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Talladega wreaks havoc on Harvick, Busch brothers

October 25, 2011, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com



Talladega wreaks havoc on Harvick, Busch brothers

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- The seeming randomness of restrictor-plate racing caught up three Chase contenders in Sunday's Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. And in every instance, all three were innocent victims in what crew chief Dave Rogers said was being "in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch saw their title hopes severely damaged by a multi-car accident on Lap 104, while Kurt Busch climbed out of his car and declared his Chase chances over after he couldn't avoid a spinning Bobby Labonte with just 14 laps remaining.

"[Edwards and Johnson], they rode out back and finished. We were up toward the front and we got wrecked out."

--DAVE ROGERS

Harvick came to Talladega trailing points leader Carl Edwards by five points. After finishing 32nd, Harvick left 26 points behind. Kyle Busch wound up one position behind Harvick on the track and 40 points behind Edwards. And his older brother fared even worse, finishing 36th and facing a 52-point deficit.

"Our championship hopes are done, just because of this two-car Talladega draft," an obviously frustrated Kurt Busch said.

All three showed early race strength, with Harvick leading six times for 13 laps. But it was while Harvick and Kyle Busch were running four-wide in the tri-oval that their days went disastrously wrong.

Richard Petty Motorsports teammates A.J. Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose were running on the far outside lane when Allmendinger's No. 43 Ford suddenly veered left and swept across the front of both Harvick's No. 29 Chevrolet and the No. 18 of Busch.

"It looked like [Ambrose] got a little impatient coming to the tri-oval," Rogers said. "He's trying to push his teammate, [Allmendinger], which is the name of the game around here, but he jacked [him] up pretty good, got his rear wheels of the ground, it looks like, and that turned [him] across our nose."

Harvick wound up with major damage to the front end of his car, which required multiple pit stops. That put Harvick two laps in arrears. Busch's damage was more extensive, partly from the contact with Allmendinger, but also from a side hit courtesy of Juan Montoya, who also was involved.

* Video: Multi-car wreck causes damage for Harvick, Busch

After initial triage on pit road, Rogers called Busch to the garage, where the team feverishly worked on the No. 18, repairing the track bar and replacing a ball joint. Busch was able to return to the track, albeit 11 laps down.

"There were a lot of repairs to be done -- all four corners of that car, the suspension and body were damaged," Rogers said. "We got out there in a timely fashion and picked up spots. It was a team improvement and I was pleased."

Harvick's day went from bad to worse when his car began to smoke heavily following a restart on Lap 126. NASCAR ordered the No. 29 to the garage, where his crew worked on the oil cooler. Thanks to a caution involving Kasey Kahne during that time, Harvick only lost an additional seven laps.

"Obviously that wasn't the day we wanted," Harvick said. "But the way the rest of those guys raced, it didn't devastate us.

"We wanted to be in the front. We thought that was the safer place to be in case the thing went green. I thought I was around a pretty good group of cars there. I don't know what happened. It is just one of those deals."

Kurt Busch also was a victim of circumstance. When Labonte got turned around in Turn 3 on Lap 174, Busch did all the accident avoidance he could, but wound up slamming hood-first into Labonte's right-rear fender.

* Video: Busch slams hard into a spinning Labonte

"We were doing good all day, running with Regan Smith, and just had nowhere to go," Kurt Busch said. "[Labonte] got flung by Michael Waltrip, he went low, we went high, and he was starting to come back up when I was zigging and zagging."

Rogers summed up all the frustration.

"I wish there was a recipe that we could tell Kyle to let him know where to be when we race in Talladega, but it's so hard to say," Rogers said. "[Edwards and Jimmie Johnson], they rode out back and finished. We were up toward the front and we got wrecked out.

"I thought we were going to be a contender at the end, but unfortunately we got taken out a little prematurely. We had a lot of work to do and they got the car out there fairly quick and we picked up five, six spots just with our crash repairs, so that's the silver lining of the day."