Kurt Busch laments missed opportunity
July 06, 2014, Seth Livingstone, NASCAR Wire Service, NASCAR.com
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kurt Busch wasn't blaming NASCAR for putting a halt to Sunday's racing at Daytona. He was blaming himself for not winning.
Busch, 35, has authored 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories but none in points-paying restrictor plate races.
"Fifteen years into it," lamented Busch, who finished third behind Aric Almirola and Brian Vickers when the Coke Zero 400 was halted after 112 of 160 scheduled laps. "I've won IROC races, won a (Budweiser) Shootout, won a qualifying race (at Daytona). I've won a Nationwide race here. But I haven't broken through for a points-paying Cup win yet.
"I've got to go back to the videotape. I have to study more. When I'm the leader, I have to advance my game. I have to be better at blocking and strategically managing the race as the leader."
Busch led a race-high 36 laps but not the ones that mattered most when the rains returned shortly after 2 p.m. ET. NASCAR waited nearly an hour before deeming the results final.
"It's disappointing to finish third after leading the most laps," Busch said. "We thought we were in good position. But when you're racing, knowing that there's weather in the area, it's best to be in that lead position.
"I didn't do my job as the race leader. We didn't quite have those couple of solid restarts at the end that we needed to be the leader when the race was called."
Busch said he understood NASCAR's reasoning in calling the race when it did, especially given that fans had already sat through a postponement on Saturday night.
"There's the network TV side of it versus the safety of the fans as well with thunder and lightning in the area," he said. "It's a tough call to make."
Vickers, who started 30th and did not lead a lap, was less-understanding of NASCAR's decision.
"I was hoping they would wait it out," he said. "We've got lights. It's Daytona. It's only 2 (p.m. when racing was suspended). Knowing that we weren't even supposed to start the race (Saturday) night until 7 p.m., I was shocked when they called it at 2-something in the afternoon.
"I know a lot of the fans tuned in to the TV and stuck around waiting to see a finish. I was expecting them to wait a little bit longer."
Failing to hold off Almirola might not be the end of Busch's saga at Daytona. NASCAR said it will analyze the track bar splits of his Haas Automation Chevrolet at its Research and Development Center and issue a report.
A promising day for pole-sitter David Gilliland ended in the chaos of a 26-car accident on Lap 98.
"We knew there was going to be trouble there," said Gilliland, who ended up 35th. "I probably should have given myself more room. A lot of guys up front didn't take any tires. What a mess. It's not the day we were looking for. We had a great car."
Reed Sorenson, who started alongside Gilliland on the front row, was also involved in the Lap 98 melee and placed 33rd.
"I saw a car maybe two or three rows in front of me start spinning, then I got hit from behind," Sorenson said. "It was on from there. But that's just part of racing here. It's bound to happen."
At the other end of the spectrum, Casey Mears, who started 22nd, ran among the leaders for much of the race and finished fourth.
EXPERIENCES LIKE NO OTHER
With temperatures in the 90s and the humidity out of sight, Marcos Ambrose said it was "mega-hot" inside his No. 9 Ford. "The hottest race car I've ever had," Ambrose said.
Jamie McMurray also had an experience he'd rather have missed.
"I've never had a car that's off the ground and it's a crazy feeling," said McMurray, who was one of several cars elevated during the 26-car crash on Lap 98. "It's a helpless feeling to have a car do that. I was really lucky that it set back down."