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2013 Texas NASCAR: Busch wins Cup race to complete Texas sweep

14 April 2013

He dominated on Friday evening in the Nationwide Series race, leading the most laps before claiming the chequered flag in a dominant display; and on Saturday evening Kyle Busch was in just the right mood to do it all over again, starting from pole and leading the most laps before clinching the chequered flag half a second ahead of Martin Truex Jr.

"To be in victory lane in Texas, there's nothing better," said Busch after celebrating under the floodlights in the traditional Texas style by firing off two six-shooters loaded with blanks while wearing the winner's cowboy hat. "These cars are amazing to drive. They're fast, they're fun," he added.

There was pre-race drama even before Busch - joined on the front row at Texas Motor Speedway by his brother Kurt - led the field to the green flag, when the two Penske cars of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano were held up in pre-race technical scrutineering. NASCAR officials confiscated rear-end housing parts from both the #2 and the #22 and as a result Logano was late getting to the grid for the start of the race, meaning that he had to start from the back of the grid. He was joined there by Kevin Harvick, who'd suffered engine problems on Friday.

At the start it was Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch who led the race from pole for the first 40 laps, until an early caution gave Michael Waltrip Racing's Martin Truex Jr. a chance to jump in front for the next stint. Busch soon put a stop to that on lap 75 and embarked on a run of over a hundred laps in front with only brief interruptions during pit stop sequences, after which Truex had to wait until lap 201 to reclaim the front spot again.

But once he did, Truex gradually moved into a comfortable lead and held it until 17 to go, looking as though he was set to break a 210-race winless streak: but it was not to be, as the final round of pit stops under a late caution for debris put Busch back in charge - and he was in no mood the squander the opportunity.

"As soon as that caution came, my boys stepped up the plate and hit a grand slam," he said in victory lane after the chequered flag has welcomed him across the finish line. "They pulled out one heck of a stop right there at the end to put us up front, to give us that lead, and we were able to bring it home."

Understandably less thrilled with the outcome was Truex, who subsequently tweeted "Debris huh????" about the late caution that had wiped out his 1.3 second margin over Busch and ultimately cost him the victory.

"We started near the front and had a decent car at the beginning, but not great," he said. "We worked on it all night and got it to where it was the best car out there. The last caution came out, and we got beat out of the pits, and that was the race.

"It was pretty frustrating to run second again, I feel like we've been in this boat and this position a bunch of times," he continued. "Nothing about it is much fun ... Just running second sucks, especially when you're that fast. So, a little bit frustrated right now."

Worse was to come for Truex: the #56 failed pot-race technical inspection after it was found that the car's ride-height was too low at the front. The car was taken away for further investigation by NASCAR, and while Truex will keep the win - the series doesn't like re-writing race results after the event - but if the initial finding is confirmed then Truex will probably face points and cash penalties for the infringement.

The only driver other than Busch and Truex to take the lead for a double-digit number of laps all evening was Hendrick Motorsports' Jeff Gordon, but his race came to a premature end on lap 306 when the #24 suffered a front suspension failure.

"I'm not sure maybe a burned wheel bearing or something. No signs, just went down the back straightaway and went to go to the brake and the brake pedal was spongy and the car just didn't turn," he explained afterwards. I thought I had a left-front tire going down. Man, that was unfortunate ... We'll learn what happened and we'll try to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"Most importantly, we know we have a fast race car and we know we can put another fast race car out there on the track," he added of his long battle with Busch and Truex. "I've never seen three cars just sit there and run the same lap time after the same lap time; and run in the same line, too. I was trying to deviate from my line and made a few gains on Kyle, so I thought I might have a shot at him before this thing was over. I don't know about Martin - but we won't know now."

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. did make it to the end of the race albeit 44 laps in 40th place, after being the cause of two of the seven cautions during the evening: the first was on lap 42 when he cut a tyre and collected Austin Dillon as he spun backward into the outside wall; and the second on lap 8 when he dropped oil on the track after returning to the race following repairs in the Roush Fenway garage.

"I just cut a left-rear tire down and spun," said Stenhouse about the inciting incident. "They were brand new tyres, so I guess we ran over something, but I don't know yet.

"It's kind of tough to go straight when you lose a left-rear tyre," he added. "I really would have liked to have seen how our car was gonna drive when the sun went all the way down ... I felt like our car was pretty good, but it's just a tough break."

Other than debris cautions on laps 39, 151 and 315, the other yellows were caused by David Reutimann crashing on the backstretch on lap 224 and by Marcos Ambrose and Jeff Burton colliding out of turn 2 on lap 282. There was also disappointment for Kurt Busch, who after starting on the front row alongside his brother ended up down in 37th after a broken part in the fuel injection forced him to the garage mid-race.

"When you're running solidly in the top-five and then to have a parts failure knock you out of contention it's very frustrating," he admitted. "We came in here with a fast race car, qualified on the front row and continued the strong performance until we had a part on the fuel injection system break.

"What's done is done and we have to put tonight behind us and focus on getting these problems rectified sooner than later," he continued. "I feel confident that we'll have another fast Furniture Row Chevrolet SS in Kansas next week."

Things were scarcely any better for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who ran strongly early on until electrical supply problems blighted the latter half of his evening.

"We just had a battery go dead and didn't diagnosis it correctly to just switch it," he explained. "All the gauges just went haywire and so I couldn't read the gauges to really diagnosis what was happening, but once you start to think about it you are like, 'Well if all the gauges are going bad we have electrical issues,' then you go right to the battery. The thing quit running going into three and I couldn't stay on the track if it wasn't the battery we would have stopped on the track and lost all those laps."

And the battery problems led to more woes: "I couldn't control my speed on pit road because the motor was not running coming on," he added. "So we sped there and we came down pit road to serve the penalty.," after which he needed to come back to pit lane yet again for a new set of tyres now allowed while serving the drive-thru. He finished the race in 29th, four laps off the pace.

Meanwhile, after their pre-race issues, both Penske cars finished the day in the top ten, with Logano in fifth place ahead of his team mate Keselowski who came home in ninth.

"It was one of the toughest races I think we've ever dealt with and to come home with a top-five out of something like that, we couldn't be more excited about that," said Logano. "We dug our way up there a little bit and had a bad stop and went down a lap. We got our lucky dog and slowly and methodically worked our way up. We just had no short run speed. We had long run speed, but it took us 30 laps to get going and then we were as fast as the leaders, but it took us 30 laps to get where we needed to be."

As for the reigning champion's evening, Keselowski's crew chief Paul Wolfe admitted that, "Things didn't obviously start off the way we wanted it to

"We had some issues on pit road where we lost some spots, then we had a loose wheel and nothing was going our way. But nobody gave up and Brad kept driving his butt off and we slowly kept chipping away at it," he continued. "Before we knew it, we were in contention to get the free pass. It was like we needed just one more run to really get up and contend for a nice top-five, but, overall, I'm real proud of the effort.

"Obviously, we feel like without some of the issues tonight we probably would have had a shot at that again, so we just have to keep working and doing what we've been doing and we'll get our share of wins," he added.

The strong finish at Texas despite adversity means that Keselowski maintains second place in the Sprint Cup points standings ahead of Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards. But Jimmie Johnson continues to lead the standings and has eked out his lead to nine points over Keselowski after finishing in sixth place at Texas.

“We fought hard all day but we just didn't quite have enough to pull off a win in the Lowe's Chevy tonight," he admitted of his evening in Texas. "It was a great effort by Chad and everyone," he said, referring to crew chief Chad Knaus. "We just came up a little short."

Meanwhile Brian Vickers finished a strong eighth place in his first outing in the #11 JGR car replacing the injured Denny Hamlin, but Hamlin himself now slides to 27th place in the standings as a result of being sidelined, making it increasingly impossible to imagine him continuing his run of making the post-season Chase title decider.

Hamlin was present at Texas and said that he felt good, but he will miss at least one more race before considering a return to Cup duty.

Full race results and Sprint Cup Championship standings are available.


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