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Kyle Busch makes a move at Phoenix, then engine fails

The driver, recently sanctioned by NASCAR, ascends to third before his Toyota has a problem. He then finishes 36th in Kobalt Tools 500.

November 13, 2011|By Jim Peltz
  • Driver Kyle Busch stands calmly at the Phoenix International Raceway. He has had quite the week.
Driver Kyle Busch stands calmly at the Phoenix International Raceway.… (Jennifer Hilderbrand /…)

Reporting from Avondale, Ariz. — After a week of controversy and contrition, Kyle Busch was back in his race car and charging up through the field in Sunday's NASCAR race.

But Busch's day was cut short when the engine blew on his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota shortly after the halfway point of the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Busch was sanctioned by NASCAR and his main sponsor after he intentionally wrecked a driver in a truck race a week ago, which also prompted Busch to make a public apology.

On Sunday he had to start near the rear of the 43-car field because his team changed his car's engine during practice Friday.

After hearing loud boos from the grandstands during the pre-race driver introductions, Busch steadily passed cars until he was as high as third. Then the engine let go and he finished 36th.

"I hate it for these guys," Busch, 26, said of his team. "They just don't deserve this. All we can do is work forward."

Johnson's streak ends

It's official: Jimmie Johnson's record streak of five consecutive Sprint Cup Series championships is over.

Johnson finished 14th in Sunday's race in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, indicative of his playoff performance this year.

He's now fifth in the Chase for the Cup playoff standings, 68 points behind leader Carl Edwards heading into the last race of the season Nov. 20 at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway.

"There's definitely disappointment," Johnson said. "That's motor sports. It's a very tough business.

"We're going to go to Homestead and try to have our best race down there that we can and finish as high as we can in the points."

Two-time champion Tony Stewart said of Johnson's feat: "I don't see anybody doing it again."

"It's been absolutely remarkable, to begin with, for Jimmie to put five in a row together," Stewart said. "The competition gets tighter and tighter. I just think it's amazing."

Whitt makes Cup debut

Cole Whitt, a 20-year-old native of Alpine, Calif., made his Sprint Cup debut and finished 25th in his Red Bull Toyota.

Whitt, who has been cutting his teeth in NASCAR's Nationwide and Camping World Truck series, started 19th and spun out shortly after the halfway point before finishing two laps down from the leaders.

james.peltz@latimes.com

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