NASCAR Michigan Notebook: Another Sprint Cup Event Up In Smoke For Kyle Busch

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service


Kyle Busch (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kyle Busch (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR)

BROOKLYN, Mich. – To say 2016 has been a feast-or-famine year for Kyle Busch would be a colossal understatement.

And lately it’s been all famine.

Just past the 50 lap mark of Sunday’s FireKeepers 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway, the engine in Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota gave up the ghost, spewing fire from underneath the chassis and filling the driver’s compartment with smoke.

Busch unpinned his window net, drove his car to the garage and exited the race in 40th place, the first driver out.

That marked the fourth straight event in which Busch has finished 30th or worse and the sixth time in 15 races he has run 25th or worse.

On the other hand, Busch has finished in the top four on nine occasions and has three victories to his credit, most in the series so far this year.

“Just been feeling the motor kind of going south for about 30 laps or so and it finally let go,” Busch said of Sunday’s failure. “At least there was plenty of warning, and I knew it was going to get hot in there, and it certainly did once it let go and it was on fire. It’s just been a dismal month, just haven’t been able to hit anything and get good finishes going.

“Our car has been really fast and (crew chief) Adam (Stevens) and the guys have been doing a great job getting us good stuff to the race track, but it just wasn’t our day today… We started out the season good and strong and had some top fives and such, so it was a good foundation for us to build off of. We’d like to be able to get our luck turned around and get back to finishing races where we know we can.”


With NASCAR’s new lower-downforce aerodynamic package in place for Sunday’s race at Michigan, drivers went three-wide at their own peril, often with disastrous results.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Chevrolet was the middle car in a three-wide sandwich on the backstretch when Chris Buescher’s Ford got loose, whacked the left rear of Earnhardt’s car and knocked it into the side of AJ Allmendinger’s Chevy.

Buescher was the only driver able to continue, as Allmendinger and Earnhardt wen to the garage in 38th and 39th place, respectively.

“We were in the middle there, and the No. 34 (Buescher) ran into the left-rear quarter panel and knocked us in the fence,” Earnhardt said after the wreck. “He must have just lost the nose of his car. I hate it, but you try to take care of each other out there. We all try to race hard, and I wish he would have taken better care of us.

“He just lost the car and hit the quarter panel. It happens, though. I’m angry, but I won’t be too upset about it later. It’s frustrating right now because we had a good car, and I was happy with the way the car drove. We had good speed—we just needed to continue to work on getting our track position and we were doing that. We won’t get a chance to get the finish I think we could have got today.”

But Earnhardt has a knack for finding the silver lining in any situation. With the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series getting a week off this coming week, Earnhardt posted the following on his Twitter account:

“The car was good today and getting faster. Easy top 10. Haven’t been wrecked in a while but that is part of racing. Vacation starts early.”


The new lower-downforce aerodynamic package under evaluation for 2017 got its first test in a points race at Michigan, and NASCAR officials liked what they saw in the 400-miler.

“It was definitely different than we’ve seen here before, a lot of action on the restarts, a lot of movement there,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition. “Obviously, we all watched it get strung out a little bit, which we weren’t hoping for longer into the runs.

“I think we saw a lot of things that we liked, some other things that may need a little bit of reevaluating, but I think overall, for such a big move in downforce, that it was a really pretty successful day and something that we can build on.”

If the new configuration, or a variation thereof, is adopted for next year, Goodyear will have time to build a tire designed for the new package and the track.

“I think we probably need to come back to a bit more work on the tires, which these tires have not been tuned to this package, so we’ll work with our Goodyear folks,” said Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR senior vice president, innovation and racing development. “Probably a bit handicapped by the entry speeds being pretty high (reaching roughly 218 mph), so still that creates some aero effects, so that’s something we’ll look at.

“But again, this has been planned as a two to three step process. We’re off to Kentucky tomorrow (for an organizational test on Monday and Tuesday), and then we’ll be on the track at Kentucky (July 9)—shorter track, lower speeds and all that, so we’ll see how that all comes together.”

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