CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kurt Busch’s seventh speeding penalty of the season could have sunk his title hopes in the first Chase for the Sprint Cup championship race.
He clearly had a top-10 car when he headed to pit road early in Sunday’s race at Chicago, and that speeding penalty assessed on Lap 80 dropped him to 35th in the field.
It also made him pretty angry, since Busch was convinced he was not speeding.
“Chicago was a bogus thing in my mind,” Busch said.
“My tach was green all the way down pit road,” he added. “There’s times when it might flicker red and then you hold your breath to see if you’re going to get by the police, in a sense. Chicago was all green, never expected to be called in, and we were.”
It was still bugging him when the race stopped for rain 30 laps later and Busch grumbled about it as he drove his Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet down pit road. But he had a five-plus hour rain delay to get over it, and did, rallying to an astonishing fourth-place finish.
Busch heads into Sunday’s race at New Hampshire tied for fifth in the Chase standings, 23 points behind leader Matt Kenseth. The speeding penalties are a concern, and Busch conceded his team needs to be careful the remaining nine races.
“We’re setting our pit road tachometer too aggressively and too close to the margin, so we just have to be more conservative,” he said. “The thing that has to be clear internally with Furniture Row Racing is that the guy setting the tach isn’t going conservative on his own, and then I’m going doubly conservative to make sure we’re not too conservative once we’re out performing, because we have to perform in this Chase.
“We can’t lose spots on pit road with slow pit stops and we can’t lose spots on pit road driving too slow in a speed zone.”
ENGINE WOES?: Matt Kenseth goes into Round 2 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship with an eight point lead over Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch.
With five-time champion Jimmie Johnson lurking right behind them — he’s just 11 points out of the lead — neither can breathe easy.
Their own equipment may be cause for some sleepless nights. JGR teammate Denny Hamlin suffered an engine failure late in Sunday night’s race at Chicago, and Brian Vickers also had an issue, giving manufacturer Toyota two engine failures in the same race.
“It’s always a concern breaking any kind of parts, having any kind of failure, anything that’s going to take you out of a good finish when you’re trying to race for a championship and stay in contention,” said Kenseth, who will make his 500th career Sprint Cup start on Sunday. “There’s not a lot we can do about it. You try to get all the information you can, try to control all the things you can, try to be easy on any parts or pieces that could possibly break.
“Certainly engines are one of the most critical pieces, and they take a lot of abuse. I guess you maybe always worry about that a little bit.”
Toyota also had issues three races ago at Atlanta, where four engines had problems. Hamlin suffered two engine failures that weekend — one in Saturday practice, one in the race, Vickers lost an engine on Friday, and Clint Bowyer’s failed while leading in the race.
“I’m not sure about Atlanta. I know we were trying some new stuff there, something for next season, something to use later in the Chase. I know there was a little bit of experimenting in Atlanta,” Kenseth said.
“When you get to the race track, you can’t do a lot about it so you concentrate on the things you can control and try to help that as much as you can and go from there.”
RIDE FOR CANCER RESEARCH: IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay will participate in the annual Dolphins Cycling Challenge as part of Team AutoNation to support cancer research.
The two-day cycling ride Nov. 2-3 is a collaborative effort between the Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, with 100 percent of rider-raised funds going directly to cancer research at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Hunter-Reay lost his mother to colon cancer in 2010 and has been committed to raising funds for cancer research through Racing for Cancer, which he co-founded. AutoNation is a presenting sponsor of Racing for Cancer.
“Nearly one-third of cancer is said to be preventable and with early detection, many more cancers can be caught in their early stages saving lives,” said Hunter-Reay. “Our goal is to create an awareness of the importance of getting tested.”
BILL FRANCE CHAMPIONSHIP: Frank Kimmel is the winner of the Bill France 4 Crown Championship following his third-place finish in the ARCA Racing Series’ event at Salem Speedway.
The Bill France 4 Crown is a miniseries within the ARCA season that challenges drivers on four different types of courses. This season’s 4-Crown schedule included a superspeedway event at Michigan International Speedway, a road course at New Jersey Motorsports Park, a mile dirt oval at Springfield and a short track at Salem.
Kimmel’s showing Saturday at Salem gave him his sixth Bill France championship.
“I’ve always put that pretty high on the list,” he said. “First of all the namesake of the thing, Bill France, that’s a big deal and pretty awesome he’s part of that thing. It’s such a diverse set of tracks.”