The driver who many believe should benefit from NASCAR's new double-file restarts was never close enough to the front at Pocono on Sunday to take advantage of the new format.
Kyle Busch, who flew in to Pennsylvania fresh from victory in Saturday night's guitar-smashing Nationwide Series victory, laboured to a 22nd-place finish in an ill-handling M&M's Toyota, barely improving a disappointing recent record at the quirky tri-oval..
After finishing 43rd and 36th respectively in the two Cup Series races held at the 2.5-mile triangle in 2008, Busch continued to see red after handling issues and sub-par fuel economy conspired to leave him trailing when the chequered flag dropped.
“We just never got the car right today,” Busch admitted, “It would start off the run tight and then go to loose by the end. We've got a lot of work to do here for next time, that's for sure. A lot of those guys made it on fuel, and we couldn't. We didn't think that everyone else could. But the fact of the matter is that we were off. It's disappointing.”
Starting from sixth spot after the 43-car field was set by points when Friday's qualifying session was rained out, Busch hung around in sight of the top ten for much of the first half of the 200-lap race, but the handling condition thwarted any forward progress.
Crew chief Steve Addington worked on the set-up over the first five pit-stops of the day, devising an assortment of air pressure, track bar and air pressure adjustments to correct the car's wayward handling, but no matter what he threw at the #18, the car never came around to Busch's liking.
“Our lap times were just up and down all day long,” Addington reported, “I didn't think the car was that bad. On the back side of a few of the runs, we were great – we ran great lap times compared to everybody - but we lost so much of it at the beginning of a run to get there. We've got some work to do on our racecars to come back here.”
Even though Busch and Addington battled an ill-handling racecar, they still sat in the 14th position when the green flag flew for the final time on lap 165. However, as the laps ticked away and it became apparent that fuel strategy was going to play a key role in the outcome of the race, Addington made the call for Busch to come to pit-road with 15 laps remaining. He knew that the M&M's Toyota couldn't make it to the end of the race without stopping, and conventional thinking had it that many of the frontrunners also could not go the distance. Unfortunately, several cars were able to stretch their fuel to the end of the 500-mile race, including racewinner Tony Stewart, which resulted in a worse than expected finish for the M&M's team.
“We were three laps short [on fuel] and the way we are sitting here in the points, 60 or 80 from being out of the top twelve, I decided to play it safe,” Addington said, “We didn't figure that a lot of those guys could make it all the way to the end, so we tried to do a short pit deal – put tyres on it and try to make up some time.
"We made up some time, but those guys made it [to the end] and I don't know how. Our team-mate was getting better fuel mileage than us and he ran out in turn three. We wouldn't have made it, even if we tried to back it down, so we did the right thing. And we finished on the lead lap.”