Sunday, May 6, 2012

Gibbs Garage: Kyle Busch with runner-up finish in Talladega Sprint Cup race

Kyle Busch finishes second behind Brad Keselowski
Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
For the second time this weekend, Kyle Busch had a perfect view of the winner’s bumper crossing the finish line at Talladega. Busch placed second in the NNS race on Saturday for his own team, Kyle Busch Motorsports, and then earned the highest finish for Joe Gibbs Racing drivers in the Sprint Cup race. His record at Talladega is varied, with one win, three top 15s and five wrecks in 14 NSCS starts.

“We had a great M&M’s car all day,” Busch said. “Just a phenomenal job by this JGR bunch, they gave me a good piece and we were running up front there.”

After starting in the 21st position, Busch dropped back to 27th initially, then rebounded to 7th after pitting during the first caution. Busch made green flag pit stops with teammate Joey Logano and kept the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota out of wrecks all race long, running in the top 10 for the last half of the event. With last week’s win and this second place finish, Busch has jumped five spots in the points standings in the last two races.

When asked if he liked the type of racing, Busch said, “It’s what everybody wanted — we wanted to go back to the pack-style drafting and I think we saw that today. You saw two lanes, three lanes wide much of the race.”

Samantha Busch summed up her husband’s Talladega experience with this Tweet: “Great points day but man we were so close!! 2 non wrecked cars n two 2nd place finishes, very successful weekend!”

Denny Hamlin near the front of the pack
Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Denny Hamlin rolled off 22nd in the No. 11 FedEx Toyota and climbed to 8th place by Lap 10. But during the first green flag pit stop where Hamlin pitted without a partner, the crew had trouble getting the left front tire off, and he dropped to 32nd spot, one lap down. After getting the lap back, Hamlin lost it again on the second pit stop under green, but was running in the lead pack in the Lucky Dog position. When the caution flew for the big wreck on Lap 143, he got the free pass.

Toward the end, Hamlin led three times for a total of eight laps. On a restart with four to go, as Hamlin moved into the middle lane, AJ Allmendinger tried to block him and their contact triggered a multi-car accident. As he returned to the track after repairs, Hamlin’s left rear tire blew out, throwing shredded rubber into the cockpit and destroying the left quarter window. He finished 23rd.

“After we wrecked, it was a lot of tire debris — there was nothing to keep the tires from slapping the back of my neck when we were inside the car,” Hamlin said. “Really, it was unfortunate. Our car was super-fast. We came back from a lap down and had a shot to win, but it just didn’t work out.”

Logano involved in multi-car wreck at Talladega
Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images
Joey Logano says Talladega Superspeedway is one of his favorite tracks, and not just because he won the Nationwide race on Saturday night. He runs well at the track, with two top 5s and four top 10s in six Cup starts. Coming off the NNS win, Logano hoped to have a shot at another victory.

In pre-race remarks, Logano said, “It takes a special type of driver to do well there (Talladega.) You need to be patient and need to be precise. Then near the end of the race, you need to be aggressive and get yourself in a position to win the race.”

Unfortunately that strategy didn’t pan out this time. Instead of keeping him out of trouble, riding in the back contributed to the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota being caught up in multi-car wrecks. Damage sustained in the crashes took the car out of contention and Logano finished 26th.

Logano tweeted: “Well that sucked I ride around in the back all day to stay out of wrecks and I get in 3. At least we won yesterday.”

The points standings for the JGR drivers after Talladega:
Denny Hamlin – 4th (-1)
Joey Logano – 15th
Kyle Busch – 9th (+2)

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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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