Busch bounces back at Charlotte

M&M's driver takes 5th place Saturday night

Kyle Busch called the Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway a bounce-back race for the No. 18 M&M’s Racing Team of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) during qualifying Thursday night. He made good on that pronouncement Saturday night, scoring a fifth-place finish.

Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

“It’s good to finish in the top-five, but it’s frustrating,” said Busch, who has 12 top-10 finishes in 20 career Sprint Cup starts at Charlotte. “I’m beating myself up every week trying to figure out what I got to do to be better, and I don’t know what it is. I work hard through practice. I work hard through the week. I study film. I do everything I need to do, but it’s not paying off. We certainly got a top-five, which is good. We should be happy about that, but when it’s championship time, that’s not what you need. We need wins.”

Despite the solid outing, the race didn’t go off without a few pitfalls for Busch. After starting ninth, Busch showed the strength of his M&M’s Toyota Camry, picking up three positions by the time the first caution on lap 24. But the team was confronted with its first issue of the race due to a miscue during the pit stop that resulted in Busch having to make a second trip to pit road. He was in 34th place when green-flag racing resumed on lap 28.

Busch focused and climbed his way out of the hole in quick fashion, racing in 16th-place when green-flag pit stops unfolded on lap 69.

During the restart after the second caution on lap 82, Busch showed his skill on the 1.5-mile Charlotte track. He was in 14th place when green-flag racing resumed and made an incredible pass to pick up eight positions within one lap. Busch then put the M&M’s Toyota on cruise control during the next several circuits around the track, with the team making minor adjustments as the race unfolded.

During the final 50 laps of the race, Busch started noticing what felt like a pick-up problem in the engine. At one point, he thought the engine might be failing on the No. 18 Toyota. But lap times never wavered, and the team chalked the issue up to burning too much fuel. Busch maintained his position on the track, running in fifth place by the time the checkered flag waved.

Busch’s JGR companions –Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry – finished third and ninth, respectively. It marked the first time since May 11 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway that all three JGR drivers finished in the top-10, a span of 20 races. In that event, Kenseth won, Hamlin finished second, and Busch was sixth.

Brad Keselowski won the Bank of America 500 to score his 10th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his first at Charlotte.

Kasey Kahne finished 1.022 seconds behind Keselowski in the runner-up spot while Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Busch rounded out the top-five. Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Hamlin and Carl Edwards comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were four cautions for 20 laps, with seven drivers failing to finish the 334-lap race.

Kenseth and Busch are representing JGR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and entered the fifth race of the 10-race Chase first and fifth, respectively, among the 13 Chase drivers. Both drivers maintained their positions. Kenseth holds a four-point advantage over his nearest pursuer, Johnson. Busch trails Kenseth by 37 points.

Hamlin picked up one position to 24th in the standings with 608 points.


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Carl Edwards , Brad Keselowski , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing
Article type Race report
Tags busch, charlotte, nascar spint cup, toyota