Kyle Busch Motorsports
First Stab at Iowa Speedway Yields Top-Five Finish for Monster Energy Athlete
It was a busy weekend for past Sprint Cup Series Champion Kurt Busch, who took his first stab at running two NASCAR race events in two days, in two different states. Busch competed in the Sprint Cup Series All-Star event Saturday night at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and accomplished his first NASCAR Nationwide Series start from Iowa Speedway Sunday. The logistics were tough, but the veteran driver was able to back up a top-10 finish in the non-points Sprint Cup Series event with his third consecutive top-10 finish behind the wheel of his brother's Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) No. 54 Monster Energy Camry. Despite having to start from the rear of the field, due to missing his team's qualifying effort, Busch made quick work of the field and ultimately brought home a solid fifth-place finish.
The hardest part of Busch's busy travel schedule was on Saturday, as he moved back and forth between North Carolina and Iowa to conduct two different on-track sessions for two different series. He practiced the No. 54 Monster Energy car Saturday morning in order to set it up for the race. Support driver Drew Herring, whose resume includes three Nationwide Series top-15 finishes at the .875-mile tri-oval,worked with Kurt to understand the car setup and that afternoon while Busch returned to North Carolina for the Sprint Cup Series event, Herring qualified the car in the 31st position.
Once Busch returned to Iowa for the Sunday afternoon event, his penalty for the driver change from qualifying was to drop to the rear of the field at race start. Undeterred by starting last, the Monster Energy athlete made quick work of the field in the early stages of the race. He maneuvered his way into the top-15 by lap 21 and reached the top-10 by lap 35 of the 250-lap event. The No. 54 team was running lap times faster than the leaders as Busch paced himself for the opportunity to reach the front of the pack. During the event's first yellow-flag caution period on lap 72, Busch relayed to crew chief Mike Beam that his Toyota was "loose in, tight off", similar to what he experienced during the practice session one day earlier. When pit road opened, the KBM team pitted for fuel, tires and made a trackbar adjustment in hopes of improving the handling for their driver.
Crew chief Mike Beam was hoping the adjustments made during the first pit sequence would be enough, rather after the field returned to green flag conditions, Busch communicated that the adjustment had made his Camry even more 'loose' in the turns. Beam stayed positive on the radio with Busch, "Good job buddy, laps are better than the leader."
During the second yellow-flag caution period on lap 113, the team gave up its fourth position to come down pit road and reverse the trackbar adjustment. By making that change, along with taking tires and fuel, the team's pit stop was slightly slower than normal that caused a drop in field position to seventh for the race restart at lap 119.
Team and driver remained quiet on the radio as Busch once again made quick moves on his competitors and drove back into the top-five of the field. "Trackbar is our hero today boys," commented Busch, who liked the recent changes to the car and had maneuvered his way into second, behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who swept the 2011 races in Iowa.
A third yellow-flag period occurred at lap 181, during which the No. 54 team discussed their race-end strategy. "I'm too loose if I'm going to hang with the No. 6 (Stenhouse Jr.) at the end," Busch relayed to Beam on the radio. He continued, "If one-half turn is what we did before, then that is all we need again." So he brought the Monster Energy Camry down pit road for the third time in the event, and the team made another adjustment to the trackbar while changing tires and filling the machine with fuel.
Upon restart, the team quickly saw progress when Busch took the lead for the first time of the day at lap 189, securing first place for two laps before settling back into the second position behind Stenhouse Jr."You and the No. 6 are running the same lap times," described team leader Beam in hopes the driver could once again battle for the lead.
A fourth and final yellow-flag caution period occurred at race end, with 48 laps remaining in the event. This time the Monster Energy team decided to stay on the racetrack as their new tires only had 15 circuits on them. The decision worked well as most teams remained on the track too, and with 45 laps left everyone settled in for the finish.
The Las Vegas native settled into the third spot, where he anticipated finishing, until the last lap when contact from Michael McDowell's No. 18 machine sent his No. 54 Camry sliding sideways into the outside wall. Busch, who sustained right-side damage from the incident, quickly gained control and was able to cross the start-finish line, but not before losing two positions. In their 10th Nationwide Series start this season, the KBM No. 54 Monster Energy team came home fifth, recording their fifth top-ten and third top-five finish of the season.
Busch commented, "We had fun today. Those guys Stenhouse Jr and Sadler, they have this track figured out - their cars were dialed in. Our No. 54 Monster Energy Camry was good today and we were competitive - we could sniff the lead. It's another race weekend that shows we are competitive and we are figuring it out - getting better every time. Beam and these guys have really come together."
Stenhouse Jr. recorded his third NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of the year, also a third victory in five races at Iowa Speedway and fifth of his career, followed in the second-finishing spot by Sadler. McDowell, Austin Dillon and Busch completed the top-five finishers. There were four caution periods for 27 laps of the race, along with nine lead changes across six drivers.
Kurt Busch led one time for 2 laps. The No. 54 Monster Energy team maintained 11th in the Owner's Point standings, 94 points from the leader. The next event on the NNS schedule is the May 26th History Channel 300 from Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, with television broadcast starting at 2:30 pm EST on ABC and on the MRN radio broadcast. Kyle Busch will return to make his seventh start of the season behind the wheel of the Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 54 Monster Energy Camry.