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Kyle Busch’s Texas Weekend Hits Early Wall

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 4 2016
Reigning Cup champion Kyle Busch ran into trouble in Texas on Friday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

Reigning Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch ran into trouble in Texas on Friday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

FORT WORTH, Texas – Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch will contest the AAA Texas 500 in a backup car after crashing his primary No. 18 Toyota Camry during Friday’s opening practice at Texas Motor Speedway.

bugnotesBusch, of Joe Gibbs Racing, is among seven drivers looking to join six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20. Currently fourth in points, Busch’s task got complicated following an incident in Turn 3 of TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile quadoval.

“We got into Turn 3 and the car felt great, loaded-up really good,” Busch said during a post-practice media session. “Got back to the throttle and then got to the bumps that are over there in (Turns) 3 and 4 and felt like it bottomed-out a little bit and kind of got me up the track. And then from there the whole car just kind of came out of the track and I got loose and couldn’t get it checked-up or slowed down before it slapped the wall.

“Speeds are really high here at Texas and when you lose that grip, typically it happens in a hurry and just kind of got away from me there. Wish that I would have had maybe taken it a little easy, but I really wasn’t even trying that hard, to be honest with you. Just kind of a shock that that happened.”

Busch wound up 22nd on the initial speed chart at 193.002 mph during a session paced by Kevin Harvick at 196.685 mph in the No. 4 Busch Beer Chevrolet SS fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing.

“Unfortunate there with our practice crash…kind of puts us a little bit more behind the 8-ball than we’d like to be,” Busch said. “Hate that happened for my guys and all the work they’ve already put into my primary and now having to switch to a backup car is not how we wanted to start off practice. Didn’t even get a lap on that thing!

“All in all, I know we have a strong group and a great group of guys that will dig in as deep as they need to in order to make sure we can prepare to get ourselves back to where we need to be to be competitive this weekend. As far as what we look for here, we want to have a good, solid day. We’d like to win the race and punch our ticket and move right onto Homestead. If we can’t have that, a good, solid top-five is what we’re looking for.”

Cup teams are scheduled to qualify for Sunday’s race _ Round 8 of the 10-event Chase _ at 5:45 p.m. (CDT) today.

Busch noted that competing in a backup is, for him, uncharted territory. “In years past I haven’t had that situation happen to me ever _ I don’t think I have ever crashed on the first lap of getting out there on the racetrack before,” Busch said. “We’ve right-sided cars before here or there and I always had a running joke with some of our guys at the body shop that comes to the racetrack on Sundays that anytime he has to put a right side wrap on a car, it meant good things. Going to a backup car, I don’t think it’s going to hurt us any.”

Busch added that his backup is set-up identically to the primary. “Yeah, it is,” said Busch, who won the Duck Commander 500 Cup race here on April 9. “We rolled right off the truck and it was really, really close. We of course still changed the practice springs from the primary car because we wanted the exact rates that the guys were looking for and things like that _ all four shocks come off. It’s essentially just riding on ride spring and shocks to and from the racetrack in the hauler.

“As far as everything else _ the control arms, the suspension, the way the rear end is set in the car and everything like that _ it’s all mocked-up exactly the same as the primary car. People always say there’s a reason why there’s a primary and a backup car because one’s better than the other. I would agree with that sentiment a little bit because I know what we do at Kyle Busch Motorsports. But I feel like here at Joe Gibbs Racing, it’s just like engines _ they’re all sent out of the building within five horsepower of each other and all these cars are built probably within five downforce numbers of one another.

“They’re very similar and I wouldn’t be worried for us that we’re at a disadvantage.”

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Chase contender Carl Edwards of Joe Gibbs Racing is a three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winner at Texas Motor Speedway, including a sweep of both events in 2008. But in Edwards’ eyes, you can measure the eight-year gap from then to now in dog years.

“In 2008, in this sport, I mean that’s ancient history,” said Edwards, driver of the No. 19 Sport Clips Toyota Camry. “So, those stats don’t really mean anything. The thing that we come here and that I am excited about is just how we ran in the spring.” Edwards qualified on-pole and finished seventh in the Duck Commander 500 on April 9, an event in which he led 124 of 334 laps.

“Really, past a race or two ago it doesn’t mean much at a place like this,” said Edwards, who scored his first win here in 2005 and that pair in ’08 while driving Fords for Roush Fenway Racing. Edwards wrecked at Martinsville Speedway last Sunday and is 32 points below the cutoff line; Cousin Carl essentially needs to win at TMS or Phoenix International Raceway next weekend to make the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20.

“There are so many things that happen,” said Edwards, who is in his second season at JGR. “The track ages, with different (Goodyear) tires, I mean I’m driving for a different team, everything is different. So, yeah, those stats _ people bring that up every once in a while, ‘Oh, you’re great at Texas.’ But that was I don’t know how many years ago. It doesn’t really matter. What really matters is what we’ve done lately and fortunately that’s been pretty good so that’s what we’ll look at.”

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Spencer Gallagher will lead a field of 32 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitors to the green flag for Friday night’s 18th annual Striping Technology 350 after qualifying on-pole at Texas Motor Speedway.

Gallagher toured TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile quadoval in 29.949-seconds/180.307 mph in his No. 23 Allegiant Travel Chevrolet Silverado to bag his second Keystone Light Pole Award in 56 series starts. Gallagher shares a non-Chaser front row with Daniel Hemric, who qualified at 180.090 mph in his No. 19 Blue Gate Bank Ford F-150.

Gallagher, 26, earned his second pole and eighth top-10 start in 2016, as well as his first pole in five races at TMS. Hemric posted his 10th top-10 start of the season and fourth in four races in Fort Worth.

William Byron led the six Chasers who will contest the 220.5-mile/147-lapper. Byron, who won the Rattlesnake 400 here in June for Kyle Busch Motorsports, put up a lap at 179.934 mph in the No. 9 Liberty University Toyota Tundra.  Fellow-Chaser Timothy Peters will start sixth after lapping at 179.748 mph in the No. 17 Red Horse Racing Toyota, with two-time series champion Matt Crafton seventh following his lap at 179.671 mph in the No. 88 DampRid/Menards Toyota.

Christopher Bell, who paced Friday morning’s rain-delayed practice, will start ninth after lapping at 179.384 mph in the No. 4 JBL Toyota. Ben Kennedy will roll off 14th in the No. 33 Jacob Chevrolet Silverado after lapping at 178.944 mph.

Johnny Sauter _ whose victory at Martinsville Speedway last Saturday locked-up one of the Championship 4 starting spots _ will start 16 here. The series veteran _ who swept both Truck Series races at TMS in 2012 _ lapped at 178.465 mph in the No. 21 Allegiant Travel Chevy.

Fox Sports 1 will begin its coverage at 7 p.m. (CDT), with the green to fly at 7:30.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 4 2016
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