Sunday, April 29, 2012

Gibbs Garage: Kyle Busch makes it two-in-a-row for Joe Gibbs Racing

Kyle Busch celebrates his Richmond win
Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Kyle Busch won’t need a fancy cake or party hat for his birthday this week. He’ll still be celebrating an amazing race weekend at Richmond - a double-layer win sprinkled with confetti! Wearing his owner hat on Friday, Busch watched older brother, Kurt, score the very first NNS win for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Then Kyle traded his hat for a helmet and took the checkered flag himself, giving Joe Gibbs Racing two Sprint Cup wins in two weeks.

Crew chief Dave Rogers said, “... hats off to Kyle. I think the key to the game today was Kyle kept us in it all race. He never got frustrated or discouraged.”

A confetti-filled celebration.
Photo by Boris at http://facebook.com/joegibbsracing
Now Kyle Busch has won the last four spring NSCS races at Richmond, breaking Richard Petty’s record of three successive wins. “I didn't even know that we were tied for a record, but it's definitely pretty special any time you're tied for a record with Richard Petty or you're able to break a record with that guy,” Busch said in a post-race interview.

Busch overcame multiple obstacles during the race. Early on he told his crew he had the worst aero in any car he ever drove at Richmond. A few laps later, he reported his cool box was broken. Prior to green flag pits stops at the halfway point, Busch reported the car had no rear grip. Then a miscommunication resulted in the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota sliding into the pit box.

Despite those hitches, Busch ran in the top five for the majority of the race and things got even better as the cautions and pit stops progressed. The crew gained four spots on one pit stop and Busch jumped from 5th to 3rd spot after a restart. After getting the free pass on caution number 4, he asked for changes to be undone next time in. The speedy crew sent him off pit road ahead of leader Tony Stewart with less than 10 laps to go. Busch credits the last caution with giving him the shot at the win. “It was a gift,” he said. “I just don’t know where it came from or what it was or anything, but it doesn’t matter. We came down pit road, and Dave Rogers and these guys went to work and gave me a great pit stop -- got me out front. Gave me the lead so I could restart the race how I wanted to. That was the win right there."

Two wins in two series wearing two different hats. Yes, Kyle Busch, birthday wishes do come true. 
Kyle Busch salutes the fans
Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Coming off a win at Kansas, Denny Hamlin hoped to win again at his home track. “It’s the first time in my career that I have gone to Richmond to race the weekend after winning a Cup race, so it’s a great feeling,” he said in a pre-race conversation.

Earlier in the week, Hamlin hosted his Short Track Showdown to raise money for the Denny Hamlin Foundation. “It has been really incredible, the amount of support we have received from people in the racing community to make this race what it has become in just five years. I can’t thank the drivers enough that are willing to come in early to participate in this,” Hamlin said.

Hamlin has a stellar record at Richmond International Raceway, with two wins, six top 5s, and 8 top 10s in 12 Sprint Cup starts. With an average finish of 7.6, he has the top driver rating at Richmond. After starting 7th, Hamlin never dropped out of the top 10, even running second for about 20 laps, but ended the day in 4th place.

Joey Logano had a busy week including tire testing at Pocono Raceway, commentating for SPEED TV during a NASCAR K&N Pro Series event and racing in Hamlin’s Short Track Showdown.

Logano lined up 18th for the Capital City 400 but fought a tight racecar for the whole event, finishing 24th.

Discussing the car’s handling after the race, Logano commented, “Needless to say, this was not the kind of night we wanted with the Home Depot Toyota. I don’t know if there was something wrong with the car or what, but we kept freeing it up and freeing it up all night long and it really made no difference. With the adjustments that we made, I should have been spinning out every corner but the car was plowing tight all night long. It just never got better.”

The points standings for the JGR drivers after Richmond:
Denny Hamlin – 3rd (+3)
Joey Logano – 15th (-2)
Kyle Busch – 11th (+3)

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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 bbreinke@SkirtsandScuffs.com

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