"Man, it was just a bit of a mystery today," Busch offered after the race. "We did our job on Friday to get our Operation Home Front/Miller Lite Dodge Charger a solid sixth starting position and that's about as good as it was today. I'm just really confused on why our car was so tight to start the race. It's really puzzling. By the time we got to the third caution (on Lap 60), we had to make a complete shock change in the front, just to try and loosen the car up. Steve (Addington, crew chief) kept wrenching on it and we started to make some gains as the car loosened up.
"I thought that we were pretty good on the short runs, but just struggled on long green-flag racing," Busch added. "We started to inch our way inside the top 20, then top 15. Then all of a sudden, around the 200 lap marker, we pitted under caution and the entire attitude of the car changed. I have no idea if it was track temperature, tires, but whatever it was, we got really tight again. All we did was change the front (tires) air pressures two-tenths (of a pound). I scrubbed the wall again and fell back to mid 20s again. Just no consistency and it showed."
Busch started sixth here today and almost immediately notified crew chief Addington that he was fighting an extremely tight Dodge Charger. On Lap 20, he had fallen to 23rd in the running order and dropped to 36th on Lap 26. Some early-race cautions helped keep Busch on the lead lap and allowed Addington and crew the opportunity to work on their ill-handling car.
After track bar, wedge and air pressure adjustments offered little relief; the "Blue Deuce" crew changed the front shock absorbers under the third caution period on Lap 60. Busch was 35th on the restart and the team continued to make minor adjustments on the pit stops that followed. Busch was 27th on Lap 113 and up to 19th on Lap 149.
The team changed upper control-arm shims during a Lap 152 pit stop under the fifth yellow of the race and was 33rd on the ensuing restart. That change seemed to bring the car to life and Busch was all the way back up to 15th on Lap 200. However, after another pit stop saw just the minor front air pressure change, Busch had his hands full again. He brushed the wall on Lap 214 and fell to 28th.
Busch fell to 30th on Lap 228 and was put a lap down by then-leader Greg Biffle on Lap 237. He had moved into the ‘lucky dog' spot, hoping to get a caution and return to the lead lap on Lap 307. But typical for how his day had gone, he lost that position on the same lap that the ninth caution of the race flew on Lap 327. After pitting during that yellow, Busch motored on to the 24th-place finish, completing 333 of the 334 laps.
Up front, it was a spirited battle to the finish with race winner Denny Hamlin and runner-up Matt Kenseth. Hamlin and Kenseth swapped the lead several times down the stretch, with the tightly contested action closer than one would expect on such a big track as TMS. But, the finish was pretty characteristic of what the day held here on the 1.5-mile Texas track as far as the unexpected. Kyle Busch was held and penalized two laps for "unsportsmanlike conduct" after making an "inappropriate gesture" when he was penalized for speeding exiting pit road and brought in for a penalty around lap 146. Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton wrecked during the yellow on lap 192 when Burton got into Gordon. Both drivers got out of their cars, with Gordon bypassing his ambulance to approach and shove Burton. They got into "semi-fisticuffs" on the backstretch before getting separated by track workers.
The unofficial results showed Hamlin taking the victory by 0.488 seconds over Kenseth, with Mark Martin, Joey Logano and Greg Biffle rounding out the top-five finishers here today. Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, David Ragan, Jimmie Johnson and Paul Menard rounded out the top 10.
Sam Hornish Jr.'s 18th-place finish led the Penske Racing charge here today, with Busch finishing 24th and Brad Keselowski 33rd.
Hamlin's win vaulted him into the series points lead. With 6,325 points, he leads Johnson by 33 points with the races at Phoenix and Homestead remaining. Kevin Harvick is third with 6,226 points, Carl Edwards fourth with 6,008 points and Kenseth fifth with 6,000 points. Busch, with 5,887 points, fell to 11th in the standings. He is 113 points out of fifth, 66 out of ninth and 41 out of 10th.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup tour now heads back out to Phoenix International Raceway for next Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500. Friday's practice from 12:00 Noon till 1:30 p.m. kicks off this weekend's action at PIR. Qualifying to establish the starting grid for Sunday's battle is set for Friday at 3:45 p.m. local. Saturday's morning practice is scheduled from 11:30 a.m. till 12:15 p.m. and the final "happy hour" practice session is scheduled from 12:50 p.m. till 1:50 p.m. Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 (500 kilometers/312 miles/312 laps) has a scheduled 1:00 p.m. local starting time (Mountain Standard Time) here on this 1.0-mile speed plant known as the Desert Mile. ESPN-TV and MRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action.