Sunday, September 28, 2008
Car troubles plague Busch - again
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- It's probably safe to say now: Kyle Busch isn't going to win NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
The volatile driver proclaimed his Chase chances over after blowing an engine in Dover last week, a statement crew chief Steve Addington said was a bit premature. After suffering through mechanical problems for the third straight race, Busch's hopes might have been dashed for good.
The Chase leader after the regular season, Busch finished 28th at Kansas Speedway on Sunday and is 311 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson -- pretty much an insurmountable hole with seven races left.
"I think it's pretty self-explanatory to everyone out there," Busch said.
Busch started 31st and never really made up any ground because of car trouble. The crew couldn't figure out what was wrong, guessing it was a malfunctioning carburetor, so they told him to stay out until the next caution.
Busch kept racing and only took tires and gas on the next pit stop, saying on the radio he thought maybe the problem had burned off in the engine.
It didn't get any better.
Busch's crew never did figure out what was wrong, even after lifting the hood during a pit stop near the halfway point, and his car continued to sputter along the rest of the day.
"It was just like probably what it sounded like -- sputtering and not running clean," Busch said.
Busch wasn't the only Joe Gibbs Racing driver to have a tough day.
Tony Stewart had all kinds of problems, nearly hitting crewmembers from another team during a pit stop early, sliding across the infield after making contact with another car later in the race. He had to take a long pit stop near the 200-lap mark to fix the front spoiler, which was damaged from sliding across the grass, and finished 40th. Stewart is 11th in the Chase standings, 255 points from the lead.
Denny Hamlin also had a rough day, struggling with handling early, then some kind of engine problem over the final 30 laps to finish 11th. He's 10th in the standings -- 243 points behind Johnson -- leaving JGR in the final three spots in the Chase after three races.
"Those other guys in our group have had bad luck and I've had bad luck all year," Hamlin said. "I'm used to it. We have a situation where we are all trying new stuff and trying to get better. Right now, we've got to keep our stuff together.
PENALTY ENOUGH: Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition, said Sunday that Chip Ganassi Racing and Brian Pattie, crew chief for the No. 42 Dodge of Juan Pablo Montoya, are not likely to be hit with any further penalties for the technical violation that cost them the Kansas pole.
"We'll continue to review it, but this is a lot like when we find a car is a little too high or too low in inspection," Pemberton said. "It's not a major offense and losing the pole is probably enough of a penalty."
Montoya beat out Jimmie Johnson for his first Cup pole on Friday, but the postqualifying inspection found the gas pressure in his rear shocks exceeded the allowable maximum. Johnson was moved up to the pole and Montoya had to start 42nd.
Montoya did the best he could with a tough situation, moving his way up to 16th in the first 100 laps and finishing 20th.
"To get a top-20 from starting dead last is a pretty good day here," Pattie said.
BIFFLE'S FINISH: Greg Biffle fell short in his bid to win three straight races, shot down by a car that mishandled all day.
It was still quite a performance.
Biffle started 18th and worked his way toward the front throughout the race, passing Jeff Gordon on the final turn to finish third. He held his spot at third in the Chase standings, still within reach at 30 points behind Jimmie Johnson.
"We were just off a little bit all day," he said. "We fought it tooth and nail. Man, we did everything we could to this race car. Toward the end, I was elbows up like I had been the last two races and that's I had, you know, third place."
GORDON AILING: Jeff Gordon has been feeling sick all week and wasn't sure if he'd be able to race Sunday -- to the point Hendrick Motorsports had Nationwide driver Brad Keselowski ready to take his place.
"I can't remember feeling this bad at the start of a race, ever," he said pre-race.
Still in the thick of the Chase, Gordon did climb into the car for the start and had a great race, moving from 13th at the start into the top 5. So what if he couldn't hold off Greg Biffle in the final turn? Finishing fourth the way he felt was impressive.
"I guess I need to get sick more often," Gordon joked. "That was a good run in a good car. I know if I had been healthy, I would have gotten more out of it."
TRUEX TROUBLES: After leading 27 laps early in the race, Martin Truex Jr. started complaining about how his car was handling around the 200-lap mark. Truex's long day finally ended on Lap 229, when a broken shifter sent him to the garage.
"It was a freak deal," Truex said of the shifter. "It's kind of the way our year has gone -- if it can go wrong, it will. It's disappointing."
PIT STOPS: Jeff Burton, fourth in the Chase standings before Sunday, had to move to the back of the pack at the start after replacing a tachometer on pit row. He was charged with a pit stop and dropped from 37th to 43rd. He rallied to finish seventh and is fourth in the Chase standings, 121 back of Johnson. ... Clint Bowyer, who grew up in nearby Emporia, was black-flagged to pit road after being charged with jumping the start. Bowyer, who started 24th, came back off pit road just ahead of the leaders to avoid falling a lap down and rallied to finish 12th. ... Kevin Harvick finished sixth, his ninth consecutive top-10 finish. ... Dodge's R6P8 engine made it debut in Kurt Busch's No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger after the Penske team had done midweek testing on it for several months. "It was just a tough day all around -- loose, tight, loose, tight," said Busch, who finished 30th. "Our handling issue didn't give us a chance to evaluate the performance of the new engine."
AP Auto Racing Writer Mike Harris contributed to this report.