News & Media

Kyle Busch, others talk oil en route to finish

August 12, 2012, Seth Livingstone, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Drivers claim possible spill hampered cars, shaped finale of race at The Glen

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Kyle Busch watched victory literally slip away at the Finger Lakes 355 on Sunday, and he wasn't in the mood to talk afterwards.

"Oil all over the race track. It's pretty ridiculous they don't want to end a race under caution and put that many cars in jeopardy."


Not about his superior car; not about his late-race duel with Marcos Ambrose and Brad Keselowski; not about the oil on the track that sent his Chase hopes spinning out of control on the final lap and added controversy to a memorable finish.

"I have nothing good to say," Busch said, dashing to his golf cart, a media horde pursuing him much the way Ambrose and Keselowski had done for most of the last 16 laps.

Video: Drivers slide into wild finale at Watkins Glen

That left Busch's crew chief Dave Rogers to diplomatically do the talking for a Joe Gibbs Racing team that settled for a seventh-place finish, and was left on the outside looking in for a wild-card spot in the Chase.

"[Kyle] was obviously frustrated that we sat on the front row [and] we led the most laps," Rogers said, after a brief hauler chat with Gibbs. "We had to pass cars. It wasn't an easy day for us. Then to come within a lap of winning the race, he was obviously frustrated, as we all are. ... I thought that we had the car and the driver to win with three [laps] to go, but you always know something can happen."

In this case, oil turned a track previously slickened by rain in to a virtual slip-and-slide. The problem was, the oil wasn't visible in puddles or streaks. Only the reaction of cars and the post-race reaction of the drivers told the story.

"We didn't have any reports of oil," Sprint Cup series director John Darby said. "The only corner-worker reports were that the 47 [Bobby Labonte] was smoking. They were asked repeatedly if he was dropping everything. The report back to us was: 'No, Tower. The track's clear.' On the last restart, where the whole field of cars goes all the way around the race track and one car spins out and the rest of them are racing, it was obvious to me it wasn't that bad."

From behind the wheel, however, it was worse than it looked.

"I was the first one to start sliding in it," said Ambrose, who went on to defend last year's win at The Glen. "You just couldn't see where it was at. If it was a black streak, it would [have been] OK. It was almost like a fine spray and just really hard to pick up. I thought it was my oil until I saw Kyle and Brad sliding as well and thought: 'Ok, there's something down here on the track and we're just going to have to deal with it.'

"It was absolutely Kyle's [race to win] at the end," said Ambrose, who was more than two seconds off the pace with two laps to run. "All of a sudden people started sliding around and I saw Kyle backing up to us."

As the final lap began, Busch went spinning, aided by a tap from the fast-closing Keselowski. That left it to Ambrose and Keselowski to duke it out over the last two miles.

"Everyone was slippin' and slidin'," Rogers said. "I think everything happened too quick [for NASCAR to respond] to be honest with you. By the time that NASCAR realized there was that much oil on the track, everybody was wrecked anyway.

"I wish we could have crossed the line first, got the white flag, the caution, then the checkered. But then there'd be other people criticizing NASCAR for throwing the yellow and giving us the win. NASCAR's in a tough spot. They made the decision that they made and I'm not going to question it."

Busch's team wasn't the only driver impacted by the slick track or the only one to speak out. Hendrick drivers Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all struggled with track conditions late in the race.

"Oil all over the race track. It's pretty ridiculous they don't want to end a race under caution and put that many cars in jeopardy," said Gordon, who spun into the wall on the last lap and went from having a possible top-10 car to a 21st-place finish. "I had no idea that there was oil out there [but] I knew there was all kinds of havoc happening all around. ... To work that hard all day long, come all the way from way back, all the way up into the top 10 and have it taken away because they don't want to throw a caution, it's pretty disappointing."

Earnhardt, who had climbed into the top five after starting 16th, spun on Lap 83 and went from 10th to a 28th-place finish.

"There was just oil everywhere from somebody," Earnhardt said. "You couldn't see it ... so you didn't know where to run. I saw the leaders were coming and I was just trying to get out of the way. They were in oil and I was in oil and then I watched everything that happened in front of me. It was a bad deal, I think."

Johnson took advantage of Busch's misfortune to finish third and take over the Cup Series points lead, one point ahead of Greg Biffle, who finished sixth.

"Those last two laps were just out of control with the oil down," Johnson said. "You are studying the road, trying to see if you can see an oil trail and there really wasn't a large visible one to dodge. But you could feel the oil on your tires and slipping and sliding. Then, there are guys spinning all over. It was chaos, but I'm glad we got back to the finish line -- finished third."

It was a tough day all around for JGR. Denny Hamlin dropped to 10th in points after blowing an engine and finishing 34th, two spots behind Joey Logano who broke a shock mount and finished 19 laps down.

Kasey Kahne finished 13th but retained the lead in the wild-card race with two victories. Ryan Newman finished 11th to maintain a six-point edge on Busch for the second wild-card spot.