Busch has good finish, disappointing result
Key adjustment, pit strategy allow pole-sitter to salvage a fourth-place finish
By David Caraviello, NASCAR.COM
May 20, 2012 2:43 PM, EDT
CONCORD, N.C. -- For Kyle Busch, it was a good points night. Unfortunately, there were no points to be had.
The pole winner for the Sprint All-Star Race continued his run of recent strong finishes Saturday night, but this one felt less satisfying than the rest. That's because Busch struggled with the handling of his No. 18 car for much of the race, needing a key adjustment and a little bit of pit strategy to salvage a fourth-place finish in an event that paid $1 million to the winner.
We ended up decent, which is OK. But anything past first sucks.
-- KYLE BUSCH
"[Saturday] wasn't comfortable at all," Busch said. "We missed a little something. We were really good in practice, [and] thought we were going to be one of the best cars here. ... We thought that it was going to be our moment."
That moment instead belonged to Jimmie Johnson, who won his third all-star exhibition and the pile of cash that went along with it. Despite starting on the pole, Busch was never a factor -- his car was so off from the beginning that crew chief Dave Rogers was forced to pit between the event's first two segments and give up track position, something he had hoped to avoid. What had been a plan to win segments and contend for the overall victory turned into just hanging on.
"Coming off the truck, we thought we were one of the better cars here," Rogers said.
"I think we have the best driver, in particular at Charlotte. So we were pretty confident we could win one of those segments and have a change to race in the final 10. Just missed it. Kyle called me this morning and told me it was going to be looser, so I tightened it up, and I just didn't tighten it up enough and got behind."
Busch lost track position because of the pit stop and spent the rest of the night trying to make it up. Fortunately, the car responded to a late adjustment, and the team's pit strategy allowed it to have fewer laps on its tires than many of its competitors at the end. Busch surged to fourth at the finish but knew his car wasn't as good as the result.
"[Saturday] wasn't a full field and all that stuff," he said. "If we'd have gotten ourselves mired back there in [next weekend's Coca-Cola] 600 the way we did ... we'd have been in trouble. We ended up decent, which is OK. But anything past first sucks."
Particularly in a no-points race where it's all about $1 million to win. Taken on its own merits, the finish continued a torrid streak for Busch, who hasn't finished worse than 10th his past five times on the track in a Sprint Cup car. A win at Richmond and top-four finishes at Talladega and Darlington pulled him out of an early-season hole and lifted him to ninth in the standings. In that context, Saturday was the continuation of a very good run, although it certainly didn't feel like it at the time.
"Certainly, we're turning the corner," Rogers said. "I think our program is getting stronger. I feel we've learned a lot. Those 10th- to 15th-place runs, we got a lot of information out of them, and that was the whole deal -- learn early in the season and be strong late. So I'm really pleased with our overall performance lately. But just the All-Star Race, Charlotte -- you're a little disappointed."