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Pedley: Kyle Busch Had Big Feats In Kentucky

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 10 2011

Kyle Busch's most impressive race at Kentucky over the weekend may have been in the Camping World Truck Series. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

The Second Day Lede:

Kyle Busch led the most laps and won the Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway Saturday evening. But the Quaker State 400 may have been only his second best ride of the weekend.

Here are Busch’s top three NASCAR races at Kentucky ranked in order of impressiveness:

1. The Camping World Truck Series race on Thursday.

After starting from the rear of the field because he missed the mandatory pre-race drivers’ meeting and driver introductions, Busch climbed his way up through the field. That is no mean feat in a series which features trucks and drivers which, well, can be viewed as land mines.

He got to the lead on lap 61 of the 152-lap race, survived late mayhem and won in a green/white/checkered restart, holding off Parker Kligerman. He did it all in a truck which was not the fastest on the track.

2. The Cup race on Saturday.

Busch started from the front of the field after rain cut qualifying short. He would lead six times for 125 of the 267 laps. The end of the race boiled down to a series of cautions and restarts. That is, it boiled down into a Busch kind of finish.

Restart after restart, Busch did his restart thing. On the final one, with two laps to go, he

Kyle Busch had a heck of a weekend. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

held off a pack of drivers with fresher tires and beat David Reutimann and Jimmie Johnson – two fresh-tire guys – to the finish line.

3. The Nationwide Series race on Friday.

Busch, again, was ordered to the back of the field for the start of the race. This time, it was for having to go to a backup car – Busch crashed during qualifying.

Busch estimated the backup car was, maybe, a fifth- or sixth-place car in terms of speed. It wasn’t fast enough to win, or even get to the front of the field. But, again, Busch started picking off the cars in front of him and at the end of the day came home an impressive third.

Counting problems

The top speed on the cool-down lap had to be Jimmie Johnson’s. It was like he was still blasting away at race speed. Just like it, because he was. Ooops.

“I mean, I didn’t see the white flag,” the five-time champion said. “It didn’t change the outcome of the race by any stretch of the imagination. I think the 18 (Busch) was going to be the winner the way it was.  I thought I had a chance to race him for a second one more lap. Came by, David let off, the 18 let off. I was still hard on the throttle going.

“I saw some type of flag when we were coming, which was the checkered, but I didn’t see the white for some reason. Went blowing on by those guys.”

Sinking fast

Kentucky was not kind to two drivers who looked, just weeks ago, to be waltzing their

A rough night – and summer – for Junior. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

way to the Chase.

Dale Earnhart Jr.  started the Kentucky race seventh in points. He would blow a tire late in the race and finish 30th. The finish would drop him to eighth in points, but it was his fourth straight finish of 19th or worse.

“The car didn’t cut the corner good,” Earnhardt said of his evening in Kentucky. “We could change the balance but it wouldn’t make us go faster; when we were too loose and we would tighten it up, we wouldn’t find any speed in that. So we just didn’t have a good set-up in there for whatever reason. And we would have finished well if we could have gotten some track position; but damn, we would never get it because it’s too hard to get. We were just so slow all night we could never take any chances on track position and stuff like that. We were just too slow. I don’t know. I was real disappointed though, overall.”

Clint Bowyer started the race ninth in points. But a crash and 35th-place finish knocked him out of the top 10 in points. He will head to New Hampshire 12th and without a victory.

Smoke and fears

Jamie McMurray’s night ended when his Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing engine detonated

Jamie McMurray's hopes went up in smoke. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

in a major cloud of smoke. The smoke was so thick in the cockpit that it threw a scare into the driver.

“Yeah, I got a little bit freaked out because I felt the motor start shaking and blow up and the smoke came in the car so fast I couldn’t see,” McMurray said.” And I was more concerned with getting the car stopped and trying to get the spotter to help me drive the car than put it in neutral; so it was getting worse as I was going into the corner. That’s the first time that’s ever happened to me. So it was really odd.

“Normally you put it in neutral but it filled the car full of smoke so fast that I was more concerned with getting the car stopped. I didn’t know if I was going to hit the outside wall or the inside wall. I couldn’t really tell where I was at. So I was trying to get the spotter off the radio to tell him to drive the car for me because I couldn’t see anything.”

The lasting concern for McMurray – and teammate Juan Pablo Montoya – my be the durability of their engines.

“I’m really frustrated,” McMurray said. “I can’t believe we broke three engines in 18 races or however many we’ve run so far. I don’t know that I’ve blown up three engines in the last five or six years. So it’s unbelievable that we seem to keep getting the engine that breaks.”

On the rise?

David Reutimann finished a very strong second. Afterward he said more good things

David Reutimann and Jimmie Johnson race for second place at Kentucky. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Tami Kelly Pope)

may be in the pipeline as his Michael Waltrip Racing team seems to have found some speed.

“Setup-wise, we’re not all that different than we’ve been on the mile-and-a-halfs in the past,” Reutimann said. “Coming up with things aero-wise, it’s a total package to what you do to the car.  Anymore, there’s such small gains on the cars, you can’t gain one big thing.  You try to do things that eventually help the car.  That’s what we’ve done.  It’s certainly not a different breed of a car than what we’ve had.  It’s a lot of subtle stuff that seemed to make a difference.  Better numbers in the wind tunnels.  They say you have common templates, everybody’s car is the same.  Well, they are not.  You have to work harder to get gains and that’s what our guys have been doing.”

The coming week’s lede…

It will be about the traffic fiasco at Kentucky. It seems the promoters of the race failed to plan for the big crowd which descended up the track.

Traffic was a nightmare as green flag approached. Then, it got worse as the track ran

Traffic lined up for miles both before and after Saturday's race. Some ticket-holding fans were turned away. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

out of places to park. Thousands of fans, with expensive tickets in hand, were turned away.

When the race ended, the nightmare continued for those trying to get out. Thirty-mile drives turned into four-hour crawls.

For weeks, track promoters have been boasting about the sellout crowd they expected. Bruton Smith, owner of the track’s parent company, Speedway Motorsports Inc., joked with reporters about anticipated traffic problems, saying he was pretty sure fans would get home by Tuesday.

The boasting and jokes stopped on race day.

Twitter lit up. Fans threatened to never return, and media whined like babies with colic about getting back to their hotels late.

The track had to issue a statement. NASCAR had to apologize to fans.

Former Charlotte Motor Speedway president Humpy Wheeler used to say something like: A great fan expeience boiled down to two things – parking and clean restrooms.

Seems Kentucky is half way toward that goal.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 10 2011
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