No. 78 team comes back from penalty for fourth-place finish at Sonoma
Kurt Busch has been fast seemingly everywhere in recent weeks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule.
Unfortunately for the No. 78 driver, that near-omnipresent speed extended onto pit road last Sunday at Sonoma Raceway.
Yet even with a double whammy of pit-road speeding penalties, Busch pressed forward both in the race and in the points standings, finding positives in his fourth-place finish in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 — though still wondering what might have been.
“It was good and it was bad,” Busch said. “Second (place) might’ve happened if we weren’t speeding. Fourth happened because I gave it all I had to get back up there.”
“It was all on my shoulders. I just had to saddle up, pull up my bootstraps and go.”
— Kurt Busch
Busch had already done a masterful job with forward progress after starting seventh and forging into the lead by Lap 19 in the 110-lap event. But a 34th-lap stop disrupted his momentum after he was whistled for speeding entering the pits. It only got worse the next lap, when Busch came back down pit road to serve his pass-through penalty and was nabbed for speeding again.
The ensuing stop-and-go infraction temporarily knocked him off the lead lap into 38th place, forcing a feverish rally from there on.
“It was all on my shoulders. I just had to saddle up, pull up my bootstraps and go,” Busch said. “We had a better car than fourth, but we’ll take fourth. We’re happy with that.”
That Busch passed 21 cars in the final 25 laps was inspiring enough, but it also established a new performance standard for the Colorado-based Furniture Row Racing team. Busch’s sixth top-10 finish of 2013 is the most in a single season for car owner Barney Visser’s team since its inception in 2005. Further, his fourth top-five effort is one more than the team had achieved in all its previous years.
For this year’s purposes, Busch is inching closer to putting the No. 78 Chevrolet into its first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup postseason. He jumped three spots in the standings Sunday, moving up to 17th place and cutting five points off his margin to 10th place, the final spot for automatic entry into NASCAR’s playoffs — a position currently held by race-winner Martin Truex Jr.
But to make up the 28 points that separate him from 10th place, or to snatch a victory that would improve his hopes of a Chase Wild-Card spot, both driver and team will need to put together consistent, complete races. That could begin in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT) at Kentucky Speedway.
“We’re knocking on the door,” Busch said, “but we’re tripping on the threshold when it opens.”