July 27, 2008
Kyle Busch endures tough day at Brickyard for 15th-place finish
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (July 27, 2008) - Tire wear was the talk of the garage all weekend. Concerns for competition and safety were elevated on Sunday for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, so much so that NASCAR had to step in to implement mandatory cautions throughout the race. Kyle Busch and his No. 18 M&M's® Team proved to be strong for much of the day, as they led several laps before the halfway mark. A late accident on pit road caused the team to lose several positions for the final restart, but Busch drove back to earn a 15th-place finish.
"(We) just (had) to be patient and just (had) to pick your battles and choose them when you could," Busch said as he tried to describe his day. "The tire situation, there when we took two tires earlier in the day, it just wore out our right sides too much and we had to go back to taking four. We messed up on our strategy there at the end. We didn't take two early enough in order to get ourselves position. Then on the last pit stop, (Dale Earnhardt) Jr. ran over one of my guys and shoved him under the car. We had to wait for him to climb back out before we could drop the jack and that just killed our day. We were just trying to get out of the pits quickly and try to get some spots with the two-tire stop there. It just wasn't meant to be. It was a top-15 and we'll go on."
After several practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, teams realized how severe the tire issues were. They found they could run only seven to eight laps before tires were wearing down to the cords, something typically only seen after running three to four times as many laps than that in the past. NASCAR began to work with Goodyear to formulate a strategy for Sunday's race.
Ultimately, NASCAR decided to allow teams extra sets of tires, as well as ship in an additional 400 sets of tires scheduled for next weekend's Pocono race as a back-up measure. The other major decision from NASCAR was to enforce mandatory cautions at 12-lap intervals throughout the race, a strategy that was meant to look out for both competition and safety.
All day long Busch found his car to be fairly comfortable to drive. It wasn't too loose and it wasn't too tight. Only minor adjustments were made to wedge, track bar and tire pressure to improve the car. From a 19th-place starting spot, Busch made his way to the lead by lap 32. With so many short green-flag runs, passing was rare and track position was at a premium. Crew chief Steve Addington worked hard to gain track position on pit road through some early two-tire stops. Unfortunately that strategy only caused the tire wear on the right side to increase.
During the final caution of the race on lap 149, Busch found himself in 12th. Addington called for a right-side tire change only to pick up positions for the final restart. Just as rear tire carrier Kenny Barber was putting the new right-rear tire on, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was exiting his pit stall. Contact from Earnhardt, Jr.'s No. 88 into the used tire knocked Barber to the ground. The accident delayed jackman Jeff Fender from dropping the No. 18 M&M's Toyota until his teammate was clear.
The long pit stop dropped Busch to 17th for the final restart. In the final seven laps he drove up two spots to finish the race in 15th. With the result, Busch maintains a 253-point advantage over second-place in the points standings.
Denny Hamlin was the highest-finishing driver from the Joe Gibbs Racing camp. He was leading late in the race and finished with a 3rd-place result, boosting him to eighth in the points standings. Tony Stewart started in 14th but fell back to a 23rd-place. He remains 10th in the points standings.
The top-five from Sunday's Allstate 400 was book-ended by a pair of teammates. Defending series champion Jimmie Johnson started on the pole, led the most laps and went on to win for the second time at the Brickyard. Carl Edwards finished in the second position. Denny Hamlin, Elliott Sadler and Jeff Gordon round out the top-five.
The Sprint Cup Series will make its second trip to the Pocono Raceway next weekend for the Pennsylvania 500. ESPN will provide live coverage of the event starting at 1:00pm EDT. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 2:00pm. The Motor Racing Network (MRN) will provide live radio coverage.