Last year ended with such promise for Kurt Busch and his new Furniture Row Racing team.
They posted top-10 finishes in their final three races, sparking a great deal of optimism entering 2013.
But this year hasn’t begun the way they envisioned.
The struggles continued Sunday for Busch, a native Las Vegan, and his team. He finished 20th in the Kobalt Tools 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
That follows finishes of 28th at Daytona and 27th at Phoenix for the No. 78 Chevrolet.
“It was a battle all day, but we kept fighting, hoping to find the setup that could get us going,” Busch said. “We haven’t had a lot to show in the first three races of the season, but we’ll get better. I am looking forward to Bristol (Tenn.) next week.”
Maybe that will be the start of better days. Bristol has been a good track for Busch. He has five wins and six top-five finishes at the half-mile oval.
With qualifying in Las Vegas rained out Friday, Busch started 24th based on owner points from last season. He was never a factor, and was lapped on No. 52.
“We just never got up to speed,” Busch said. “The Furniture Row/Serta Chevrolet was loose, then it was snug, and no matter what adjustments were made we never could find the right balance for this track. We needed one more caution at the end to get back on the lead lap, which would have given us a good opportunity to pick up additional positions. It wasn’t our day.”
■ DOMINANT WEEKEND — No team had a better weekend than Joe Gibbs Racing.
Three of the team’s drivers finished in the top five in Saturday’s Nationwide Series Sam’s Town 300. Then on Sunday, Matt Kenseth won the Sprint Cup race and Las Vegan Kyle Busch finished fourth.
“I think it says we’re on the right track with some things,” said Gibbs, the team owner and three-time Super Bowl-winning coach of the Washington Redskins.
“In sports, you’re never satisfied. I’m already worried about next week and all the things that you have to sweat out. But I do think I’m really confident in our drivers, our teams, our crew chiefs, and so I feel very good about that.”
■ SEEING THE SIGHTS — Kenseth didn’t have any big victory/birthday celebrations planned.
He turned 41 on Sunday, and winning the race was plenty enough.
Besides, he and his family already had taken time to enjoy themselves. After last week’s race at Phoenix, they stayed in Arizona to visit Sedona, the Grand Canyon and a zoo in Flagstaff.
“We’ve been gone a fair amount of time, and we’re all ready to get home,” Kenseth said.
■ FINAL KICK — Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski battled Kyle Busch for the third spot and wound up taking it.
“Never give up,” Keselowski said. “This team doesn’t, and we didn’t today. You get a good run like we did, and that is a product of that effort. I thought we had some really good speed there at the end.”
The finish fired up Keselowski so much, he wanted to try his chances against Kenseth and second-place finisher Kasey Kahne.
“We were so close,” Keselowski said.
■ FADING FAST — Clint Bowyer started in the second spot, but he had trouble almost from the beginning and pitted on lap 16 to get his No. 15 Toyota checked out for what he thought was a flat tire.
The stop put him down two laps, and the day didn’t get much better. Bowyer finished 27th.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@review journal.com or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.