Monster Energy Team Scores First Top-10 Finish of Season
Despite Hurdles, Kyle Busch Eighth at Auto Club Speedway
In his 227th career NASCAR Nationwide Series start, Kyle Busch returned to Fontana (Calif.) looking to repeat the success he has accomplished there in his career, but this time with his newly formed team. While not a victory, the Kyle Busch Motorsports team finished the Royal Purple 300 in the eighth position, accomplishing their first top-10 result of the season.
The race was not without its challenges, as driver and team had to overcome a variety of hurdles. Due to arriving late for the event driver introductions, Busch had to relinquish his 15th-place starting position per NASCAR rules, and begin from the rear of the field. The No. 54 team and driver overcame that penalty quickly, moving into the top-ten position and battling the leaders through the day, then ultimately enjoying the race lead. A miscue on pit road by the team, in the final yellow-flag caution period, caused the No. 54 Camry to fall back in position and lose the opportunity for a victory, but salvage a top-ten spot.
The Monster Energy team and driver overcame that penalty quickly, moving into the top ten on lap 32. Busch took the lead for the first time on lap 111 and remained on point for 13 laps. He relinquished the lead on lap 124, but was running third in a battle amongst the race leaders, until a costly miscue on the final pit stop lost the team several positions and left its owner-driver with little time to recover. The talented driver who battled from the 17th position on the final restart, with 14 laps to go, made the best of the situation as he aggressively maneuvered his way back through the field in closing laps to score KBM's first top-10 finish in the Nationwide Series.
Busch felt the car was "a little tight and needed rear tire grip" but otherwise kept working his way through track positions. After driving as high as fifth on the leader board, the team made a green flag pit stop to replace tires and fuel. 50 laps into the 150-lap event, the No. 54 team was battling traffic, but saw the car was good. The first yellow-flag caution of the day waved on lap 56 for debris, which gave the team another chance to make adjustments. Upon a fast pit stop and with two positions gained on pit road, to put the team in 8th, crew chief Mike Beam exclaimed, "Good job guys, really good pit stop there. Kyle, great job man!"
Reports from Busch were that pit stop adjustments helped provide the rear tire grip he was looking for. Another yellow-flag caution waved and for the third time in the race the team was able to come to pit road for adjustments. Tire pressure adjustments were the main focus to continue to give Busch a good-handling race car. The team performed another fast pit stop and the No. 54 Monster Energy Camry returned to the race in the fifth position.
With 50 laps remaining in the NNS event, Busch maintained a top-five and was battling Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Joey Logano for the lead. A third yellow-flag event caution on lap 103 for track debris brought the team down pit road again. This time Busch exclaimed he did not want to "mess with the car." Beam played some tire strategy and while most competitors opted for fuel-only during the pit sequence, Busch's team gave him two right-side tires and fuel. It was a gamble Beam took in order to give his driver the edge he may need to pull away from the leaders he had been battling.
The plan worked as Busch was atop the leaderboard for 13 laps in the later portion of the race. Battling hard with other cars to maintain that position, however, did wear on the tires and the No. 54 slipped to the third position when the final yellow-flag caution of the day waved.
The team had planned to replace two right-side tires, though a mishap with the right-front tire change caused the team delay on pit road. A discouraged driver told the crew while they had lost time anyway, to go ahead and change all four tires. The further delayed pit sequence forced the team to drop to 17th for the restart with 14 laps remaining in the race.
Busch was able to work his way back to eighth before taking the checkered flag. While disappointing, the finish was the first top-10 result of the year for the newly formed crew.
The Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 54 NNS entry gained one position in the Series Owner's Points Standings, moving to 14th, 78 points out of first place through five races completed.
Joey Logano won his first Nationwide Series event of 2012, second at Auto Club Speedway in his career and the eighth-straight NNS win for Joe Gibbs Racing, over second-place finisher Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Brad Keselowski, Brian Scott and Austin Dillon completed the top-five finishers.
There were four caution periods for 18 laps of the race along with fifteen lead changes across seven drivers, including Kyle Busch who led one time for 13 laps.
The next event on the NNS schedule is the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 from Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth with the race television broadcast starting at 8:00 p.m. EST on ESPN2 and the radio broadcast on PRN. Kurt Busch will make his first start of the season behind the wheel of the Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 54 Monster Energy Camry.