TALLADEGA, Ala. — The Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle, both have significant streaks in danger of ending this year.
From 2002 through ’11, Kurt won at least one race per year in the Cup Series. So far this year, in the No. 51 Chevrolet owned by James Finch, Busch has a best finish of third at Sonoma. He’ll race for Finch on Sunday at Talladega before starting his tenure at Furniture Row Racing on Oct. 13 at Charlotte.
Kyle’s eight-year winning streak in the Nationwide Series likewise is in jeopardy. Driving for his own team for the first time this year, and sharing Nationwide duties with Kurt, Kyle is winless in 17 starts. Kurt has the only Nationwide victory for Kyle Busch Motorsports, having triumphed at Richmond in April.
In four years of Nationwide competition for Joe Gibbs Racing from 2008 through ’11, Kyle accumulated 40 of his series-record 51 wins, with a high-water mark of 13 in 2010. The Nationwide Series has this week off but will run companion events with five of the final six Chase races, starting Oct. 12 at Charlotte.
In JGR’s No. 18 Cup car, Kyle extended his Cup consecutive-season winning streak to eight with a victory at Richmond the day after Kurt won the Nationwide race there.
Hamlin empathizes with Busch’s frustration, but …
Denny Hamlin had the same fuel mileage problems as teammate Busch last week at Dover.
Hamlin just didn’t voice his frustration the same way as Busch, who launched into a profanity-laced tirade against manufacturer Toyota over his team radio. Busch issued an apology four days later, and Hamlin took to Twitter in defense of some of the criticism being levied against his teammate.
”It would be very hard for anyone in here and any fan to go out there and lead three-quarters of the race and then something that you have no control over takes you out of it,” Hamlin said at Talladega. ”Because as a driver you did your job, but unfortunately something else kept you from winning so I understand those frustrations.”
Busch had to make a late stop for gas after dominating Sunday’s race at Dover, and Hamlin also had to make a fuel stop. But the Dodge of winner Brad Keselowski and the Chevrolet of Jimmie Johnson both got better mileage and neither had to make late stops for gas.
Hamlin didn’t think Busch’s message was on point, but could empathize with Busch’s frustration.
”When you vent and you are frustrated, it hurts the team more than you realize and I think that when the team gets frustrated, it’s hard to get that chemistry back,” Hamlin said. ”We all know our weaknesses. The problems that are going on with fuel mileage and this, that and the other, those are things that we’re all working on. It’s not like one statement will make someone work harder at their job at that particular time — it’s not.”
No friends for the points leader?
Even though recent rules changes have minimized tandem drafting, it’s still important to have allies on the track in a restrictor-plate race.
Chase leader Keselowski knows he’ll have one friend on Sunday — and perhaps only one.
Keselowski and Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr. are the only two Dodge drivers in the field. If Keselowski needs a push or room to change lanes during the race, Hornish will provide it.
“I’ll be glad to have Sam’s help, that’s for sure, and I know that he’s been a good teammate,” Keselowski said. “I’m looking forward to working with him. I think we’ve worked pretty well together this year, whether it’s Nationwide or Cup.
“But as far as the other drivers, I go into the race not expecting to have any help from anyone and playing it from there.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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