In a Nutshell – The Busch Series race at Memphis was more like a Friday night Demolition Derby than an event that originated from the number two stock car series in America. On a day when almost half of the race was run under the yellow flag, a total of 25 caution flags for 117 laps dominated the headlines, coming up one short of the all-time record for the series. The longest green-flag run of the entire race was 20 laps, from lap 20 through lap 40; the wreckfest made the race horrific to watch and caused several teams to use pit strategy to get to the front, as several teams found their fuel windows extended due to the slower average speed. In fact, all of the fits and starts allowed teams to run over half of the race on their final pit stops.
But up front, it didn’t matter. When there was racing, it was David Reutimann who proved the class of the field, leading 192 of 250 laps to take his first career victory in the Busch Series. After falling behind several cars that pit out of sequence midway through the race, Reutimann sliced through the field to get back to the lead, holding off a stiff challenge by Mike Bliss to seal the win. David Ragan, polesitter Marcos Ambrose and Jason Leffler rounded out the top-five finishers. The next five finishers able to survive the carnage were Scott Wimmer who extended the points lead in the owner’s race with his sixth-place finish, Jamie McMurray, Jason Keller, Brad Keselowski and his brother Brian Keselowski. Behind them, points leader Carl Edwards had a chance to clinch his first championship; but, like 95% of the rest of the field, he was caught up in multiple incidents, the last of which dropped him to 25th after the No. 60 spun out on the final lap of the race.
Who Should Have Won: Reutimann. Starting second, the Michael Waltrip Racing driver wasted no time getting to the front; leading the very first lap, he had no problem staying ahead of the carnage behind him. The fastest car on the track for most of the race, the last 80 laps of competition were when the car was at its strongest, and aside from Bliss, no one was even able to stay within striking distance after a restart. Ambrose did have a strong car for much of the race, while Leffler came on at the end, but both of them paled in comparison to Reutimann’s strong performance.
Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race This Weekend
1) What qualifications does it take to race in the Busch Series?
The Busch race on Saturday looked like a Faster Pastor race from Caraway Speedway this weekend. It was impossible to get any flow going with the longest green-flag session lasting only 20 laps. The line at the NASCAR trailer was a mile long after the race, with no less than three drivers being penalized for rough driving – open wheeler Dario Franchitti and rookies Robert Richardson Jr. and Steve Wallace were among those in trouble.
So, what caused the problem? It’s an easy answer; lack of experience in the starting field. With all but five “Buschwhackers” choosing not to pull double duty with the Cup Series in Atlanta, no less than 20 rookies were at the track attempting to qualify – and several of those competitors were responsible for the wreckfest that unfolded once the race got underway. Clearly, NASCAR really needs to look at the people that are racing in this series, and see about requiring a little more experience from the competitors.
2) Does the Busch Series need a Chase format for their points championship?
Edwards is now within reach of clinching his first-ever Busch Series championship; however, he has been sucking out loud for most of the last two months of the schedule, watching his point lead get chopped by nearly 300. Since he built up such a gigantic points lead at the beginning of the season, he is still going to clinch the championship before the last race of the season. If there was a Chase format in place for the Busch Series, Edwards would not be close to the title. Fortunately, the Busch series settles it the old-fashioned way, the champion is the best for the whole season, not just a short sprint at the end.
3) Should NASCAR look into a multiple caution penalty?
There were multiple instances on Saturday of the same driver causing more than one caution flag during the day. One of the drivers (Kyle Krisiloff) was parked before he could cause any more carnage, but others were allowed to continue with just a penalty of being held on pit road. It would seem that, to cut down on people driving like idiots, NASCAR could implement a penalty that would park anyone for the rest of the race who’s responsible for causing more than two caution flags.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle
Edwards once again was unable to clinch the championship this weekend at Memphis. He needed to finish eighth or better to sew up the title, but a final lap crash knocked him back to 25th and prevented him from winning the title in Memphis. Even before that incident, Edwards was only running 10th and would have most likely been going to Texas to clinch the title anyway. Edwards is now 531 points ahead of Reutimann with three races remaining and needs only to finish 36th or better to earn the trophy.
The No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team extended their lead in the owner points to 136 over the No. 20 team of Joe Gibbs Racing. While the championship is far from locked up, the lead of basically a full race makes it look pretty much a foregone conclusion; and with Edwards’s continued problems, it looks like the owners’ and drivers’ title will go to different teams for just the second time in Busch Series history.
Brian Keselowski, Brad’s brother, put on a very impressive drive this weekend, staying out of trouble and posting the first top-10 finish of his career. It was just Keselowski’s fourth start, but his first finish of higher than 23rd.
With three races to go, the top five in points has all but taken shape: it’s Edwards, Reutimann, Leffler, Kevin Harvick and Ragan.
Buschwhackers in the race: 5
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 568 of 1,369
Buschwhackers finishing in the top 10: 3
Buschwhackers finishing in the top 10 YTD: 229 of 320
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 29 of 32
Buschwhackers ranked in the top 10 in Busch Series points standings: 5
“I don’t know if there has ever been that many more yellows in a race — there was a lot of them. Memphis is a pretty challenging racetrack, and sometimes it is challenging to pass. It doesn’t take much to turn a guy around — all you have to do is get into the back of a guy. Everybody I raced around raced me clean. Mark Green did a good job at practicing the car for me. Jerry Baxter (crew chief) and all the guys gave me a great piece. They say after you win one they come a little easier, we’ll see.” – David Reutimann
“It was a very frustrating race but I feel good. The silver lining is that David Reutimann won the race and he’s a [heck] of a guy. So, that’s good for him. But, that’s just racing. We got caught up in some stuff. We had a great racecar, I think we had the fastest car – on one of the runs that we made once, we got five or six cars at a time. Still, we had a fast car and that’s how it goes. All we do is the best we can do. We did everything we could today, and that’s what we ended up with. It’s not a fair thing, you can’t count on anything until it’s done. We’ll keep racing.” – Carl Edwards
“That’s what happens when you are in the back of all of those idiots.” – Bobby Hamilton Jr. after being taken out in a wreck.
Next Up: Next week, the series heads to Texas Motor Speedway for the O’Reilly Challenge 300. The series’ second race of the season at the 1.5-mile facility, it will be run in conjunction with the Nextel Cup event the following day; that means that many of the rookies from today’s debacle will be replaced once again by their Buschwhacking mentors who usually find themselves driving those cars. The third from last race on the schedule will take place on Saturday, November 3rd at 3:00 p.m., with the broadcast coming to you live on ESPN2 and PRN.