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Kenseth, Busch have Daytona issues
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA.
Matt Kenseth led the most laps in the Daytona 500 — but a third Harley J. Earl trophy wasn’t meant to be in 2013.
After taking command at the point for the fourth time on Sunday afternoon, he led his 86th lap when he fell off the pace and turned over the lead to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin.
“We’re getting ready to blow up,” said Kenseth, who initially thought it was a drive-train issue. “It’s vibrating and smoking. Other than that, everything is good.”
That’s when JGR’s fortune began to change. While Hamlin led the pack on Lap 151 and Kenseth’s crew pushed the No. 20 Toyota into the garage, teammate Kyle Busch pulled on to pit road and the team immediately put the hood up. Three laps later, Busch followed Kenseth into the garage.
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“Just broke something inside the motor,” said Busch, who finished 34th. There (are) pieces that are supposed to stay together and they didn’t stay together. I hate it for this whole team. These guys — they do a great job and work too hard, and it sounds a lot like 2012 already.”
Busch sang a similar tune in 2012, too. Obviously disappointed, particularly after winning the second Budweiser Duel qualifying race on Thursday, he believed he had a car capable of winning despite never leading a lap.
“It just shows you how much more devastation there it to it when you can have cars like that and running that fast and that they stayed up front and they’re good,” Busch added. “All of the guys at JGR built an awesome piece. All three of us have been fast since we’ve been down here. The best we’ve qualified here in a while. So kudos to all of the guys building these cars, but we’ve got to have engines that last.”
The veteran Kenseth was much more optimistic despite finishing 37th. He was encouraged by the experience with his new team and crew chief Jason Ratcliff.
“I’m not sure if it’s an engine or a transmission,” Kenseth said. “Disappointing end to a great day. I really want to thank Joe Gibbs for . . . putting this deal together for me. We were obviously one of the cars to beat today, and I think we’re going to be a force all year. We have a lot to look forward to.
“It’s disappointing obviously, but it’s also really encouraging. I thought we did all the right things. We had a great pit stop right there at the end — I thought Jason had a great strategy. We had all the right things; we just didn’t make it to the end.”
Although both drivers are generally strong Chase for the Sprint Cup candidates, Busch and Kenseth leave Daytona 31st and 33rd, respectively, in the points standings. Denny Hamlin finished 14th and is 13th in points.