May 31, 2009
Roller-Coaster Day Ends on a Down for Busch at Dover
Date: May 31, 2009
Broken Splitter Causes M&M’S Driver to Finish Disappointing 23rd
Event: Autism Speaks 400 (Round 13 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Dover (Del.) International Speedway (1-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 6th /23rd (Running, completed 399 of 400 laps)
Winner: Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Kyle Busch endured an up-and-down day at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, which ended on a down when a problem with his front splitter caused him to finish a disappointing 23rd in Sunday’s Autism Speaks 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), started sixth and struggled with the handling of his racecar right from the start of the 400-lap race.
Despite running in the top-10 for much of the first half of the race, Busch radioed to crew chief Steve Addington that he was fighting both a tight and loose handling condition, while also experiencing a lack of grip with the rear of the car.
Addington worked on the handling issues with a series of wedge and tire pressure adjustments, but it was a pit stop just before the halfway mark that caused Busch trouble. After coming in for four tires, fuel and adjustments with a flawless stop from his M&M’s crew, Busch returned to the track and told Addington the handling of his car had become much, much worse.
“We put a set of tires on there and they killed us,” Addington said. “I don’t know what the deal was. We made a little bit of air pressure adjustment and it just didn’t go with what we had. We backed up and went a lap down until we got the ‘lucky dog’ caution. We put our pressures back right and got another set of tires on there and it was pretty good. I think on that last long green flag run Kyle was quick as anybody other than the 48 car (Jimmie Johnson). We were in contention.”
Busch rallied from the mid-race setback and cracked the top-five by lap 329 and appeared to have a chance to contend for the victory. However, on lap 343, Busch radioed that he felt a vibration in the car and had to pit. The M&M’s crew, thinking it may have been a problem with a tire, changed right-side tires and sent him back onto the track.
One lap later it was determined that Busch had damage to the front splitter of his car and that it was causing the vibration. After two pit stops to repair the damage, Busch was able to finish the event, but could only complete 399 of the 400 laps.
“Something slammed the splitter – whether Kyle got into somebody with the right front and broke the splitter, and broke the braces out of the splitter,” Addington said. “He thought it was a flat tire because the splitter was flapping up and down and was giving him a vibration. He came on pit road because he thought he had a flat, but it was the splitter. It was just one of those days.”
Busch’s JGR teammate’s, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin, finished 15th and 36th, respectively.
Despite the disappointing finish, Busch remained sixth in the championship point race, 219 points behind new series leader Tony Stewart. Hamlin dropped two spots to seventh, 223 points behind, while Logano gained two spots to 23rd, 590 markers back.
Jimmie Johnson beat Stewart by .861 of a second to win the Autism Speaks 400. It was his 42nd career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his fourth at Dover.
Finishing third was Greg Biffle, while 2003 Sprint Cup champion Matt Kenseth and 2004 Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch rounded out the top-five. Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Casey Mears and Mark Martin comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 10 caution periods for 43 laps, with 12 drivers failing to finish the 400-mile race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the June 7 Pocono 500 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The race begins at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by TNT beginning with its pre-race show at 12:30 p.m.