The Frontstretch: Busch Breakdown: O'Reilly 300 by Toni Montgomery -- Saturday April 14, 2007

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Busch Breakdown: O'Reilly 300

Toni Montgomery · Saturday April 14, 2007

 

In A Nutshell: Just call Matt Kenseth “Spin ‘n’ Win.” Kenseth had an eventful day, spinning out on lap 54 when his Arby's Ford blew a right rear tire, but that didn’t stop the Roush Racing veteran from roaring back for his second Busch win of the season. While Kenseth didn't hit the wall with his spin, he did lose a lap; but after receiving the free pass on a late race caution, he found himself with both the speed and the skill to work his way back up front. Ironically, Kenseth’s main challenger was Denny Hamlin, who also fell a lap down when Kenseth spun in the middle of green flag pit stops; he, too, battled back to the lead lap, finding himself up front for much of the second half of the race. But once Kenseth blew by him with eight laps remaining, Hamlin proved no match to stop one of the most improbable victories of Kenseth’s career. Hamlin had to settle for second, one car length behind the race winner; Carl Edwards, Casey Mears, and David Ragan rounded out the Top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Kenseth. This is another one of those cases where you have to hand it to a guy for staging an amazing comeback. In Denny Hamlin’s case, it was clearly the one that got away; he staged an improbable comeback of his own only to fall prey to a man on a mission at the finish. Kyle Busch should get a mention here, too; he dominated the early going, leading 113 of the first 118 laps, but he also got trapped a lap down under yellow after making a green flag stop, and never quite recovered as nicely as Hamlin.

Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race Weekend

1) Should the broadcasters go to “driver name school” before they are allowed in the booth?

I know Dr. Jerry Punch deserves a vacation and his substitute is not in his home element, but exactly how does one pronounce Regan Smith's name?

2) What did Juan Pablo learn about going from hero to zero?

Montoya and his team made a gamble on pit strategy, taking only two tires that put them in the lead in the race’s closing stages; for a moment, it looked like the rookie might get his wish to win on an oval. But the Colombian left his pit stall too early, leaving loose lugnuts to be tightened on the right side tires of his Dodge; forced to make a second pit stop under yellow, that yellow stripe on Montoya’s back bumper became more prominent than ever. A few laps later, it was all over in a heap of smoking sheet metal after a vicious crash, this time after some bumping and banging with fellow rookie Marcos Ambrose. But hey, it was exciting while it lasted! Montoya’s mistakes can be chalked up to a learning experience for a rookie that continues to impress.

3) Is Casey Mears' performance in the Busch race an indicator that he might be about to snap his slump in the Nextel Cup Series?

Mears has performed well under expectations at Hendrick Motorsports this year, but Texas is a good track for him, and he says the team is finally getting a handle on getting their equipment sorted out and giving him what he likes in a car. Can he build on the momentum of a Top 5 on Saturday? We’ll have to find out today.

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle:

With another co-located race this weekend, the Cup guys were back in force; the highest finishing Busch-only driver was Jason Leffler in lucky 13th spot. As for the rookies this week, Busch-Cup newbie David Ragan took home best in class, coming home in fifth place. Ragan also earned his first career pole this week, which probably puts Texas pretty high on his list of favorite tracks.

As for the championship standings, third place is usually a pretty good finish for padding a points lead. Just ask Carl Edwards about that; he now holds the top spot by a tidy margin of 403 points over second place Dave Blaney. If things continue at this pace, Kevin Harvick may see his amazing record margin fall by the wayside in just one year. Harvick himself sits third, 432 behind Edwards, but won’t be a factor for the championship as he’s not running all the races. Kyle Busch and David Reutimann continue to round out the Top 5 in a lineup that saw no changes this week.

Looking further back in the points, Matt Kenseth moves up to sixth while Bobby Hamilton, Jr. is seventh, first among the Busch-only drivers. Marcos Ambrose slides back two spots to eighth, while Mike Wallace remains ninth and David Ragan moves up to take the final slot in the Top 10.

Buschwhacker Watch:
Buschwhackers in this race: 25
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 161 of 342
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10: 10
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10 YTD: 63 of 80
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 8 of 8
Buschwhackers ranked in Top 10 in Busch Series points standings: 7

Quotable:
"We had a tough week last week. We just wanted to rebound and pick up some points. We want to win, and we're going to win some this year, but we've got to take some small steps. We can't let anything crazy happen. We had a strong run and hopefully it will help a little bit for tomorrow, but we'll take a Top 5. About another six months from now we'll be mad if we finish fifth." David Ragan

"It's been a long time coming to get a Top 5. We've had a lot of good days where we should have had a Top 5 and something went bad. Today, I just kept waiting for the sun to fall down on top of this race car and knock the hood off it or something. (But) everything ended up the way it should." Mike Kelley, crew chief for David Ragan.

"I feel bad for Juan. I wasn't trying to take him out. We were just trying to finish the race. We were just trying to make it to the end." Marcos Ambrose, who was involved in the incident that ended Montoya's good day

"I was pretty loose off of two and I was loose off of four and I figured if he got close enough to me, he could potentially get me a lot looser where I had to get out of the gas and get by, where if I got on the top I figured I could have a good run off the corner." Matt Kenseth, on holding off a furious charge from Denny Hamlin in the closing laps

Next Up: It's Friday Night Lights for the Busch Series, as they take to the track for the Bashas' Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. Coverage starts next Friday night, April 20th, at 9:00 PM ET on ESPN2.

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Sandra Canfield
04/15/2007 09:30 AM
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I think they need to limit the cup drivers to six to a race because I thought last weeks race was the best bush race in a long time because there was no cup drivers 17 lead changes thats a race. Give these young drives a chance. Work it out among themselves who wants to race what race but whats nascar going to do when junior and gordon retire and theres no one to take their place because the busch series has been taken over by cup. Also no cup driver should be allowed to run for both championships. They need to figure out where there priorities are. I can’t wait for car of tomorrow to become permanent because maybe some of the bush guys can actually have some races to themselves providing the series survives that long. It helps when you have rwi inc and jrmotorsports but they need to figure out alot more to get bush only owners and sponsors and future next el cup stars in the series. This weeks race was boring

 

Contact Toni Montgomery

Recent articles from Toni Montgomery:

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IF you want to know more about Toni Montgomery or to see all of her Frontstretch articles, check out her archive and bio page.