LAS VEGAS — Story by Race Chaser Online Northeast Correspondent Kyle Magda — Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR photo —
Kyle Busch is the master of restarts, especially at his home track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The defending Sprint Cup champ went from sixth to first in one lap after the race’s final restart on lap 235, with the weekend sweep appearing to be in the bag.
Busch felt a vibration during the race’s final run, slowing his momentum before he lost the lead to eventual winner Brad Keselowski with six laps to go — settling for a fourth-place finish.
“I had a vibration when they put the rights on and then it just kept getting worse and worse and there at the end I didn’t know if the tire was coming apart or what the deal was,” Busch said. “I was trying to give it everything I had and it just would not turn. It got so tight; that was the tightest we were all day. I ran my track bar up two inches and it didn’t do anything.”
Atlanta winner Jimmie Johnson edged Busch at the checkered flag for third, but the top-five finish helped maintain his points lead, now to six over Johnson.
The No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry started 23rd in Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 and slowly inched his way towards the front. However, the car’s short-run speed allowed both Penske drivers — Keselowski and Joey Logano — to pass the 30-year-old late and deny the first Las Vegas sweep in two years.
However, it didn’t stall the overall upswing for Joe Gibbs Racing, and Busch recognizes that — even if he says the company still has gains it can make.
“We have some work to do, there’s definitely guys that are better than us, I think as a company, we’re not bad,” Busch said of JGR. “I think we’re fourth to eighth – out of all of us, that’s kind of where we run and we need to get a little better to where we’re the guys that can be up front and lead laps. Yeah, we led laps today, but Matt (Kenseth) being a leader got passed and me being a leader got passed under green flag, so we’re just not good enough.”
“It was just momentum (that got us up front). I got rolling on the restart better than those in the front of me. Jimmie (Johnson) gave me enough room, he could have pinched it off, but he let me go. I got a run down the backstretch and then just dove it off into turn three and when you do that, you have a chance of getting into those other guys, or them getting into you or pinching you really tight and spinning out, but I thought I had enough momentum that we squeaked through there before we got to the load part of the corner in turn three and it all worked out.”
For the second straight week, Busch fought his way to the front after starting from mid-pack at Vegas and last (39th) at Atlanta after his pole time speed was disallowed at the Georgia track. Nevertheless, the No. 18 team has seven consecutive top-five finishes dating back to Martinsville last fall.
“That’s not at all where we should have finished considering how it started,” Busch said. “It was a good day. It wasn’t a win, but we were doing a good job doing what we need to do to keep top-fiving it. The wins will come.”
Busch enters a track — Phoenix International Raceway — where he scored his second-career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win in Nov. 2005. He can add to the win total with his second Phoenix score during Sunday afternoon’s Good Sam 500 (3 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM), where longtime rival Kevin Harvick is the two-time defending winner of the event.
If he could do so, it would practically guarantee the reigning Sprint Cup champion a spot on the 2016 Chase Grid — and that could be scary news for the rest of the competition if ‘Rowdy’ could pull off the feat.
About the Writer
Kyle Magda is a Northeast Correspondent for Race Chaser Online and a co-host of both Motorsports Madness and the Stock Car Steel/SRI Motorsports Show, airing at 7 p.m. ET on Monday and Thursday nights, respectively, on the Performance Motorsports Network. Magda broke into racing in mid-2001 as the sport’s tide was beginning to change towards the current modern-era formula, but still has an affinity for the history of NASCAR’s earlier days.
The 22-year-old is a graduate of Penn State University and can be found traveling to numerous tracks across the country, covering everything from NASCAR and the ARCA Racing Series to the UNOH All-Stars Circuit of Champions and the Super Cup Stock Car Series.
Email Kyle at: [email protected]
Follow on Twitter: @KyleMagda
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