Monday, November 19, 2012

Gibbs Garage: Late-race fuel issue robs Kyle Busch of Homestead win

Kyle Busch chats with team members after the race.
Photo by Boris at http://facebook.com/joegibbsracing  
The Joe Gibbs Racing drivers each arrived at Homestead with one thing on his agenda – win the race. Kyle Busch hoped to end his string of leading many laps without taking the checkers. Denny Hamlin wanted to salvage his championship run with a great finish. Joey Logano hoped to visit victory lane in his last race behind the wheel of the No. 20 car. Although Busch came close, none of them managed to get it done.

By his own admission, Homestead-Miami is not Kyle Busch’s best track. “That track hasn’t been great to me,” Busch said earlier in the week. “It seems in a lot of ways like I’ve never been able to finish a race at Homestead. I always seem to run into bad luck there, and 2009 was my best finish.”

In the final race of 2012, Busch was able to beat that 2009 finish of eighth, by bringing his No. 18 car home in fourth place.

Busch qualified third and wasted no time motoring his dominant M&Ms Camry to the front, taking the lead less than 15 laps into the race. After a brief scare where his engine cut out momentarily, Busch went on to lead a race-high 191 of 267 laps. But with only 13 to go, Busch was forced to give up the lead to Jeff Gordon and head down pit road for fuel. He came back off pit road into 11th spot and drove back to fourth in the few remaining laps.

When asked when he knew it was going to be a fuel mileage race, Busch said, “You never really know until it comes down to the end, but at about 30 or 40 to go I started thinking, ‘Okay, how many of those guys can make it that pitted late?’ The guys gave me an awesome car today. It just didn’t have enough there at the end to play the fuel mileage game.”

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
Denny Hamlin hoped to celebrate on-track for his birthday weekend at Homestead, but it didn’t happen. He qualified 41st, then started at the tail end of the line after a crash in practice. Unfortunately, the No. 11 backup car just didn’t have the speed or handling to get the job done.

Once the race began, Hamlin grabbed track position in a hurry, gaining 20 spots in as many laps. Through the remainder of the event, Hamlin ran the FedEx Toyota in the high teens to low 20s. But with about 20 to go and running 24th, Hamlin’s engine was reported to be down a cylinder. Nevertheless, he held steady and crossed the line in that position, finishing the season in sixth spot in the Chase.

Hamlin tweeted: “Man I wanted to end on a better note than that. We just missed it today. Thanks to all of my team for a good year.”

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
After four years full-time with Joe Gibbs Racing, Joey Logano made his last start in the No. 20 Home Depot/Redbeacon.com car. Logano marked the occasion by qualifying on the pole, but started at the rear of the field in his backup car, after crashing in practice.

He worked his way up quickly, running 18th by the time the first caution flew on Lap 78. When the field was divided into two pit stop schedules, Logano ran as high as fifth. But after a two-tire pit stop, he lost ground quickly. When another caution came out, he took advantage of the opportunity to rectify his tire situation.

As the race wound down, Logano found himself up to tenth spot, but drifted back on the last two laps to cross the finish line in 14th.

In his career with JGR, Logano has two Sprint Cup wins, 16 top fives and 41 top-10 finishes in 147 starts. During his time at Gibbs, he became the youngest driver to win a Cup race with his 2009 victory at New Hampshire at age 19. Logano was also the youngest Nationwide winner at age 18, and has 18 Nationwide wins for Joe Gibbs Racing, including nine in 2012. He moves to Penske Racing next year to continue his racing career.

Logano sent out back-to-back post-race tweets with shout-outs to his teams, thanking the old and transitioning to the new:

“And that's the way the cookie crumbles. Thanks to all of @JoeGibbsRacing for 7 great years.”

“Congrats to my new team mate @keselowski and @penskeracing on bringing home the hardware.”

Final points standings for 2012:
Denny Hamlin – 6th (-1 spot; 71 points behind Champion Brad Keselowski)
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