Sunday, April 29, 2012

NASCAR: They’re Back

Kyle's Back
Busch, JGR and Debris Return at Richmond

 Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing are back.
And so, at least for one night, was the debris caution.
Busch won for the first time in 2012 and for the first time since last August.  It was his fourth straight victory in the spring race at Richmond, breaking a mark he shared with Richard Petty.  It also tied him with brother Kurt for Cup wins at 24. 
Busch, however, probably had a fourth place car.  Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Jimmy Johnson all appeared consistently faster.  Edwards led 206 laps and Stewart 118.  But Edwards and Johnson ran afoul of NASCAR officials and were forced to come from the back of the pack.   With those two fighting their way through the field, Stewart seemed set to cruise to the finish, running comfortably and consistently more than a second ahead of Busch. Then came a yellow flag for “debris.”
Everyone stopped for tires, Stewart’s team slightly slower than Busch’s.  Stewart spun his tires on the restart and that, was that.
Much of pre-race talk had been about the lack of accidents and cautions in the previous two races, leading to lengthy green flag runs and not exactly exciting finishes.  Combined, Texas and Kansas saw only five total cautions.  Richmond was following suit, with only four yellows for less the 30 laps.  Then the late-race caution.
Busch said he “had no idea” what caused the yellow flag.
"It was a gift,” he said.  “Glad there was something somewhere.  Wherever that last caution came from, that was the saving grace.  Put us in the right position there coming down pit road behind Tony, and the guys did a fast pit stop; got us the lead off pit road, which was a huge advantage.  Just being able to give me the control of the restart and not have to wait on Tony or cause myself to spin my tires or what have you and get behind.”
Without the caution, did Busch have any shot of catching Stewart?
No.  No catching Stewart without that caution.  He was just so fast.”
Stewart had an idea about the cause of the caution and he didn’t like it.
"When the caution is for a plastic bottle on the backstretch, it's hard to feel good about losing that one," Stewart said.  "And we gave it away on pit road. So we did everything we could to throw it away – it got taken away from us.  That's what it looked like to me. I mean, it was out of the groove. It had been sitting there for eight laps.”
It also was the second straight win of the year for Joe Gibbs Racing and the third of the year for the team, Denny Hamlin having won at Phoenix and the previous week at Kansas.  That’s quite a turnaround for a team that appeared to be losing its mantle as the lead Toyota team to a reinvigorated Michael Waltrip Racing.  Joe Gibbs, ever gracious, gave MWR some of the credit for his team’s improvement.
“I think we have a great relationship with Michael's group,” Gibbs said.  “I think having partners like that, it pushes you. I think it's great. I applaud them, what they've been able to do over there, and I think they've stepped it up, and hopefully at some point, that's up to us to try and keep up with them. 
“But also I think the great thing about our sport – what I love about this sport – you’ve got to earn it.  You can't fake it. There's nothing you can do about it. You're either good or you're not good, you're going to be up front or not up front. I love the competitive part of it.”
INDYCAR:  No lack of accidents or yellow flags for the IndyCar race on the tight Brazilian street course.   Will Power dominated for this third straight win and the fourth consecutive win for Penske Racing, the first time the team has ever started the year with four straight wins.  It also was the fourth straight win for Chevrolet, as the Bow Tie brigade finished one-two and took seven of the top 10 positions…Honda received approval to run a slightly different turbo in Brazil after being denied in Long Beach.  The Hondas seemed to be more competitive, although Dario Franchitti said they couldn’t match the Chevy for fuel economy.

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