It was too little, too late for defending Sprint Cup Champion Kyle Busch in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
For the second season, Busch qualified for the Championship 4 Round. However, the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team failed to achieve the result they were hoping for in the EcoBoost 400 on Sunday night as Jimmie Johnson won the race and his seventh NASCAR title.
“Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and I – we really enjoy working with each other,” Busch said. “I think our relationship is really strong and it’s grown and it’s really, really good. We’ve just got to keep working on things that will make us better at Homestead obviously.
“We know that we can get here. We can get here with wins or we can get here without wins, but we’ve done it the hard way a couple times. Just wish we would’ve been a little bit better today.”
"You just never give up"
Busch started the race ninth on Sunday and moved up to sixth prior to the first caution on Lap 26. His crew executed a solid stop and Busch restarted fourth. He remained in the top five through halfway in the race, but two laps later, on Lap 136, Busch radioed to his crew there was an issue with his right front tire. The No. 18 Toyota dropped to 21st in the field, one lap behind the leaders.
“You just never give up,” Busch said. “You’ve just got to keep going. Whatever is thrown at you, you’ve just got to keep making the best of what you’ve got and just keep trying. We did that and we had a lucky break there when the yellow got us back in the sequence with everybody. We weren’t the best this weekend. We didn’t have the fastest car – our teammate did.”
Twenty laps later, Busch cycled back into the top five along with Larson, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Logano. Following the fifth caution on Lap 212, Busch was third. He passed Harvick for second, but Edwards caught him over the next 30 laps and passed him on Lap 242.
Busch entered pit road third on the fifth caution, but exited sixth after his rear tire changed slipped while executing the stop. Busch restarted sixth on Lap 258 and was fortunate enough to miss the nine-car wreck that ignited after Edwards blocked Logano. Logano came in for tires, but Busch stayed out and restarted third on Lap 264. When Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wrecked, the No. 18 elected to pit for tires and lined up 13th.
Too little, too late
For Busch, the traffic was too much to overcome and he finished sixth — and third in the Chase standings.
“We were just too far back,” Busch said. “In order to make up that many spots, we were going to need more than just two laps, but we were going to be able to do it if there were more laps, but that’s the choice we made and we didn’t feel like we had a shot to win if we didn’t come down.
“So, we were going to just be fighting them off from that point. Just can’t say enough about this M&M’s team. All year long they fought hard and there were moments today where definitely it wasn’t going to be our race at all and then there were moments where it might be our race and we just weren’t able to pull through tonight.”