Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gibbs Garage: Hamlin and Busch finish in top three while Logano casualty of on-track combat

Polesitter Kyle Busch takes the green flag at Phoenix
Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images  
With only a few laps to go, it looked like a triple top-five finish for the Joe Gibbs Racing organization. But when Jeff Gordon intentionally wrecked Clint Bowyer with only six to go, the ripple effect kicked in, taking out two nearby non-feuding drivers, including Joey Logano.

Logano started 15th and slowly clawed his way toward the front. He restarted in 10th after the third caution, lost some spots on old tires, but was in ninth with 60 to go. The No. 20 Dollar General Toyota ran in the top 10 from then on and was sixth with three to go. Logano’s run at a top-five finish was foiled when he got collected in the dust-up between the Gordon and Bowyer, and hit the wall hard. The car sustained too much damage to finish and ended up 27th.

“We had a top-five finish just taken away from us because another driver wanted to settle a score and didn’t think about the other people that would get caught up in it. It wasn’t what Dollar General and my team guys deserved today. We were closing on those guys for a top-five finish and then another driver just decided to take matters in his own hands and that was that.”

Damage to Logano's car after being caught up in the late wreck at Phoenix.
Credit: Boris at http://facebook.com/joegibbsracing
“It was disappointing and it was something I will remember for a long time. I just feel bad for my guys and Dollar General. This is not how I wanted to go out with them.”

Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch had fast cars and fantastic finishes, although Busch will probably count this race among “the ones that got away.”

To say that Busch dominated the Advocare 500 would be an understatement. The No. 18 M&Ms Camry was fastest in practice and qualified on the pole. Busch led three-fourths of the event for 237 laps and consistently ran in the top three when he wasn’t out front.

But after the seventh caution, Harvick passed Busch for the lead on the restart and kept it through the G-W-C finish. Busch settled for third.

“Kevin (Harvick) got out a little bit on me. Denny got alongside of me. Just made me really loose trying to battle with the 11 so I couldn’t even drive forward at all. We just basically handed the race on a silver platter to the 29.”

In fifteen career Cup starts, Busch had only one win at Phoenix and led an average of 18 laps per race. In light of leading the most laps and besting his average finish of 14th, Busch made a superb showing in this race.

When asked about his dominant car, Busch said, “Yeah, great car. M&M's guys gave me an awesome piece, and unfortunately there I gave the race away. You know, I hate it for my guys, and they worked so hard and they dug hard this weekend, and obviously having a car that's the class of the field you expect to win and you're supposed to win, but I guess I just didn't know how to win it today.”

Hamlin on track at Phoenix.
Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Denny Hamlin lined up third, moved up to second on the first lap and stayed there for 50 laps. He followed teammate Busch around until Lap 122 when he passed him to take a turn leading. Hamlin led twice for a total of 46 laps. Between Busch's 237 and Hamlin's 46, non-Gibbs drivers only led 31 laps the whole race.

After running at the front all race long, the No. 11 FedEx Toyota made it through the oil-slicked frontstretch to finish second. Hamlin got his first win at Phoenix this spring and now has seven top fives and eight top 10s in 15 Cup starts at the track.

Describing his run after the race, Hamlin said, “Treacherous. The racetrack is extremely treacherous. With these hard tires, you just can't get a grip on the racetrack. What happens now is everyone is just sliding around and sliding into each other, and of course it makes for excitement on TV, but obviously it also makes for championship implications as well.”

The whole FedEx team was on their game at Phoenix, including the pit crew. Kudos to the No. 11 over-the-wall guys for an amazingly fast stop of 11.8 seconds!

Points standings after Phoenix:
Denny Hamlin – 5th (+2 spots; 62 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 bbreinke@skirtsandScuffs.com

0 comments :

Post a Comment