Busch brothers settle for tough results at home track

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After losing the lead late in yesterday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it was clear that Vegas native Kyle Busch was not a happy camper.

The outcome of Sunday’s Kobalt 400 for the Sprint Cup Series probably won’t make him feel any better. The “Rowdy” One charged back from a slow first stop to be a threat throughout the race’s middle stages but then faded late to an 11th place finish.

Kyle was to take two tires on his first stop after a Lap 18 caution but as he was about to make his way out of his pit box, Michael McDowell suddenly entered the box ahead of him and blocked him in.

That led the team to call an audible and have Kyle back up so they can go with four tires and make additional adjustments to the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

The decision tossed Kyle all the way back to 41st for the subsequent restart, but he was already back in the Top 20 in less than 20 green-flag laps. He continued to race all the way into the Top 5 and on Lap 76, he dispatched Jimmie Johnson to take the lead.

Busch pitted under green from the lead on Lap 97 but got P1 back when the cycle played out. However, Kevin Harvick was able to take the point away just before the halfway park at Lap 134. Still, the No. 18 stayed around the Top 5 up to the final restart of the day with 42 laps to go.

Unfortunately for Kyle, he was unable to keep up with the leaders in the last dash to the finish.

“The car was too loose on the first run and we tightened it up and it was really fast for awhile,” he said. “But, we kept adjusting on it to try and help the tight in the center of the corner and it was just getting looser and looser, especially on the last run. Just disappointing when we looked like we had a good car earlier in the race.”

He later summed up the day on his Twitter page:

But at least Kyle was able to get 52 laps at the front of the field, while his older brother Kurt never saw the front at all. He was never able to break out of mid-pack and went a lap down to the leaders shortly before the halfway mark.

He would eventually lose three laps by the time he took the checkered flag in 26th position, continuing what has been a tough start results-wise for him with his new team, Stewart-Haas Racing.

Altogether, it was a bad day for SHR, which was led by Danica Patrick in 21st. Harvick’s bid for back-to-back wins was dashed by a wheel hub failure, while co-owner/driver Tony Stewart finished 33rd at four laps down.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds