This time, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway delivered more “treats” instead of “tricks” for Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR). Busch rallied from an early pit road miscue to score a hard-fought fifth-place finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 500 on Sunday to move up to third in points.
The top-five finish didn’t come easy for Busch, who encountered problems on his second pit stop of the day at lap 42. Busch was one of a large contingent of cars that entered pit road for a green flag pit stop. Unfortunately, Busch couldn’t slow his car quickly enough to get across pit road and into his pit stall, one of the early stalls upon entering pit road. Since Busch couldn’t get over, he had to drive through pit road, turn another lap and return to pit road a second time for his four-tire-and-fuel pit stop.
The pit miscue left Busch in the back of the pack – as far back as 42nd place – and fighting to stay on the lead lap. But with a huge pack of drafting cars rapidly catching him, Busch fell one lap down to the leaders at lap 67.
As Busch blended into the large pack of cars, his teammate Denny Hamlin attached his No. 11 Toyota to the back of Busch’s No. 18 car’s bumper in hopes of keeping him in the mix and the first car one lap down. The plan worked when the caution flag waved at lap 78, and Busch was the car in position to get the “lucky dog” free pass to the lead lap. Busch didn’t look back.
With a fast No. 18 M&M’s Halloween Camry, Busch went straight to the front, leading three times for nine laps before getting shuffled back into the mix before finishing fifth.
“Well, there was nobody going anywhere that was behind us trying to make moves, so it didn’t make any sense to go down there and try to make a move yourself and just fade to the back,” Busch said. “It was interesting that everybody stuck up on the outside that long and certainly that was the fastest way around. There wasn’t anyone making up any time on the bottom. I figured that a lot of people would try to and be able to make up some time, but a couple tried and never made anything happen. We ended up with a decent finish here today, so that's all we could ask for.”
Busch’s JGR teammates – Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry, and Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry – finished 20th and 38th, respectively.
Jamie McMurray won the Camping World RV Sales 500 to score his seventh career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his second at Talladega.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second behind McMurray under caution, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Paul Menard and Busch rounded out the top-five. David Ragan, David Gilliland, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were three caution periods for 10 laps, with seven drivers failing to finish the 188-lap race.
Kenseth and Busch are representing JGR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and entered the sixth race of the 10-race Chase first and fifth, respectively, among the 13 Chase drivers. Kenseth leaves Talladega second in the Chase standings, four points behind new leader Jimmie Johnson. Busch improved two positions to third, 26 points behind Johnson.