“This is cool man. This is right up there with the best of them. I haven’t won the big ones, so this is as good as it gets right now. I can’t put it into words. I’m tired. I’ve been screaming the whole time. This is cool. The way we ran tonight was awesome. I can’t say enough about everybody at M&M’s, Snickers, Pedigree, Combos — Toyota Camry, a car built right here in Kentucky, so home of the Camry. It was a fun night. It was a tough night. You know, I thought pit strategy was going to kind of go either way sometimes, but there at the end Dave (Rogers, crew chief) made the right call and got us the tires we wanted and the fuel that we needed and that’s what won us the race.”_-Kyle Busch, race winner_
Love him or hate him, one of the most refreshing things about Busch is his passion. Even if a win at Kentucky Speedway’s inaugural event was significant, it’s not as though Busch isn’t familiar with winning. Yet on Saturday Busch sounded as if he’d just won his first career race. In fact, every time Busch gives a post-race interview from Victory Lane, which is quite often, he seems just as excited as the last time.
Can he be a punk when he’s _not_ in Victory Lane? Sure! But in a time when drivers are accused of having (or showing) no personality, it’s fun to watch someone who literally cherishes every moment of victory that comes his way. After all, you never know when it will be the last.
“Initially I didn’t know if I was on fire. I knew that there was a lot of oil and I was scared that when it got on the tailpipes is would ignite and catch on fire. But I didn’t know I was stopped. To be honest with you, I was still pushing on the brake trying to get the car stopped and I realized I was sitting still. And then I was just trying to get out and I didn’t really know if I wanted to undo my seatbelts just yet because cars were still going by me. It was like what if somebody is not paying attention or what if I’ve laid a bunch of oil down and they can’t get stopped and they run into me. So, I was having a lot of thought going through my head in that short amount of time because I was trying to get out but I didn’t want to get out too quick and get run over.” _- Jamie McMurray, finished 36th_
It’s never good to hear someone say “I didn’t know if I was on fire.” Though I’m pretty sure the excruciating heat would give it away, the fact that McMurray’s visibility in the car was virtually zero, it’s understandable that McMurray worried whether or not his No. 1 Chevrolet had caught fire.
In all seriousness, though, it’s a shame to see McMurray struggling so much this season. This is McMurray’s second engine failure and third DNF of the season, a season in which McMurray has only twice finished in the top 10. What a difference a year makes from 2010, where McMurray enjoyed a breakout season where he won the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, and Bank of America 500. Now the only time anyone notices him anymore is when he’s hidden behind a thick, white cloud of smoke.
“I thought we had one more. The No. 00 was coming and got by me so i was hoping I had a shot just to fight for second. I felt like the win was kind of gone at that point. But I didn’t see the white and I came around and everybody let off and I was still on the gas and going and I was like wow I guess its over.” _- Jimmie Johnson, finished third_
Note to the No. 48 spotter: Let Jimmie know when the white flag is out. Because that’s kind of part of your job.
This will be one of those moments Johnson will reflect on and laugh when accepting the trophy for winning his sixth consecutive championship.
*Most Controversial Quote*
“I think the only thing that made this a great race today was the green-white-checkered and the excitement and energy of the fans. I think when Bruton (Smith) is looking at how to get the traffic in here he’s going to have to look at the race track as well. It’s rough. It’s really hard to pass. The layout needs a little help; but the surface most importantly, to give these fans what they really deserve. You never know how it’s going to go. It was certainly exciting there at the finish, so that’s cool.” _- Jeff Gordon, finished 10th_
For those that missed it, traffic was absolute hell for Saturday night’s event. Miles-long lines of traffic were waiting to get into the track long after the halfway point in the race, and 20,000+ fans were turned away because of a lack of parking. For some reason, during Kentucky Speedway’s board meetings, the track thought it was a good idea to add around 40,000 seats but never considered that adding some extra parking lots might be helpful as well.
Kentucky Speedway hasn’t yet issued a formal apology, but have said they will announce how they will compensate fans unable to get into the race within the next week or so. Gordon wasn’t the only driver calling for action after the race. Drivers like Brian Vickers and Denny Hamlin even issued apologies to fans on their Twitter accounts for the cluster-“freak”, which can’t be said for the actual track that caused it. It didn’t give fans their money back, but it was nice enough to know they cared.
*Crew Chief Quote of the Week*
“Like Kyle (Busch) said, the engineers did a great job. We came off the truck really close to setup. Sometimes that’s bad. We came off the truck really close. Actually sat out a little bit, wanted to give Kyle a breather. We let Denny (Hamlin) get in the car and drive it, see how he liked it. Then Kyle went and drove the No. 20 (Joey Logano’s) car for a while. We started playing driver swap, so the crew chiefs could compare notes down the road. Then when we got back in the car, got Kyle back in the car, some teams had made some progress and started going faster than us and we started playing catch-up. But, Kyle did a good job during test day of talking about what he was going to need to race. We didn’t focus on our lap times practicing, we focused on what we needed to race — gave me some good feedback after the truck race, made adjustments to our primary car yesterday morning. We were off in speed a little bit, but the car was doing one thing only, which is a good thing. Made some adjustments this morning. During the race, we didn’t do much to it. Took a little wedge out nearly every stop, but that’s about it. I think Kyle did a great job of dialing this team in while we were here Thursday and Friday.” _- Dave Rogers, crew chief for Kyle Busch_
It’s a good thing this show of teamwork worked out so well for Busch and his team, because his teammates Hamlin and Logano had their own slew of problems to deal with on Saturday night. Hamlin had a fast racecar, but struggled with track position all night and wound up 11th, while Logano, considered a threat for the victory all weekend never once showed any signs of contending for the win and finished 14th.
But, hey, good for Rogers and Busch. Maybe one day they’ll return the favor.
*Owner Quote of the Week*
“I think Kyle and Dave will both tell you it’s at total team sport. When I watch these guys going over the wall, that group is awesome, I got to tell you. Dave made great calls. Certainly the whole team performed extremely well. I talked to Kyle before the race. He said, Hey, there’s about seven, eight cars that are right there together. He says, I don’t know who’s gonna win this. That’s really the way it panned out. There were a number of good cars, very close racing.” _- Joe Gibbs, team owner for Joe Gibbs Racing_
Sometimes I wonder if the difference between watching a race at the track and watching it on TV is really that significant. Most of the people I talked to after the race said it was boring. At best it was “ok”, which is about how I’d describe it. The green-white-checkered finish at the end was interesting to watch but other than that I didn’t think the race was all that competitive. Busch and Keselowski put enough of a spanking on the field to make it clear no one else would have a real shot without a fuel mileage race.
Maybe there was “very close racing” towards the back of the field, but most of it felt like a glorified parade to me.
*Best of the Rest*
“It was a great race man. It was a phenomenal race. The track’s got character. You can’t drive it on the bottom. You got to run to search around and it’s a little bit rough on places, but in the end it’s a great race track and I think it was a good finish.” _- David Reutimann, race runner-up_
“It was a good restart. We struggled today with the Tornados Chevrolet. Got a lap down and finally got it back. Just made the best of a good situation. We got lucky when the caution came out there and gained a lot of positions due to that. We proved that we had a decent race car, just took forever for us to get there.”_- Ryan Newman, finished fourth_
“We came from way back. We were following the old black tornado there. He went three wide on that restart and I think it was him anyway. There were cars everywhere. That was a pretty wild last couple of laps there. I am really proud of my guys and our Aflac Ford Fusion. Obviously we would want to be over there in victory lane. We picked up one point on the points lead and are four points out of the lead now, so that is a good thing. It was a really good time, especially there at the end. That was some really, really hard driving out there.” _- Carl Edwards, finished fifth_
“I guess it was about what I expected. You could pass better than I thought. In practice it was pretty rough and I thought if you were quicker than somebody it was really hard but you could pass a little bit at least. You could still get it done tonight if you were faster.”_- Matt Kenseth, finished sixth_
“It was a fight. We just would not get any practice, so it was just tough to overcome that. It was just all traffic — just really nobody could make a lot of moves and pass. We were a victim of one of those cars. We couldn’t make any moves, especially when it came night time it seemed like our car went away from us.” _- Denny Hamlin, finished 11th_
“We should have finished better than where we did. At the beginning of the race we were way, way, way too tight — couldn’t get it better. We were struggling there to get it better. Got it good at one point at the middle part of the race. We worked our way back up there and it felt like we we’re a top-10 car. Then for some reason as the speed started picking up, the sun went down and it got tighter again. Trying to free it back up. Then we caught every caution exactly the wrong way every time there was cycling through we were the ones who got caught — got caught under the green and then the caution come out, so had the wave around twice, which didn’t give us the time to adjust on my car and make it better. I’m proud of what we did today. We definitely fought hard. All of us worked real good together. I’m proud of that, for sure. Probably we just screwed out of a couple of spots by those things and really do much about that — about cautions falling out that way. Feel like we should have finished in the top 10, but we fought back strong. I think we finished 14th — not where we wanted, but overall our performance was there today.”_- Joey Logano, finished 14th_
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