October 17, 2009
Busch Battles Back for Eighth-Place Finish at Charlotte M&M’S Team Rallies from Lap 120 Spin to Post 11th Top-10 of 2009Date: Oct. 17, 2009
Event: NASCAR Banking 500 (Round 31 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Lowe’s Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C.(1.5-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 10th / 8th (Running, completed 334 of 334 laps)
Winner: Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Kyle Busch battled back from a spin on lap 120 to finish a solid eighth in Saturday night’s NASCAR Banking 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway near Charlotte N.C.
The driver of the No. 18 M&M’s/Susan G. Komen for the Cure Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) fell as far back as 31st in the 43-car field, but rallied for his sixth top-10 finish in 12 career Sprint Cup starts at Charlotte.
“It was an up and down night, for sure,” said Busch, who had finished no worse than sixth in his four previous Sprint Cup starts at Charlotte. “Our M&M’s Camry started off pretty good. We had some track position to start and I was just being patient. Right before we spun, everything seemed fine, but it flipped the switch and it seemed like my right-rear tire was going and I ended up losing (control) coming off of (turn) four after that. We had a big hole to dig out of from there. We ended up gaining some spots back, but it’s tough to pass when you get back in traffic.”
After starting 10th, Busch, who sported a pink car and firesuit for primary sponsor M&M’s in support of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation and October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, quickly moved up to third by lap 16 and held strong within the top-five through lap 112. During the early portion of the race, the talented 24-year old reported that his car was tight in the center, but overall to his liking.
However, on lap 115 Busch radioed to crew chief Steve Addington that the grip on his right-rear tire had gone away. Shortly thereafter, Busch lost control of his M&M’s Toyota coming out of turn four. Miraculously, no contact was made, but the incident brought out the fourth caution of the day, whereupon Busch pitted for four fresh Goodyear tires.
But because the Las Vegas native spun exiting turn four and regained control while on pit road, NASCAR officials assessed a commitment cone violation, meaning that he entered pit road past the allowed entry zone. As a result, Busch was forced to restart at the tail end of the field in 31st position.
While the M&M’s team was down, they quickly showed they weren’t out. Busch methodically moved toward the front, rising to 22nd by lap 142, 14th by lap 190 and back up to ninth position by lap 194, all from a combination of Busch’s yeoman-like work behind the wheel and fast pit stops by the M&M’s team on pit road. Still, Busch battled a handling condition that made his car tight in the center of the corner and loose on exit. That, coupled with being mired in race traffic, never enabled the No. 18 team to get back into the top-five. Instead, they had to settle for a hard-fought top-10.
“It seemed like track position was even more important tonight than usual,” said Busch. “We got better, but just didn’t quite have enough to get back and battle with those guys in the top-five.
“Thanks to our guys for hanging in there with me tonight. We kept working on it and they gained me some spots on pit road and at least we ended up decent.”
Busch’s JGR teammates – rookie Joey Logano, David Gilliland and Denny Hamlin – finished fifth, 25th and 42nd, respectively.
With only five races remaining in the Sprint Cup season, Hamlin leads the JGR trio in the championship point standings, as he is JGR’s lone representative in the 12-driver Chase for the Championship. Hamlin fell two spots to 11th in the standings and is now 372 markers behind Chase leader Jimmie Johnson. Busch dropped one spot to 14th in the standings, while Logano maintained his 20th position in the standings.
Johnson beat Matt Kenseth by 2.303 seconds to win the NASCAR Banking 500 and score his 46th career Sprint Cup victory, his series-leading sixth of the season and his sixth at Charlotte. The three-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion is now tied with two-time Sprint Cup titlist Buck Baker for 13th on the all-time win list for NASCAR’s top division.
Kasey Kahne finished third, while Jeff Gordon and Logano rounded out the top-five. Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears, Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Kurt Busch comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 10 caution periods for 42 laps, with four drivers failing to finish the 334-lap race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Oct. 25 TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The race begins at 1:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ABC beginning with its pre-race show at 1 p.m.