Kyle Busch and No. 54 Monster Energy Camry Third at Charlotte Motor Speedway
"We're the Little Guys that Could"
With a third-place result at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch Motorsports' (KBM) No. 54 Monster Energy team earned their fourth top-five and sixth top-ten finish of the company's inaugural NASCAR Nationwide Series season. Owner-driver Kyle Busch scored his 13th top-five at his team's home track, tying Mark Martin for the most of all drivers. "We're the little guys that could," explained Busch post event, describing how important it was for the fledgling group to be competitive with the larger teams at an important point in the season.
Taking the Toyota team to another intermediate 1.5-mile track was going to be a good test, and the growing Nationwide Series team was anxious to see how they would truly stack up against the competition, most of which are supplemented by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams.
Early season finishes for the small KBM group at similarly configured tracks Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, didn't yield the start this aggressive team was looking for with 33rd and 30th placements, respectively. The new series competitors knew they had to survive and show progress going into two difficult intermediate tracks, Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway in order to feel the team was progressing. The South Carolina event produced an eighth-place finish while yesterday's event earned the team a third, boosting confidence that their hunt for an inaugural-season series Owner's Championship was still a possibility.
The 200-lap event began on a hot afternoon and Busch started from a 12th-qualifying position. Upon race 'green,' the young team owner-driver advanced through the top-ten positions, making his way up to the second spot by lap 22. The team would fluctuate within the top-ten spots throughout the day, but were unable to lead a lap.
Seven caution periods during the race allowed the team several attempts at making adjustments to their Toyota. Busch's primary concern throughout the event was a tight-handing feel, especially when entering turns one and two. "Front right tire will not 'bite,' so I have to stay high on the track," described a disappointed driver over the radio. Often running lap times faster than the race leader, Busch and the No. 54 car were competitive, however time spent correcting the 'tight' issue wouldn't offer the team the opportunity for victory on this day.
"I love Charlotte," explained Busch post race. "I usually run well here, just lost too much distance to the leaders getting by Kahne (Kasey, No. 38) at the end - wasted too much time making that pass. I can't say enough about Mike Beam (crew chief) and all these guys. They have done a nice job at getting these cars better and better each and every week. This is a top-three for us at a mile-and-a-half, so can't be too mad about that."
Brad Keselowski recorded his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of the year and 18th of his career, followed .838 seconds behind in the second-finishing spot by Denny Hamlin. Busch, Kevin Harvick and Elliott Sadler completed the top-five finishers. There were seven caution periods for 38 laps of the race along with 12 lead changes across seven drivers.
The No. 54 Monster Energy team gained two positions to ninth in the Owner's Point standings, 81 points from the leader.