Monday, November 5, 2012

Gibbs Garage: Another top-five finish for Kyle Busch but Hamlin’s Chase hopes over

The Snickers Peanut Butter Squared car at Texas
Credit:Skirts and Scuffs  
It was another frustrating Sprint Cup race for Denny Hamlin and his No. 11 FedEx Office team. With his two wins at Texas in 2010 a distant memory, this time Hamlin just didn't have a car that would run up front.

Hamlin rolled off 12th, then ran between 11th and 15th until around Lap 190, when he briefly cracked the top 10. Shortly thereafter, the FedEx Office Camry dropped back into the low 20s, and finished in the 20th spot. Sadly, Hamlin’s Chase hopes for 2012 are finished, as he sits 73 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson with only two races left.

The weekend wasn’t a total loss though. Hamlin fared much better in Saturday night’s Nationwide race, bringing home a 5th-place finish in the No. 18 car.

The No. 11 crew hanging out on the starting grid
Credit: Skirts and Scuffs
Kyle Busch had a great day in the Snickers Peanut Butter Squared Camry. But mathematically speaking, perhaps the name should be changed to Peanut Butter “Cubed” for the Texas weekend, as Busch was stuck on the number three. He finished third in the NNS race, plus qualified third and finished third for the Cup race. Three thirds.

The first green flag pit stop gave Gibbs fans a scare. As Busch made his way down pit road, the No. 17 of Matt Kenseth was trying to exit his stall as the No. 18 car came by, forcing Busch to swerve and go past his pit box. The Snickers crew pushed their car back into the stall, but the stop cost them nine spots on the track, dropping Busch back to 11th on the restart.

Speaking of the No. 18 crew, they made a fantastic showing during the AAA Texas 500. Under the first caution, the crew gained their driver three spots, moving him to third place on the restart. More threes. After the fourth caution, Busch passed Brad Keselowski for the lead, and led 33 laps, until the No. 2 car took it back.

But under the next caution, the crew did a four-tire stop in 12.3 seconds, getting Busch off pit road in first place. He led again for 35 laps. On the next visit to pit road, the over-the-wall guys did even better with a 12.1 second stop, but with 19 to go, Busch restarted second behind Keselowski, who took only two tires.

When it came down to the G-W-C finish, Busch lined up behind Johnson and Keselowski, and couldn't get past the two of them as they battled for the lead. Busch took third for his fourth top-five showing in the last five races.

Busch praised his crew:“Can’t say enough about my team. All these guys -- they did a great job tonight. We had flawless pit stops that kept us up front all night long and got us the lead a couple times. We were fast out front.”

He added, “Good night for us. I wish we were in the deal, but that’s what next year is for.”

Joey Logano on pit road at TMS
Credit: Skirts and Scuffs  
Joey Logano had a fairly strong run in the No. 20 Home Depot/RedBeacon Toyota. He started sixth and even though the car’s handling was a little off, Logano ran the first half of the race in the top 10. As the sun went down, the car got really loose and he dropped into the top 15 for the second portion of the race. Even after cutting a tire on the last lap of the race, Logano managed an 11th place finish.

On Twitter, Logano referred to the similarities between this Cup race and Saturday’s Nationwide race, where he also fought a loose car, lost track position at the end and finished 10th.

He tweeted: Not a bad run for the @redbeacon @Toyota just lost the handle when the sun went down. Sounds like last night huh??

“That was a solid day for our Home Depot Toyota,” Logano said. “We just lost the handle when the sun went down and couldn’t really get it back. The car was just way too loose there at the end and even when we did everything to tighten it up, we just couldn’t get it to where I could really hustle the car. And then on the last lap, we just got run into and it put a hole in the left rear. Thankfully the tire didn’t go down all the way and we were able to get it home 11th.”

Points standings after Texas:
Denny Hamlin – 7th (-2 spots; 73 points behind Chase leader)
Kyle Busch – 13th
Joey Logano – 17th

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


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