Kyle Busch’s horrible luck at Kansas Speedway continued during this morning’s Sprint Cup practice session, as his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota hit the wall.
He qualified 18th yesterday for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 but today’s wreck forced his team to bring out a backup car, meaning that he’ll have to start from the rear of the field for the race.
It’s a critical setback for “Rowdy,” who goes into this weekend third in the Chase for the Sprint Cup – trailing JGR teammate and championship leader Matt Kenseth by 12 points.
Additionally, his older brother and fellow Chaser, Kurt Busch, also found the wall during the morning practice. Kurt will have to go to a backup for Sunday, too; this causes him to abandon a 19th-place starting position.
Kyle was able to return in his backup No. 18 for the latter portions of the session, which also saw Kenseth spin out to trigger a late yellow. However, he escaped without damage sustained to his No. 20 JGR Toyota.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led the practice with a lap of 186.027 miles per hour. He qualified second yesterday, narrowly missing out on the pole won by Kevin Harvick.
Monday was IndyCar team owner Michael Andretti’s 53rd birthday and son Marco was nowhere to be found – but with good reason.
The younger Andretti and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay were both testing at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near Lexington, Ohio.
Also taking part in the test was Schmidt Peterson Motorsport’s James Hinchcliffe.
It was Hinchcliffe’s second successful test since recovering from his horrific crash during practice for this year’s Indianapolis 500 in May.
Hinchcliffe’s first test was last week at Road America in Wisconsin.
Monday’s test session was not open to the public or media, but a Honda source told Motorsportstalk that drivers and teams reportedly focused on testing aerodynamics for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field. Finishing sixth in 2015 after a late rally was Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda
- 2014: 6th Place, 3 Wins, 1 Pole, 6 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 195 Laps Led, 10.2 Avg. Start, 10.9 Avg. Finish
- 2015: 6th Place, 2 Wins, Best Start 3rd, 3 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 71 Laps Led, 12.2 Avg. Start, 10.4 Avg. Finish
The old adage “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” would probably be the best way to sum up Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 2015 season, which until the final quarter of season could best be described as a forgettable nightmare.
The first three races seemed somewhat OK, with eighth, seventh and fourth place grid spots. But none of the three produced a result of note; Hunter-Reay was also caught up in the three-car, late race accident at NOLA Motorsports Park and didn’t bank any good finish until a fifth place at Barber the end of April.
A tailspin followed. Hunter-Reay started between 14th and 21st every race between the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Milwaukee – a stretch of eight races – and only had one top-10 finish in that stint, eighth at the rain-affected lottery that was Detroit race two. Some seasons are just ones you want to end and by Milwaukee it was obvious that Hunter-Reay was racing just to get to the end of the year, without things getting any worse.
Things finally came good with a typically good drive at Iowa and arguably one of the drives of his career, two races later at Pocono, to end with two wins and extend his streak of winning a race in each of his six seasons at Andretti Autosport. It was no coincidence, either, that Hunter-Reay’s uptick in form came with the return of the late Justin Wilson’s presence in a fourth car.
After Pocono, Hunter-Reay also drove well to finish second at Sonoma, and by that point he’d completed an incredible late-season turnaround to jump from 14th to sixth in points. But if asked, he’d probably admit this was his toughest season yet at Andretti and arguably his toughest overall since his 2009 season, when he was in-between full-time rides and saw out the year with Vision Racing and A.J. Foyt Enterprises.