Kyle Busch: “We tried everything” to keep up with Kenseth

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After the first two races of the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup, it would appear that Kyle Busch’s greatest competition for the championship will be none other than his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Matt Kenseth.

Busch fell just short to Kenseth last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, and today at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, he ran out of time in his bid to hunt him down, losing out by half a second in the end.

In regards to having to likely duel with Kenseth for the Cup, Busch feels that he and his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team can’t do anything different than what they’ve been doing lately.

“I think the organization is going to give the equipment to the both of us,” Busch explained at NHMS. “I don’t think any one of us is going to get better stuff. It’s just going to come down to better communication between myself and the crew chief in that way, because those are certainly the ways that you win these things.

“That’s how you build speed, getting your car better all through the weekend. But if you can unload and just hit it and be on it and get going, then that’s a better way to win each weekend…”

Kenseth was certainly “on it” at the Magic Mile today, leading a race-high 106 laps en route to his seventh victory of the year. Busch felt that his own race was “pretty good” but admitted that he couldn’t hang with Kenseth no matter what he and his team could come up with.

“Certainly, we were never as fast this weekend as the 20 [Kenseth] was,” Busch said. “They just had a special car. Sometimes you unload with them, and they’re just phenomenal. The 20 had that here this weekend.

“We tried everything to try to keep up with him and to get pace with him, but it was tough to do.”

Not helping matters for Busch, in his mind, was an ill-fated final restart with 41 laps remaining that subsequently forced him to try and cover a sizable gap in the closing laps.

“I spun my tires a little bit so I didn’t get a chance to race him at all, and then I had to fend off everybody else and get stretched out and try to run him down,” Busch said.

He came close to doing just that. But with his teammate running on all cylinders, “close” will not be good enough if he wants to win the Chase.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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