Kyle Busch frustrated to not gain on Chase leaders
October 14, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
Despite fifth-place finish, Busch's deficit to first place in standings grows
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CONCORD, N.C. – Top-five finishes are welcome additions to any driver's resume, but particularly to those competing in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
But a top five is somewhat less appealing when those one hopes to reel in are posting similar results. Ground isn't gained so much as it's held. Another week, and another opportunity passes without the movement necessary to climb back into a points race, or distance one's self from those in pursuit.
Such was the case of Kyle Busch, fifth in Saturday night's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"That's about as good as we are - fifth-place," a dejected Busch said afterward. "Pretty frustrating. All in all a great night … we certainly got a top-five - which is good. We should be happy about that, but when it's time for championship time that's not what you need - we need wins and we can't win."
Second in points after the first two Chase races, and third through the first three, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver's fortunes took a nose dive last weekend with a 34th-place finish at Kansas Speedway. A workable 12-point deficit to teammate Matt Kenseth grew to 35. And Saturday night's fifth-place run at CMS failed to put a dent in the damage when two of those ahead of him in points – Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson – finished third and fourth, respectively. Instead of closing the gap, he now trails by 37.
Busch, the winner on Friday night in the Nationwide Series event, is still searching for that first Chase win and that first Chase title. It's been a difficult journey thus far.
"It's good to finish in the top-five, but it certainly stinks," he said. "We're not good enough. It's frustrating, man.
"I'm beating myself up every week trying to figure out what I've got to do to be better, and I don't know what it is. I work hard through practice; I work hard through the week. I study film. I do everything I need to do - but it's not paying off."
Without a late-race caution Saturday night, Busch said he would have likely finished third. Even if that had been the case, "we would have made up some points on some guys," he said.
"Instead we got beat by all the guys that we're racing essentially, except for one. We need to win races and we're not capable of doing that right now."
Busch, who led only four laps of the 334-lap race, lost a great deal of track position early when he had to pit twice under caution after a miscue on pit road sent him back on the track with loose lug nuts on a left-front tire.
Sixth before the stop, he restarted the race in 35th. He was able to work his way back into the top 10, but by Lap 270 he was reporting possible engine issues in the No. 18 Toyota. It was, he said later, a fuel pickup problem likely brought on by the team's attempt to stretch its fuel mileage.
"Something stumbling," he said. "We had the same thing (happen) in the third Chase race back in 2008. So it doesn't surprise me something's back."
Third at Lap 300, he was one of several drivers to take four tires on the final round of pit stops at Lap 308. He restarted fifth, but could not gain ground in the closing laps.
"There at the end, I'm sure if Jimmie would have taken two (tires) he would have stormed off and kicked everybody's butt," Busch said. "They took four, they gambled on the soft side and it bit them a little bit tonight. They lost a point to the 20 (Kenseth), but they were good enough to win. So they have something to hang their hat on - we don't.
"They say you need top-fives to win a championship, but when you're getting beat by the guys in front of you, then we're just not good enough - flat-out. I don't know what to do to be better. It's frustrating, but you know, should be happy with a fifth, but we're not. I'm not."