To cap sweep, Busch must rally from back
August 24, 2013, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Only one victory stands between Kyle Busch and another tripleheader sweep. And of course, he’s saved the most difficult of those triumphs for last.
The NASCAR star moved another step closer to the sport’s second-ever tripleheader sweep on Friday night by dominating the Nationwide Series event at Bristol Motor Speedway. That win came two days after Busch kicked off the weekend by edging Timothy Peters in a slam-bang finish to the facility’s Camping World Truck Series event.
Now, only the final piece remains -- Saturday night’s Sprint Cup Series race on the half-mile track, the same facility where Busch recorded his and NASCAR’s first tripleheader sweep in August of 2010. But to duplicate that feat Busch will have to overcome the handicap of starting at the rear of the 43-car field, the result of a crash in qualifying.
“It’s going to be tough (Saturday), that’s for sure,” he said. “You always save the best and the hardest one for last. But I feel like we had a good car (Friday) in practice, and there were times when we showed some speed. But a lot of cars could run the same speed. We see that all the time. Over here in the Nationwide car, I felt like I had a little bit better car in practice, and it sort of showed in the race.
“But starting deep on the field like that, you’re going to have to be patient. But you can’t be too patient, because the leaders are going to be bearing down on you if you get stuck in traffic and can’t go anywhere. But that’s what Bristol is all about. We’ll just have to continue to try to cut through traffic (Saturday).”
Busch had the fastest car in final Sprint Cup practice Friday, setting himself up as the driver to beat for the pole. But he had issues before his qualifying attempt even started, a scrub of the wall that led him to abort his attempt, turn around, and drive back to the start/finish line for another go.
The second try turned out even worse -- Busch spun and backed into the wall with the right-rear of his No. 18 car. His crew salvaged the primary vehicle, but Busch will still have to start Saturday night’s event from the rear.
“We were a little too loose, and I overdrove the corner and messed up. That was my fault,” he said. “I carry the load on that one, and I’m going to have to (Saturday) night, too. It’s not like we haven’t done it before coming from the back -- I think I started 33rd or 36th or something and won here before. Certainly a lot different race track and groove, and how you’ve got to run around here from a couple of years ago. So we’ll just work hard and see if we can’t dig ourselves out.”
According to NASCAR, two drivers have started last and won a premier-series event, but never in a 43-car field. Dick Rathmann won from 26th in a 26-car field at Oakland Stadium on March 28, 1954, and Bobby Allison won from 25th in a 25-car field at Richmond on Sept. 7, 1969. Two drivers have also won from the 43rd starting position, but in fields larger than 43 cars. Johnny Mantz won from 43rd in a 75-car field in the inaugural Southern 500 at Darlington on Sept. 4, 1950, and Fonty Flock won from 43rd in a 49-car field at Raleigh Speedway on May 30, 1953.
The deepest Busch has ever started in one of his Bristol Sprint Cup victories is 20th, in the spring of 2007. The deepest he’s ever started in any Sprint Cup victory is 30th, at Sonoma in 2008. And there’s the track itself, which is a little different than it was the last time Busch swept here -- the top groove was ground down last season in an attempt to stimulate more side-by-side racing.
“Hopefully, the bottom works,” Busch said. “If I get a good-handling car, I can make some hay down there. But it’s going to be a train around the top, for sure.”
Busch has made serious bids at tripleheader sweeps elsewhere -- a broken water pump in a Truck Series event kept him from notching one at Dover several years ago -- but Bristol so far is the only place where all the pieces have come together. Even for a driver with 120 combined national-series victories, a sweep is a very big deal.
“Yeah, it means a lot,” he said after opening Sprint Cup practice Friday. “It's something that's never been done in the 16 years there's been three series, and it hasn't been done in the three years since I did it. There could be a chance for me to do it again, but this race track's changed so much here that it may not come here, but it can still come at other places.”