Busch Scores Top-10 Finish at Rockingham
- Feb 23, 2004
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 23, 2004) – Kyle Busch and the No. 5 Team Lowe’s Racing crew claimed their first top-10 finish of the 2004 NASCAR Busch Series season with a seventh-place result in Saturday’s 200-mile event at North Carolina Speedway.
“We’re happy,” Busch said. “The Lowe’s/Gladiator Garageworks Chevrolet ran good all day. I didn’t think we had that good of a car after yesterday’s happy hour session, but overall the guys made awesome changes since last night.
“Lance (McGrew, crew chief) and everybody else did a great job. We came out with a strong finish, even though we had kind of a setback in the beginning.”
Busch and his Hendrick Motorsports team fought back from a two-lap deficit to post the top-10 result. Early in the event, the No. 5 Chevrolet suffered a cut tire when it made contact with the car of Ron Hornaday in Turn 1 of the 1.017-mile oval. Busch was forced to pit under green-flag conditions to replace the tire, which dropped him two laps behind the race leaders.
“Ron Hornaday got on my inside, and I don’t know if I squeezed him or not, but he got into us a little bit and I think his fender knocked out the valve stem,” Busch said of the incident. “We started leaking air and had to come down pit road.”
After the stop, Busch made up one lap under green-flag conditions, and received another lap back when a caution flag came out for debris on Lap 67 of the 197-lap event. Per NASCAR’s rules, the first driver not on the lead lap when a caution flag comes out (Busch, in this case) is allowed to restart the event on the tail end of the lead lap when the race returns to green-flag conditions.
When the race restarted on Lap 70, Busch quickly began to work his way through the field, moving from 22nd position up to 19th in just 10 laps. The engine on Greg Biffle’s machine expired around this time, which put oil down on the track and brought out another caution flag on Lap 81.
While under the yellow flag, McGrew directed his driver to pit road for service. Busch brought his No. 5 Team Lowe’s Chevy to the attention of his pit crew, where they made quick work of putting on four fresh tires and filling the fuel cell on Busch’s machine. In fact, the Hendrick pit crew sent Busch back out five positions higher (11th) than he had come in.
When the race returned to green-flag conditions on Lap 86, it didn’t take long for Busch to crack the top 10, as he passed Mike Bliss to take over 10th on Lap 91. Two laps later, a pass on Bobby Hamilton Jr. gave Busch the ninth spot. On Lap 95, he passed Johnny Sauter to claim eighth on the leader board and, seven laps later, a pass on Kevin Harvick gave him the seventh spot.
With tire wear becoming a factor as the long green-flag run continued, Sauter and Hamilton were able to get past Busch to drop him back to ninth, where he remained until the leaders began to make pit stops around Lap 145.
On Lap 151, it was Busch’s turn to come to pit road. Again, his pit crew performed a quick stop for fuel and a full set of tires, and Busch returned to the race.
A few laps later, a caution for an accident involving the cars of Hermie Sadler and Aaron Fike brought out the final yellow flag of the day. In preparation for the final green-flag run, Busch again came in for fresh tires before rejoining the field two positions higher (eighth) than where he was being shown before coming in.
The final 21 laps of the event saw Busch battle Sauter for sixth. With the two drivers exchanging positions a number of times, Busch chose the high racing line around the track, as Sauter seemed to prefer the low line. On the very last lap, Sauter managed to squeeze by Busch to claim sixth, with Busch bringing the No. 5 Chevy across the finish line in seventh.
With the finish, Busch jumped 12 spots from 24th to 12th in the Busch Series driver standings. The strong showing also gave Busch two career top-10 finishes in two Busch Series starts at North Carolina Speedway.
The Busch Series will enjoy a weekend off before heading to Busch’s hometown of Las Vegas, where Team Lowe’s Racing will visit Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the third event on the 34-race schedule. The event will air live on Saturday, March 6, beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET on the FX television network and MRN Radio.