CHARLOTTE, N.C. — 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.”