Busch trying to understand how he came up short
Was sitting in perfect position to grab win but Keselowski pulled away in Turn 3
By Joe Menzer, NASCAR.COM
May 07, 2012 3:43 PM, EDT
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Coming to the checkered flag Sunday in the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, Kyle Busch thought he had maneuvered his No. 18 Toyota into perfect position to win the race.
So did Busch's crew chief, Dave Rogers.
Busch was running second through the first two turns on the final lap, right on the bumper of the No. 2 Dodge being driven by Brad Keselowski. It looked as if Keselowski might be the proverbial sitting duck, er Dodge, with Busch setting him up for the classic slingshot move coming off one of the final two turns.
Unfortunately, I must have screwed something up, because we got to Turn 3 and came unhooked. We just gave the win away there. I'm not sure exactly what happened. We definitely need to go back and figure out what it was.
-- KYLE BUSCH
"I'd say there were 43 guys who would have loved to have been in second position coming to the checkered flag. I thought we had a really good shot," Rogers said.
But as the cars entered and tore through Turn 3, Keselowski was able to put a gap between the cars of the two drivers and took off in the clean air that loomed ahead in the path to the start/finish line and, ultimately, Victory Lane. Busch couldn't keep up and had to settle for second.
"I just needed to make the move, and I made it in [Turn] 3," Keselowski said. "That disconnected us. That was the key right there. Once we got that air bubble in between the two cars, it was going to take two or three laps for him to pop that. We only had to go half a lap, not even that."
Busch admitted he wasn't certain what happened on the final leg of the green-white-checkered finish. On the last restart, it initially looked as if the leader at the time, Matt Kenseth, was going to pull away to the win with a push from Greg Biffle, his Roush Fenway Racing teammate.
But the tandem of Keselowski and Busch eventually caught them and darted past.
"I don't know. We had a great car all day. Just a phenomenal job by this JGR bunch. They gave me a good piece and we were running up front there," Busch said.
"I didn't think we got connected soon enough and [Kenseth and Biffle] got away from us. Then we did get connected to [Turn] 2 and drove by them, and then it was just a race between him and I. And somehow getting into Turn 3, I just got disconnected from him. Once that happened, the race was over. It was all his."
There was much talk about some kind of secret or special move Keselowski put on Busch -- most of it by Keselowski himself. But video replays showed he simply pulled ahead of him and maintained the gap through the final two turns and down the frontstretch.
"I'm not sure he did anything," Busch said. "If he did, he's pretty smart. But I think our stuff just came unplugged."
Rogers explained that theory in greater detail. On a day when multiple teams battled soaring engine temperatures, the crew chief thought that's what soured Busch's final attempt at winning the race.
"I'm really proud of Kyle for keeping us in the hunt all race, and keeping the car clean. There's not a scratch on it," Rogers said. "Brad made a nice move there and our motor got hot. When you latch onto someone with this cooling package, you really heat these motors up. And when you heat 'em up, you lose power. So I think it was a combination of getting the motor too hot and Brad making just a phenomenal move through [Turns] 3 and 4 so that he was able to herd us off."
Busch admitted he wondered if he had made a costly driving mistake somehow.
"Unfortunately, I must have screwed something up, because we got to Turn 3 and came unhooked," Busch said. "We just gave the win away there. I'm not sure exactly what happened. We definitely need to go back and figure out what it was.
"I got unhooked. I hated that happened. I thought we had a shot to win that thing. All day the car was up front. I can't say enough about these guys [on the No. 18 team] and Joe Gibbs Racing. Everything they did with this M&M's Camry, it was fun to drive."
It produced Busch's second second-place finish of the season and came on the heels of his first win of the season a week earlier at Richmond. That lifted him two spots in the point standings to ninth.
Rogers said he was looking on that bright side of the bigger picture. Plus he praised his driver for having the intelligence and patience to coax the most out of the car, making sure it was in good enough condition and in position to at least contend for the win at the end.
"I'm really proud of the entire team. They all did a good job." Rogers said. "Actually, I expected [engine] temperatures to be even worse than they were. But Kyle did a really did a phenomenal job and we kept our motor fairly cool.
"I don't think we were as racy as our fans are used to seeing Kyle race, but that's just what you have to do. With the hole in the nose as small as it is, you can't get out there and be aggressive. You saw several times guys would get up there and get aggressive and then have to fall to the back [to cool their engines]. Kyle did a really good job of keeping us mid-pack or so and moving slowly forward, keeping our temps down and saving our motor for the very end."
It just didn't have enough left in it to win the race.
"Cooling issues, we all knew it was going to be the name of the game," Busch said. "You work as hard as you can as a driver to make it cooler because there's nothing else that's going to make the thing cooler for you."