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Kyle Busch Salvages Night With Top 10 Finish

July 2nd, 2012 by

Team Interstate Racing Wrap-up for June 30-July 1, 2012:

Quick work by the No. 18 crew kept Kyle Busch on the lead lap despite some mechanical problems.

Quick work by the No. 18 crew kept Kyle Busch on the lead lap despite some mechanical problems. Copyright 2012 Autostock Images

The finishing position in the final box score didn’t tell the story of Kyle Busch’s race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.

Busch, the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s/Interstate Batteries® Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), led five times for a race-high 118 laps, but a broken shock mount sent him to pit road for repairs under caution on lap 211. Despite the setback, stellar work by the M&M’s team to fix the damaged part without losing a lap, coupled with an impressive rally by Busch, delivered the eighth top-10 finish of the season.

“Tough night once again with our M&M’s Red, White and Blue Camry,” said Busch, who won the inaugural Sprint Cup Series race last year at Kentucky. “Just had to persevere and try to get through the best we could. We broke a shock mount. Then it broke the shock, and I just had to hold on after that, so tough night again for these M&M’s guys. They busted their butts to fix it under caution, and we salvaged a heck of a finish for what all we had to go through. Definitely not any fun to drive, but had to do what we could on three pogo sticks until we could pit and fix it.”

After starting second, Busch showed the strength of his Camry from the drop of the green flag, snagging the lead on lap one, and only giving it up for brief periods over the first half of the 400-mile race. But while leading on lap 118, Las Vegas native Busch got too high exiting turn 2 and brushed the outside SAFER Barrier twice. Despite some light right-side damage, Busch continued to lead until the caution waved, and he brought his M&M’s Camry to pit road on lap 126.

Denny Hamlin finished third Saturday night. Before the race, he announced that he had signed a contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Denny Hamlin finished third Saturday night. Before the race, he announced that he had signed a contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing. Copyright 2012 Autostock Images

From that point forward, Busch fought tight handling and a lack of front grip. He dropped to third by lap 135 and fifth by lap 162. But on lap 187, Busch radioed to crew chief Dave Rogers that something was terribly wrong with the right-rear of the car, guessing it felt like a broken shock. Despite the issue, he muscled his way around the 1.5-mile oval on three good shocks while only losing one position. Then on lap 210, Busch and the No. 18 team got the much-needed break they sought when the caution waved.

Busch pitted four times during the caution, as the No.18 team changed both the shock and the shock mount – a very difficult task – without losing a lap. Busch restarted on the tail end of the lead lap in 19th place on lap 218. From there, Busch put on quite a performance, picking his way through the field and gaining nine spots over the final 56 laps of the race, which went caution-free the remainder of the 267-lap distance.

“I’m really proud of this M&M’s Toyota Camry group,” Rogers said. “One thing that we said we had to work on this year was overcoming adversity, and the last several weeks have given us our fair share of adversity. I think we did a really good job this week of overcoming it, staying focused and getting the best finish possible. Kyle (Busch) was driving a great race. We had a really fast race car, and we had a mechanical failure in the back of the car.

“It’s definitely something we need to go back to the shop and fix and make sure that never happens again.”

Busch’s Team Interstate companions – Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry, and Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry – finished third and 22nd, respectively.

With round 17 of 36 complete, Hamlin leads the JGR trio in the championship point standings. He gained three spots and sits fifth with 565 points, 68 behind series leader Matt Kenseth. Busch stands 12th with 495 points, 138 out of first. Logano lost one spot and sits 16th with 463 points, 170 away from the top spot.

TOP 10
1 Matt Kenseth 633 Leader 0 1 8 12
2 +1 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 622 -11 0 1 7 13
3 +1 Jimmie Johnson 610 -23 1 2 9 13
4 -2 Greg Biffle 608 -25 2 1 8 10
5 +3 Denny Hamlin 565 -68 1 2 8 9
6 Kevin Harvick 565 -68 0 0 3 8
7 Clint Bowyer 557 -76 0 1 3 9
8 +1 Martin Truex Jr. 556 -77 1 0 4 9
9 -4 Tony Stewart 545 -88 0 2 7 8
10 Brad Keselowski 537 -96 0 3 5 7
12 Kyle Busch 495 -138 0 1 5 8
16 -1 Joey Logano 463 -170 1 1 1 6

NHRA Pro Stock: Edwards Bounced in Semifinals

Team Interstate’s Mike Edwards wheeled his Penhall/K&N/Interstate Batteries Pontiac to a solid finish Sunday in Chicago. After qualifying fourth, he opened competition against Warren Johnson.

With a .018-second reaction at the start, Edwards never looked back and advanced from the round of 16, with a 6.63 to 6.66.

In the round of eight, Edwards got a gift when Rodger Brogdon fouled at the start, giving him a spot in the final four.

Greg Anderson ended Edwards weekend by a mere nine-thousandths to take the final-round spot.

“It was a good weekend, but we just came up short,” Edwards said. “We ran good, but not great throughout the weekend, and to win one of these races you have to be closer to great because the competition is so tight.

“We will take the next couple days and see if we can figure a strategy to be fast in hot and muggy conditions, because we know that is what awaits us in Norwalk come Friday.”

After 11 events, Edwards sits fourth in points, a little more than 200 out of first place, with only six races remaining to make the Countdown to Championship playoff.

NHRA Pro Stock Standings
Position  Driver   Points   PB
1 Greg Anderson  995 -0
2 Jason Line  893 -102
3 Allen Johnson  888 -107
4 Mike Edwards  783 -212
5 Erica Enders  695 -300
6 Vincent Nobile  694 -301
7 Ronnie Humphrey  519 -476
8 Rodger Brogdon  461 -534
9 Shane Gray  427 -568
10 Larry Morgan  403 -592

Next week: Kyle Busch sports the Interstate All Battery Center colors again in Daytona for the Coke Zero 400. NHRA drag racing heads travels to Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, and the motocross season resumes at the Red Bud Track and Trail in Buchanan, Mich.

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