July 11, 2009
Blown Engine Leaves Busch 33rd at Chicagoland
Date: July 11, 2009
M&M’S Team Endures Long Night in LifeLock.com 400
Event: LifeLock.com 400 (Round 19 of 36
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. (1.5-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 6th /33rd (Engine, completed 257 of 267 laps)
Winner: Mark Martin of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), fought a scrape with the wall and engine woes to finish 33rd in Saturday night’s LifeLock.com 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
After qualifying sixth in the 43-car field, Busch held his position within the top-10 until his first pit stop of the day on lap 40 of the 267-lap race. The pit stop went well, with the M&M’s team gaining Busch four spots on pit road, allowing him to restart the race in fifth when the green flag dropped anew on lap 43.
But shortly after the restart, things began to go terribly wrong for Busch and Co. Busch keyed his microphone and said his car “flipped a switch,” as it went from a tight handling condition to being extremely loose, seemingly in an instant.
As Busch fought a racecar that he described over the radio as “wrecking loose,” he did just that on lap 51 when he scraped the wall coming out of turn four as he battled his brother Kurt for position. From there, the M&M’s Toyota continued to drop back, as it was too damaged to keep up with the leaders. Exacerbating the situation was that the next caution did not come until lap 136, with the long, green flag run hampering crew chief Steve Addington and the M&M’s team’s ability to get an opportunity to fix the car’s damaged right side.
By the time the yellow caution flag finally waved, Busch was mired in 29th, two laps behind leader and eventual race-winner Mark Martin. To add insult to injury, Busch reported an engine issue on lap 186, three laps before his scheduled pit stop. And as Busch motored past the frontstretch in front of the pits, it became obvious to the crew that his M&M’s Toyota had lost a cylinder, and it was only a matter of time before the engine let go for good.
That moment came on lap 262. There, No. 18 team’s engine expired to bring out the final caution of the day. Busch pulled his car into the garage, resigned to a disappointing 33rd-place finish and his first DNF (Did Not Finish) since the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
Busch’s JGR teammates – Denny Hamlin and rookie Joey Logano – endured much better outings in the LifeLock.com 400 by finishing fifth and 18th, respectively.
With 19 of 36 races in the books, Hamlin leads the JGR trio in the championship point race. His fifth-place finish helped him gain one spot to climb to fifth in the standings with 2,457 points, 427 markers behind series leader Tony Stewart. Busch dropped two spots to 10th-place with 2,298 points. He is 586 points arrears Stewart. Logano maintained his 20th position and has 1,956 points, putting him 928 points back of the lead.
Martin won the LifeLock.com 400 in dominating fashion by leading four times for a race-record 195 laps to score his 39th career Sprint Cup victory, his series-leading fourth win of the season and his first at Chicagoland. Jeff Gordon finished .415 of a second behind Martin, while Kasey Kahne, Stewart and Hamlin rounded out the top-five. Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer and Juan Pablo Montoya comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were seven caution periods for 30 laps, with 10 drivers failing to finish the race.
The Sprint Cup Series takes a rare weekend off before heading to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the July 26 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. The 16th running of the 400-mile race begins at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with its pre-race show at 1 p.m.