Sunday, August 19, 2012

Gibbs Garage: Decent day for Hamlin and Busch while Logano gets re-acquainted with MIS garage

Mark Martin leads the field to the green flag at MIS.
Credit: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
Feast or famine was the theme of the last three races at Michigan for Joe Gibbs Racing teams. After a 2011 sweep, with a Hamlin win in June and a Busch victory in August, all three drivers ended up in the garage during this year’s June race.

In a turnaround for two-thirds of the Gibbs guys, Hamlin and Busch had respectable runs in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400, finishing 11th and 13th, respectively.

Denny Hamlin’s stats include two wins and seven top 10s in 13 Sprint Cup starts at Michigan International Speedway (MIS.) After rolling off 21st, Hamlin and crew spent the first half of the event fighting handling on the No. 11 FedEx Toyota. He stayed out during the fourth caution and gained track position, up to 10th place. But due to differing pit strategies, the next round of green flag stops shuffled him back to the teens. Even after taking only two tires on a subsequent caution, he ran back in the teens for much of the last half.

Hamlin led Lap 174 while green flag pit stops cycled through, then went in for two tires on the next caution and restarted in 10th spot with 14 to go. After the caution for the No. 48’s blown engine, Hamlin lined up 10th for the G-W-C, and held on to bring it home 11th.

Hamlin’s post-race thoughts: “We were a 15th or 20th-place car most of the day and through attrition and what not, we got a good finish. We definitely have a lot of work to do I feel like on all aspects of our car right now.”

Earlier in the week, Hamlin talked about his team’s need for a good finish in the upcoming pre-Chase races. “Darian and the guys have been bringing really fast race cars to the track. Hopefully we can get a couple more good runs in the next few weeks to solidify our spot in the top-10 in points so our two wins count once the Chase comes.”

Kyle Busch has a win, three top fives, and five top 10s at MIS. Although he led a total of 169 laps in 15 Cup starts at the track, he never made it to the front in this event.

Busch qualified 23rd, but like Hamlin, wrestled with poor handling on his car for much of the race. The Interstate Batteries Camry started out loose in traffic, with Busch complaining on the radio that it was “very, very inconsistent.” Busch spent most of the race running in the teens, with a few forays into the top 10. He was 13th when the last caution flew and ended the race there after the G-W-C.

The No. 18 crew chief, Dave Rogers, was tough on himself. “Everyone worked really hard and Kyle did a great job. I just didn’t put the right shocks and springs and bars in it - didn’t have enough speed in it," Rogers said. "Kyle did a great job of staying focused and looking at the big picture. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring a fast enough race car -  my fault.”

MIS has not been a happy place for Joey Logano this season, with both finishes well below his average of 18th. In fact, he’s probably spent more time sitting in the Cup garage than running on the track. During the June race, Logano’s day ended after he got loose, hit the outside wall, and then got knocked around by other competitors.

The Pure Michigan 400 probably brought a feeling of déjà vu for Logano. After starting 16th and running midpack, the Home Depot Toyota brought out the caution on Lap 88 and ended up in the garage again. After what appeared to be contact with the No. 42 car of Juan Pablo Montoya, the No. 20 car clipped the outside wall with his right rear corner panel. Smoke came from his blown right rear tire and he wiggled, grazing the wall again. The crew worked to repair the damage, getting Logano back on track around Lap 140 in 33rd spot, 49 laps down.

Late in the race Montoya hit Logano again, putting him into the wall and sending him to the garage a second time. Even though he was 68 laps down, Logano was able to finish the race running in 31st place.

Logano tweeted: “Not what I expected. Car was too loose around other cars and we got dumped. Off to Bristol still got a couple more shots at it.”

No changes in the points standings after Michigan:
Denny Hamlin – 10th
Kyle Busch – 14th
Joey Logano – 18th
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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