News & Media

Runners-up awed by Johnson's dominance

July 30, 2012, Mark Aumann,

INDIANAPOLIS -- Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle had every reason to be pleased with their Sunday drives at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After all, each had a car worthy of a trip to the winner's circle.

One of them might have made it there, had Jimmie Johnson decided at some point three silver brick trophies were enough. Instead, Busch's "phenomenal" Toyota and Biffle's "great" Ford had to play second and third fiddle to Johnson's dominant Chevrolet.

Chevrolet dominance

Manufacturer's winners in 19 races at Indianapolis
YearDriverLaps led
1995Dale Earnhardt28
1998Jeff Gordon97
2001Jeff Gordon29
2003Kevin Harvick33
2004Jeff Gordon124
2005Tony Stewart44
2006Jimmie Johnson33
2007Tony Stewart65
2008Jimmie Johnson71
2009Jimmie Johnson24
2010Jamie McMurray16
2011Paul Menard21
2012Jimmie Johnson99

Busch recorded his best-ever finish at the Brickyard but still was marveling afterward how hard it was to keep pace with Johnson.

"Jimmie Johnson wasn't even in his own zip code [Sunday]; he was in his own country," Busch said. "The rest of the field has a whole lot of work to do, I can tell you that."

Busch has had days like that -- he felt he missed a golden opportunity in Saturday's Nationwide race when his car was probably the class of the field -- so to see Johnson dominate the way he did was something to admire rather than envy.

Of course, that was during the few times when Busch actually saw Johnson's car up close, like during restarts. Busch lined up directly behind Johnson on the final restart with 20 laps to go, but when the green flag dropped, Johnson was long gone.

"He would make it through the corners, and he just put his car anywhere he wanted and would just slam on the gas pedal and take off from me," Busch said. "His car was down and digging. It definitely had a lot of grip and definitely was really fast."

Busch doesn't normally lose well. But when you've gone seven races without a top-10 finish -- which included two engine failures and a host of other issues -- getting a "best in show" ribbon is worthy of some boasting.

That's especially true after Busch rallied from an odd issue on a Lap 48 pit stop. His car bogged down as he tried to leave the pits, with thick black smoke emanating from his exhaust pipes from an overabundance of fuel in the system. It eventually cleared and didn't cause further issues.

"We gave it everything we had," Busch said. "We had a little miscue on a pit stop there, but rebounded nicely and [were] able to come out of here with a second-place [Sunday].

"It feels like a win for us for as bad as the last two months have gone. [I'm] just excited to hopefully be able to turn this around and hopefully start getting headed in the right direction."

Busch said he had been tempted to do a burnout to celebrate, but thought he'd "save that for when we really do collect the checkered flag."

Based on his practice times Saturday, Biffle thought he might have a car the equal of Johnson's in the race. However, the setup he and crew chief Matt Puccia agreed on turned out to be a handful.

"We put a different package on our car that seemed like it had pretty good speed on the lap tracker but was a little bit free, and we thought that might be good for [Sunday] if it was going to need the car to turn," Biffle said. "We decided to race that package and [were] just really loose all day."

Still, Biffle thought he might be able to use track position to his advantage late in the race after Jeff Burton cut a tire and brought out the caution on Lap 124. Biffle and Puccia rolled the dice and took two right side tires, assuming that others might take the same chance.

But the decision backfired when Johnson and nearly every other lead-lap car opted for four fresh tires. Even though Biffle jumped out to a fairly large lead when Johnson got stuck racing side-by-side, it didn't take long for the No. 48 to zoom by.

"It didn't really matter if you were in front of him or not, he was going to pass you in about four or five laps anyway," Biffle said. "His car was just really, really good.

"Sometimes you don't want the guy behind you, you know, if inevitably he's going to pass you no matter what. Sometimes it's not an advantage to be in front of him, to be honest with you, because it puts you in a position for more guys to be battling with you than the one. But he ran me down in two laps from 25 car lengths."

However, Biffle's fears were eased by a four-car accident that involved teammate Matt Kenseth one lap after he gave up the lead.

"That caution right there probably helped us," Biffle said. "It probably helped the tires equalize, and when we fired off there again we were able to maintain [position]."

Biffle's finish was his fifth consecutive top-10 at the Brickyard and equaled his third-place run in 2010.