Kyle Busch continued his role as “spoiler” in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, finishing runner-up to winner Jimmie Johnson in the TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Unfortunately, one of those whose day was spoiled by mechanical problems was Joe Gibbs Racing’s lone “Chaser,” Denny Hamlin.
Busch, who qualified third for Sunday’s race in the #18 M&Ms Halloween Toyota Camry, ran upfront for much of the race, but never led a lap during the 500-lap event. Early on in the race, Busch battled a loose-handling race car; on Lap 149, he spun in Turn 4 by himself, but he worked himself back to seventh-place by Lap 289. Busch put himself in contention to win in the closing laps of the race.
His second-place finish is his best effort in 16 starts. He remains 13th in points, 69 points up on 14th-place Carl Edwards.
“So close, yet so far away it seems like here at Martinsville time and time again,” said Busch in the post-race interview. “Struggled early, got behind. Spun out there, was able to work on it, get ourselves a pretty decent car. Probably a third- or fourth-place car. I think we were able to come home second there. Can’t say enough about the effort, the guys did a good job. Denny had issues. I hate it for them and those guys. They deserve it. I’m sure it’s not good on the points front. We worked as hard as we could and we had an angel riding with us today and weren’t able to capitalize for Raine (Angelley) and his family, the loss they had earlier this week. Raine was a kid Samantha and I took under our wings about a year ago, kidney issues, liver issues, passed away this week. It’s heavy hearts for all of us. Wish we could have won him one.”
Hamlin’s day seemed plagued from the drop of the green, as he was penalized twice for speeding down pit road, first on Lap 50 and again around Lap 200. The final problem would prove to be more serious for Hamlin, who entered the race third in points: Hamlin’s #11 FedEx Express Toyota fell off the pace on Lap 372, sending him to the garage area. He returned on Lap 423, having fallen victim to electrical problems causing intermittent power losses – a broken post on the master cutoff switch, according to NASCAR.com.
Hamlin finished 33rd, 34 laps down; he fell to fifth in points, 49 points behind new points leader Johnson, who is two points up on Brad Keselowski, who finished sixth.
Joey Logano, in his final few races in the #20 Home Depot/redbeacon.com Toyota, finished 16th. He picked up one spot in points, moving into 17th.
The Sprint Cup Series gets back on track next Sunday, November 4th at Texas Motor Speedway. Stay up-to-date on JGR at joegibbsracing.com.
Quotes in this piece provided by NASCAR.
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