21 August 2011
Kyle Busch's fourth win books Chase place
Kyle Busch timed his run to the front to perfection at Michigan, so that not even a late caution caused by his brother could give Jimmie Johnson and the rest of the field a chance.
Kyle Busch blew past Jimmie Johnson to take the lead of the Pure Michigan 400 Sprint Cup race with 12 laps to go, and then coped with a late caution and green-white-chequered restart extending the race an additional three laps without giving Johnson or the rest of the field an opportunity to answer back.
"It's awesome," said a delighted Busch. "That's what we wanted. We wanted to make sure that we could come out here and win races!"
The win gives Kyle his 26th Cup win, tying his brother Kurt's tally in the series. It's also Kyle's first Cup win at the two-mile Michigan International Speedway oval, and puts him through to the Chase post-season championship shootout.
Busch had only qualified in 17th place on Friday and wasn't particularly happy in final practice on Saturday despite ending up posting the second fastest time, but the #18 team worked overnight to find the necessary tweaks: "We struggled a bit, and I kind of got down on things," said Busch of his practice sessions. "We went over things last night and talked a lot about what we could do to the car to make it better, thought smartly about our changes for today, and we came out here strong."
It was pole sitter Greg Biffle who led the field to the green flag at shortly after 1.15pm on Sunday afternoon, starting alongside Matt Kenseth on the front row for the Pure Michigan 400. Biffle looked impressively strong through the opening laps and built up a strong lead over Kenseth before a caution for debris on lap 30.
By contrast, Kyle was fairly anonymous during this time and it was Kevin Harvick who was on the way up and having gained ten spots within the first 17 laps, while Denny Hamlin was slowly sinking back down the running order, dropping out of the top ten having started from the second row using his new engine built by Toyota Racing Development for the first time rather than the Joe Gibbs Racing engine plant.
At the restart it was still Biffle and Kenseth in front ahead of Brad Keselowski, but no sooner had the green flag come out than Carl Edwards was back on pit road and heading to the garage area with engine trouble: "I don't know what was wrong with it. It was running on seven cylinders," said Edwards. "We changed a bunch of stuff and then it was fixed ... It was probably something with some electrical connection or a coil or something."
Edwards was able to return to the race eventually but would finish up in 36th place, 29 laps down because of the lengthy repair time. "We were prepared for this race to go bad," he said. "We were prepared for something - but we weren't expecting that. We weren't expecting a failure like that." As a result, Edwards drops out of the Sprint Cup championship lead that he had shared with Busch coming into Michigan, and is now tied on points in third place.
The next 20 laps were fairly uneventful, although Kyle was now making progress and was up to 12th, and Clint Bowyer was on a charge up over 20 places before a second debris caution came out on lap 53 just after Matt Kenseth had finally succeeded in stealing the lead from Biffle.
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