September 20, 2009
Busch Rallies to Notch Fifth-Place Finish at New Hampshire
Date: Sept. 20, 2009
M&M’S Team Finishes Strong After Early-Race Struggles
Event: Sylvania 300 (Round 27 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon (1.058-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 9th / 5th (Running, completed 300 of 300 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), finished a solid fifth in Sunday’s Sylvania 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
While the post-race box score shows the fifth-place result, it doesn’t begin to describe how Busch and the No. 18 team battled back from an ill-handling racecar at the start of the 300-lap race to where they ended up when the checkered flag dropped.
“We fought through a lot of adversity today,” said Busch after earning his fourth top-five Sprint Cup finish at New Hampshire. “Steve (Addington, crew chief) and all the M&M’s guys came to work and we did what we could. We changed this thing around from about a 30th-place car to about a fifth. We made the car a lot better with wholesale changes to this thing all day long. I’m proud of the effort because the pit stops were good. I said I was going to help out the 11 (JGR teammate Denny Hamlin) as much as we could, and we stole some points for him today, too.”
While he started ninth, Busch struggled with the handling of his M&M’s Toyota from the race’s opening and dropped to 21st by lap 50. The car was afflicted with such a tight handling condition that Busch couldn’t get it to turn in the middle of the corner or off the corner.
Over the course of the day’s first few pit stops, Addington ordered an assortment of wedge, air pressure and track bar changes in hopes of aiding the M&M’s Toyota. While they continued to struggle as the race reached its halfway point, a pit stop on lap 159 finally brought the No. 18 machine to life. From there, Busch battled his way back into the top-15 by lap 174.
As the race went caution-free from lap 198 to lap 276 and track position became a precious commodity, Addington decided to roll the dice. He elected to take right-side tires only on a green flag pit stop on lap 268 while a majority of the field decided on a more time-consuming four-tire stop. But when the caution flag flew on lap 277 for debris in turn three, Busch and Addington got the track position they needed at the end of the race through their sharp, two-tire call.
When the race restarted with 18 laps to go, Busch was in the 11th spot. The talented 24-year old went to work on the cars in front of him, picking off position after position and moving up to sixth just prior to a late-race caution on lap 295. During the three-lap shootout that decided the race, Busch snuck by older brother Kurt for the fifth position to cap off his furious rally.
“I feel like we have some good tracks coming up where we could do some damage,” said Busch in regard to the final nine races remaining on the 2009 schedule. “We got Charlotte, California, Talladega – some good places for us. We just have to work as hard as we can and try to do that. It’s hard to race with those Chase guys sometimes because you don’t want to mix it up too much and ruin someone’s championship hopes, but we didn’t lay a fender on any of the Chasers today and ended up pretty good.”
Busch’s JGR teammates – Denny Hamlin and rookie Joey Logano – finished second and 21st, respectively.
With only nine 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 sits third in the standings, just 35 markers behind Chase leader Mark Martin. Busch and Logano maintained their 13th and 19th positions, respectively, in the standings.
Martin added to his championship point lead by beating Hamlin to win the Sylvania 300. He crossed the stripe .159 of a second ahead of Hamlin, and in doing so, scored his 40th career Sprint Cup victory, his series-leading fifth of the season and his first at New Hampshire.
Finishing third was pole-sitter Juan Pablo Montoya while reigning Sprint Cup Jimmie Johnson finished fourth. Kyle and Kurt Busch finished fifth and sixth, respectively, with Newman, Elliott Sadler, Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer comprising the remainder of the top-10.
There were 11 caution periods for 48 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the race.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Sept. 27 AAA 400 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. The race begins at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ABC beginning with its pre-race show at 1 p.m.