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Engine Troubles End Busch’s Day at Daytona

  • Feb 17, 2004

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 17, 2004) – A promising run ended early for the No. 5 Team Lowe’s Racing crew in Monday’s Hershey’s Kisses 300 NASCAR Busch Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

After running in and around the top-10 throughout the day, an overheating engine forced driver Kyle Busch out of contention with less than 20 laps remaining in the 120-lap event.

Busch was credited with a 24th-place finish, 19 laps down to race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“It’s disappointing, especially with how strong the Lowe’s/ShopVac Chevy was today,” Busch said after the event.  “It’s rare that you have an engine failure with a Hendrick engine, but we had gotten shoved from behind a couple of times.  One of the shoves forced me into the car ahead of me hard enough to damage the ductwork on the front of my car, and we couldn’t get enough air to the engine.  It was only a matter of time before the thing overheated.”

Crew chief Lance McGrew said he was proud of how Busch performed in his first outing in the Team Lowe’s Racing entry, and pointed out that the young driver finished better in his first race in the No. 5 than Busch’s predecessor, 2003 Busch Series champion Brian Vickers.

“It’s 20 spots better than we finished here last year,” McGrew said.  “It was a good day for us, right up to the end.  We stayed up front, and I don’t think we ever fell out of the top-20 all day.

“When the ductwork got damaged, we knew it was going to be a tough ending to the day.  I’m proud of the way Kyle and the team performed, though. We’ll go to Rockingham next week and build on the strong run we had for most of the race today.”

Starting from the 14th position in his first Busch Series start at Daytona, Busch quickly established his Team Lowe’s Racing Chevy as a force to be reckoned with.  In just four laps, the 18-year-old powered his way into the top-five by taking the high racing groove around the 2.5-mile track.

With drafting help from Jason Leffler in the No. 00 car, Busch maintained his place in the top-10, even after a wreck deep in the field on Lap 11 damaged the cars of at least seven competitors.

After the yellow flag came out for that incident, McGrew instructed Busch to bring his entry to pit road for fresh tires and fuel.  While safety workers cleaned up the debris from the accident, rain began to pelt the speedway surface.  The field continued to circle the track under the yellow flag for approximately 20 more laps, as NASCAR officials hoped the rain would be short-lived.

Unfortunately, the showers continued throughout the afternoon, and the decision was made to postpone the event until 11 a.m. ET Monday morning.

The weather on Monday was much improved, with partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the upper 60s by late morning.  The race resumed shortly after the 11 a.m., with NASCAR instructing the field to circle the track under yellow flag conditions for several laps.

Most of the frontrunners, including Busch, used the caution period as an opportunity to duck to pit road to top off the fuel cells on their entries before the race returned to green flag conditions on Lap 34.

Busch immediately resumed his assault on the field, teaming up with several competitors in the draft in an attempt to move to the front.

A scary moment for the No. 5 team came on Lap 41, when the car of Paul Wolfe broke loose from the racing surface and fishtailed out of control.  Busch was running just to the outside of Wolfe when the incident occurred, and Wolfe’s No. 6 car turned right into the side of Busch’s No. 5 entry.

For a moment, it appeared Busch would be collected in the accident, but the young driver managed to regain control of his car and continue.  A number of competitors beside and behind Busch were not so lucky, with the cars of Mike Wallace, Tim Fedewa, Casey Atwood, Ashton Lewis Jr. and Martin Truex Jr., among others, suffering damage in the accident.
During the caution period that followed, McGrew asked several other teams on pit road to have their drivers pull alongside the Team Lowe’s Racing Chevy to determine if any serious damage had been done.  When the reports came in from those drivers, it was determined that Wolfe had only put a tire rubber “donut” on the side of Busch’s car.

On the Lap 47 restart, Busch jumped in behind Earnhardt to help both drivers draft their way to the front of the pack.  The tactic worked, as Earnhardt moved into second position, with Busch just behind in third, on Lap 54.

Busch stayed around the top-five until a caution came out on Lap 74 for oil on the racing surface.  Under the yellow flag, Busch came to pit road for service from his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports pit crew.

The team made an air pressure adjustment to fix a tight handling condition on Busch’s car, pulled some tape off the radiator to help lower the car’s water temperature, and made a chassis adjustment, in addition to changing four tires and filling the fuel cell.

Returning to the race in 10th for the Lap 77 restart, Busch was working his way back toward the top-five before his engine’s water temperature began to steadily climb.

McGrew told Busch to “keep his foot in it” and drive the car until the engine wouldn’t run, which is exactly what he did.  On Lap 101, the overheating problem forced Busch to pit road, where the team raised the hood on the No. 5 and determined that the engine was done for the day.

The Busch Series will next visit North Carolina Speedway for the Rockingham 200.  The race will air live on FX and MRN Radio beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 21.

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