Date: April 22, 2012
Event: STP 400 (Round 8 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Location: Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. (1.5-mile oval)
Start/Finish: 25th/10th (Running, completed 267 of 267 laps)
Point Standing: 13th (218 points, 94 out of first)
Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Over the years, Kansas Speedway hasn’t been too kind to Kyle Busch.
But Busch, the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), overcame his past disappointment – despite fighting a tight-handling car – to bring home a solid 10th-place finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 400 on Sunday at Kansas City, Kan. The finish was Busch’s second top-10 result in 10 career starts at Kansas Speedway, which will be repaved and reconfigured before the series returns there in October.
“We fought hard all day with our M&M’s Camry,” said Busch, who earned his third top-10 finish in eight races this season. “All we had was about a 10th-place car, and that’s where we ended up. We just kept fighting tight all day. I didn’t want to get it loose because anytime were loose, we just lose too much time. So we were just trying to find the balance to set the balance perfect. We tried something a little different this weekend to help us on the long runs, and I think that it kind of hurt us just a little bit. We’ll just have to regroup and debrief with Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and get it better for next time.”
After starting 25th, Busch steadily moved up the running order from the drop of the green flag. He climbed to 20th by lap 7, 18th by lap 20 and 14th by lap 56. Despite picking off several spots, Busch fought a car that was too tight in the center and exit of the corner for his liking. Crew chief Dave Rogers worked on Busch’s M&M’s Toyota over the course of the first three pit stops, making air pressure adjustments to loosen the car.
Those changes worked, as Busch climbed into the top-10 on lap 143 of the 267-lap race. While the handling of the car was improved and Rogers kept working to loosen the car, Busch was unable to advance much further. He moved up to as high as eighth and never dropped down to worse than 11th before finishing 10th at the end of the 400-mile race.
“It was a good, halfway strong race for Joe Gibbs Racing,” Rogers said. “We’re really excited for Denny (Hamlin) and the 11 crew to be able to pick up their second victory of the season. We started deep in the field, 25th, and then raced up to 10th. Wish we had a little bit stronger car, but I thought Kyle (Busch) did a good job of getting everything out of the race car that was possible. We just missed it a little bit. We’ll go back and compare the notes with our teammate and see what they did better and hopefully be stronger next time we come back here on the new asphalt.”
Busch’s JGR teammate Denny Hamlin won the STP 400. It was Hamlin’s 19th career Sprint Cup victory, his second of the season and his first victory at Kansas. The win was his third top-five finish in nine races at the 1.5-mile oval. Busch’s other JGR teammate, Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Toyota, finished 15th.
Hamlin finished .700 of a second ahead of runner-up Martin Truex Jr., while Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, and Greg Biffle rounded out the top-five. Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards and Busch comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were three caution periods for 18 laps, with 10 drivers failing to finish the 267-lap race.
With round eight of 36 complete, Hamlin continues to lead the JGR in the championship point standings as he gained one spot to fifth. He has 289 points, 23 behind leader Biffle. Logano stands 12th, 91 points out of first, while Busch gained one spot to 13th, 94 points behind Biffle.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Richmond 400 on Saturday, April 28 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m.