April 27, 2009
Late-Race Accident Spoils Shot at Victory for Busch
Date: April 26, 2009
Pedigree Team Leads Race-High 42 Laps, but Lap-171 Spin Ends Strong Run
Event: Aaron’s 499 (Round 9 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Talladega (AL) Superspeedway (2.66-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 23rd/25th (Running, completed 187 of 188 laps)
Winner: Brad Keselowski of Phoenix Racing (Chevrolet)
Anytime the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at the mammoth 2.66-mile Talladega (AL) Superspeedway, the eventual race winner has to be both good and lucky. Although Kyle Busch was quite good on Sunday afternoon in the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega, as he lead four times for a race high 43 laps, it turns out he wasn’t quite as lucky.
The driver of the No. 18 Pedigree Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) was involved in two separate accidents on an especially wild day of restrictor-plate racing, with the second wreck coming after contact with Jeff Burton on lap 171 that eventually relegated him to a disappointing 25th-place finish.
The talented 23-year old started the 500-mile race in the 23rd position and was content to fall back early on to avoid the inevitable multi-car pile-ups that come with regularity at Talladega. Unfourtantely for Busch and the rest of the 43-car field, the inevitable didn’t take long, as an incident that started with contact between Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon triggered a 16-car melee on just the seventh lap. While Busch was hanging back hoping to stay out of the “Big One,” he was rear-ended by another car trying to avoid the trouble up ahead.
While there was damage to the rear bumper and additional damage to the right-rear quarterpanel, the Pedigree team quickly went to work and fixed Busch’s Toyota over the course of four consecutive pit stops as the race ran under caution. The No. 18 team did such a good job that Busch was able to move all the way back up from 28th to the top-five in just eight laps after the green flag waved.
“The Pedigree Toyota Camry was very strong. I’m very proud of my guys,” said crew chief Steve Addington. “They fixed the damage to the right side and we came back to lead the most laps again. We’ve been doing this a lot lately and not getting the finish out of it. It was a good effort for the team and a good effort for everybody on the 18 car.”
Busch rode near the front of the field for the majority of the next 160 laps, but with the miles winding down, chaos erupted yet again when Busch was bumped from behind by Jeff Burton. At first, it appeared as if Busch was going to be able to save his Pedigree Toyota, but he couldn’t quite hold on and spun around while entering into turn four. To add insult to injury, Busch was unable to refire his racecar as it sat on the apron of the corner, and he had to wait for a track safety vehicle for a push to pit road. By that time, the pace car had passed the No. 18 Toyota and put Busch a lap down. With only 15 laps remaining in the 188-lap race, all he could do was ride around and hope to gain some additional positions due to more attrition.
It was another disappointing end to a promising day for the second-year JGR driver.
“It’s just a product of this racing with this car here,” said Addington of the contact with the No. 31 car. “Burton came by and said he was sorry. He said he was trying to help him and he just spun him out – that it was totally his fault and he didn’t mean to and that he was trying to help so what are you going to do? It was like this before and it’s going to always be like this when we come to these places. You just hang on and hope that you’re in the right line and that the spotter and the driver pick the right line at the end of the race to go win it. I think we’ve been pretty good at these places, so I can’t complain a whole lot.”
Busch’s JGR teammates – Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin – finished ninth and 22nd, respectively.
With nine of 36 races complete, Busch gained one spot and now sits sixth in the championship standings, where he is 175 markers behind older brother Kurt Busch, who took over the series points lead. Hamlin maintained the fifth position in points, 109 markers arrears Kurt. Despite bringing home his career-best Sprint Cup finish, Logano remains in the 33rd position, 146 markers ahead of 36th-place and fellow rookie Scott Speed.
Rookie Brad Keselowski beat Dale Earnhardt Jr., by .175 of a second to win the Aaron’s 499 and score his first Sprint Cup victory in just his fifth career start. Keselowski became the 10th driver to his notch his first Sprint Cup win at Talladega, joining Richard Brickhouse, Dick Brooks, Lennie Pond, Ron Bouchard, Bobby Hillin Jr., Davey Allison, Phil Parsons, Ken Schrader and Brian Vickers. Keselowski’s win was also the first victory for Phoenix Racing, owned by James Finch.
The victory came in wild fashion as Keselowski was engaged in a four-way duel with Earnhardt, Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman coming off turn four on the final lap. Edwards was leading with Keselowski pushing him from behind as the foursome entered the tri-oval when the right-front of Keselowski’s car made contact with the left-rear of Edwards’ Ford. The contact sent Edwards’ car airborne and into the hood and windshield of Newman’s car.
Edwards’ car continued in the air and into the catch-fence above the outside retaining wall along the frontstretch before coming to rest just short of the start/finish line. Newman managed to drive his crippled mount across the line in third behind winner Keselowski and runner-up Earnhardt. Edwards finished 24th.
Both Newman and Edwards were checked and released without injury from the infield care center.
Australian-born Marcos Ambrose and rookie and former Formula One driver Scott Speed took sports fourth and fifth, respectively, while Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, Vickers, Logano and Burton comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 33 laps, with 12 drivers failing to finish the 188-lap race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the May 2 Crown Royal 400 at Richmond (VA) International Raceway The race begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m.