NASCAR: Top drivers of 2014 – No. 10 Kyle Busch

0 Comments

Kyle Busch

Season finish: 10th

2014 Season Stats: 1 win, 9 top-5, 15 top-10, 3 Poles.

What went right: The younger Busch brother had a good, but not great season. For the second time in three seasons, he managed just one victory, compared to his four wins in 2013. But Busch’s lack of wins didn’t rest solely on himself. Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin also only had one win, while fellow teammate Matt Kenseth had zero wins after earning a series-high seven triumphs in 2013. Busch faded in the Eliminator Round of the Chase and did not advance to the season-ending Championship Round at Homestead. On a side note, Busch and wife Samantha announced they will soon become parents for the first time.

What went wrong: While Busch insists racing in other series helps him with his day job in the Sprint Cup circuit, one must wonder if perhaps he’s racing too much and it indeed is affecting that same day job. Busch earned seven wins each in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series in 2014, but an argument can be made that by racing so much, he’s wearing himself out for Sunday’s usual main event. On a more specific note, Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers had communication problems that may have ultimately led to their divorce of sorts after the season. It’ll be interesting to see how Busch and new crew chief in 2015, Adam Stevens, work together. Or not.

2015 Prospectus: With a new crew chief, and likely with at least a few new pit crew members, it will be interesting to see how quickly Busch and Stevens jell in 2015. Of course, they’re not strangers, as Stevens was Busch’s crew chief the past two seasons in the Nationwide Series. If they can only have part of the success they’ve had on NASCAR’s junior circuit – 52 starts, 19 wins, 46 top-5 and 47 top-10 finishes – in the Cup series, it will be a good change. Busch still hasn’t won his first Cup championship. Will turning 30 and being a new father and having a new crew chief in 2015 all potentially help him to that goal?

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
0 Comments

Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.