FedEx Toyota got one lap back by taking the wavearound during the third caution, finishing in the 20th position for the second week in a row.

Hamlin summed up his day in a Tweet: “2 highlights of my day- driver intros and riding back to the airport after the race with @sarahpalinusa.”

The points standings for the JGR drivers after Bristol:
Denny Hamlin – 5th
Joey Logano – 9th
Kyle Busch – 15th

Beth Bence Reinke writes "Gibbs Garage," Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup team recaps, for the 2012 season. Her Skirts and Scuffs column, “Faith on the Frontstretch, explores the role of faith in motorsports. Beth is the author of Race Fans’Devotions to Go, a devotional book geared toward female NASCAR fans. Follow Beth on Twitter at @bbreinke or reach her at


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