Collects ninth consecutive top-ten finish for young team.
Amidst sweltering temperatures at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta on Friday, Kurt Busch notched another hole in his NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) belt, achieving a second-place finish in his first series start on the 1.5-mile 'Bluegrass State' track. Although 9.828 seconds behind event winner Austin Dillon, Busch accomplished the seventh top-five and ninth consecutive top-ten finish of the year for the blossoming Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) team.
The night began with a top-ten qualifying run which yielded Busch an eighth-place start at green flag. Within the first race lap, the Monster Energy team athlete progressed to sixth and was battling among event leaders within the top ten, until the first of two yellow-flag caution periods occurred.
At lap 27, the No. 54 Monster Energy Camry came down pit road to address what Busch described as "wrecking loose" conditions. "The right rear needs help," Busch explained to his team before entering the pit stall, where the crew made a trackbar adjustment and inserted a left-rear spring rubber to tighten up the black machine. A miscue during the pit stop caused the team to lose a few positions upon returning to the field.
Although the pit issue placed the No. 54 Camry in the 15th position for the lap-30 restart, Busch quickly worked his way back inside the top 10 on lap 32, and by lap 82 had advanced into the third spot. When the crew chief asked how the car was feeling, Busch explained, "On a 10 scale, we are a five in Turn 3, and a three everywhere else." Busch, who is known to enjoy a loose-handling car setup, was looking for a "tick" of an adjustment to give him a slightly tighter feel.
Under green-flag conditions and from third-place on lap 83, the No. 54 team pitted, repeating the adjustments made on the first stop by lowering the trackbar another round down and inserting an additional spring rubber to the rear of the car. The changes proved to be effective for Busch as he described, "the car is starting to settle down," and he maneuvered past the No. 33 car of Kevin Harvick to take the second-place spot on lap 116.
Another green-flag pit stop was orchestrated at lap 136, where the team provided their driver with a few more adjustments. After the No. 54 team completed their stop and reentered the track, a yellow-flag occurred on the speedway. The caution flew while most teams were cycling through pit road, leaving several competitors one lap down when they returned to the track. Considering this left only five cars on the lead lap, including the Monster Energy team, the Las Vegas native brought the No. 54 back to the team's pit area to top off on fuel for race end. The team took advantage of the extra pit road time and added one more round of wedge to the left rear of the Toyota machine. Busch beat two competitors off pit road placing them in the third position for restart.
The race field went back to green on lap 149 and would remain caution free for the remainder of the event. On lap 151 Busch secured second-place again, this time with a pass on the No. 43 of Michael Annett. While the KBM team was showing lap times faster than the race leader, the car's handling was still too loose for Busch to maneuver into the top spot. With five laps remaining in the event, the No. 54 Camry's engine showed signs of failure, forcing Busch to hang on for position, eventually salvaging his second-place finish.
"Good run tonight," commented Busch post race. "I thought we could battle with him (Austin Dillon, race winner) but he was too strong. Mike Beam (crew chief) brought it back under me. To bring a car that is falling out, to a top-three finish -- feels good to put these guys back on the podium," he continued.
Dillon recorded his first career Nationwide Series win. Busch, Harvick, Annett and Justin Allgaier completed the top-five finishers. There were two caution periods for five laps of the race along with seven lead changes across four drivers.
With its second-place finish, the No. 54 Monster Energy team jumped to eighth in the Owner's Point standings, 71 points from first.
Source: Kyle Busch Motorsports