BUSCH DOUBLES UP — With a second-place finish in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, Kyle Busch is officially on a roll. Busch, who turned 27 last week, finished second in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race as well, one week after winning the Cup race at Richmond and having his big brother Kurt drive the Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota to victory in the Nationwide race.
While that would be enough to make most folks happy, Busch was disappointed that he was not able to make a last-lap pass of Brad Keselowski to win Sunday’s race in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Usually, second place is the preferred place to be on the last lap, but Keselowski feinted and darted and held Busch off.
“Just tried to keep pushing Brad to the front straightaway where I knew I could make a move,” said Busch. “Just unfortunately I must have screwed something up, because we got to turn three and come unhooked. Just gave the win away over there. Not sure exactly what happened. We definitely need to go back and figure out what it was.”
Busch praised Keselowski for his last-lap cunning.
“He's no dummy, that's for sure,” Busch said of Keselowski. “He's got good plate-racing skills. I think he's got good short track, mile-and-a-half skills, too. Brad should be a title contender each and every year. Last year he did a great job through the summer stretch, one of the hottest guys going into the Chase, qualified his way in on wins.”
GOOD ENOUGH WASN’T — For Roush Fenway Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle, Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 was a good race. But both were hugely disappointed that it wasn’t a great one. Kenseth, who won the season-opening Daytona 500, led a race-high 73 laps, ultimately finishing third, two spots ahead of Biffle.
But both men knew it should have been a Roush victory. On the race’s green-white-checkered finish, Kenseth bolted into the lead, aided by a strong push from Biffle. But before the penultimate lap of the race was complete, the Fords got separated and freight-trained by winner Brad Keselowski and second place Kyle Busch. On the last lap, Kasey Kahne got his Hendrick Chevrolet between the two Fords, finishing fourth.
“I think we had the winning car we just didn’t have the winning driver,” said Kenseth. “That last restart Greg and I got together like we did at Daytona and of all the cars I raced around all day Greg was really pushing me fast. We got in front of the 2 (Keselowski) and Kyle and as soon as we became clear it wasn’t long after that that I looked back and we were separated and those guys were outside of him. With nobody behind him he lost his speed and with me not paying enough attention during that to keep us hooked up it cost us a shot at the win, it cost Greg a shot at the win. I didn’t do a good job of managing that the way he was.”
“It was tough,” added Biffle. “The car ran hot a lot of the day and we had to manage the water temperature and the fuel. It was close at the end but I just wish I could have stayed on Matt’s bumper. He pulled away from me a little bit. If we could have stayed locked together it would have come down to him and me at the end but we just couldn’t stay locked up with him there at the end.”
KAHNE, JUNIOR SOLID — Rick Hendrick’s 200th win will have to wait at least one more week. The Aaron’s 499 was a mixed bag for the team owner, as Jimmie Johnson lost an engine and Jeff Gordon had another disastrous finish, thanks to a crash not of his making. On the plus side, Kasey Kahne had a season’s best fourth-place finish and Dale Earnhardt finished ninth.
“We survived. That was the biggest thing,” said Kahne, who posted his second consecutive top-five finish and fourth straight top 10. “We had a fast Farmers Insurance Chevy. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports did a really nice job preparing it after crashing everything in Daytona this year. It was a strong run for us, really. We missed the wrecks and got a good push there from Clint (Bowyer) at the end and we were catching the guys in front of us. It was just too late.”
For his part, Earnhardt said his car was not as good as it should have been.
“It was just between me and Steve (Letarte, crew chief), we can improve quite a bit,” Earnhardt said. “We've got all the tools, we just really didn't bring the best package here. Good engine. We have all the tools. It ain't nothing anybody at the shop did. Between me and Steve, we can do a better job. ... We have got to work on some things. Do some things a little bit different with the body and the spoiler. Change a couple of things around that will help us.”
TOP-10 FOR BAYNE — Trevor Bayne, in just his fourth Sprint Cup race of the season, survived the spate of late-race cautions to finish eighth, his best run of the year in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford.
“We will take that especially after all that mayhem out there,” said Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner. “We ran out of fuel once, spun out once after getting hit. I slowed way down and I don’t know what happened. It was a good caution for us because we needed fuel to make it to the end. I think that is a great finish for us. Two top-10’s on the year out of four starts is not terrible. We can keep working on it. They always give me good superspeedway cars and if I can make them last to the end I know we can get a top-10 out of it.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.