NASCAR Cup Series
Busch Comes Up a Lap Short, Twice, of Victory in Fontana
After @KurtBusch notched a fifth place finish last week in his first race this season, Fontana was a great opportunity for him to capitalize on momentum.
The No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet was easily the fastest car off the trailer this weekend, making him the early favorite to win. He ran in the top-five for much of the afternoon and led a race high 64 laps. His car proved to be the class of the field on short runs and was exceptional on long runs.
After a broken axle derailed @MattKenseth’s chances of winning the race, Busch was in a great position to come home victorious. Except, two late debris cautions derailed his chances of walking away with the victory, given the fact he was running on only two fresh tires. On the two final restarts, he managed to clear himself of the field through turns one and two and get in clean air. His fate quickly changed on the final restart as Brad @Keselowski charged to his back bumper with four fresh tires.
As the white flag flew, @GBiffle wrecked on the front straightaway though NASCAR would not throw a caution. Keselowski managed to get to Busch’s inside as the cars drove into turn one and cleared him off turn two. With the track still under green flag conditions, Busch was going to get one more shot at the win.
With everything on the line, he drove his car as hard as he could in to turn three but could not get to Keselowski’s bumper. After losing all of his momentum, he was passed by his teammate @KevinHarvick and brought his car home third.
Busch had every right to be mad and dissatisfied after the race, as the crazy chain of cautions at the end of the race seemingly shot his chances of winning. He didn’t let any of that show after the race and was overall excited about the day he had just had.
“It was a solid day,” he said. “I don’t know what we could have done different. We just got pinned in by the yellows and the sequence at the end on which tires we needed to have to optimize how many laps were left.”
“We had two tires; (Brad) Keselowski had four. We didn’t need that extra yellow at the end and I just got out muscled by Keselowski.”
It would have been impossible for his team to tell whether or not there was going to be a green-white-checkered. In the end, Busch needed to keep his track position to have less traffic to fight through the lead. While it would be simple for him to blame his finish on the call to take two tires, he put the last restart on himself.
“When do you pit to put four tires on, when do you pit to put two tires on? That last restart I just didn’t get the job done. Brad (Keselowski) out muscled us with four tires.”
Although victory was the only thing the Stewart-Haas Racing team wanted today, they’ve still got a plenty of momentum going into Martinsville next weekend. Busch has garnered two top-five finishes in his first two races this season, and next weekend is another great opportunity for him to win. He scored his lone victory last year in a hard fought race at Martinsville, leaving him little time to hang his head over Fontana.
While a win would have been huge for the No. 41 team this weekend, there is still plenty of momentum riding on their side. Now they’ll just need a little help from lady luck to help propel themselves into this year’s Chase.
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