Busch Rallies for Solid Third-Place Finish at Charlotte M&M's Pretzel Team Stays Focused Despite Pit Road Accident Kyle Busch's third-place finish in Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway...
Busch Rallies for Solid Third-Place Finish at Charlotte
M&M's Pretzel Team Stays Focused Despite Pit Road Accident
Kyle Busch's third-place finish in Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway might just be the kind of run of which championships are made.
The driver of the No. 18 M&M's Pretzel Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) led 36 laps early in the 400-lap contest before colliding with another car and suffering damage to the right-front corner of his racecar while exiting pit lane on lap 168. Despite the issue dropping him to as low as 27th in the running order, Busch and the No. 18 team repaired the car over the course of several pit stops and rallied their way to an impressive podium finish in NASCAR's longest race.
"It was an awesome night by these guys and this team," said Busch, who matched his career-best Sprint Cup finish at Charlotte, as he also finished third on two other occasions -- October 2007 and May 2008. "The car was good, and in the beginning it was really fast. I came up there and we got the lead and, unfortunately, we got caught on pit road there with an accident. None of anybody's doing, just congestion, I guess. Dave Rogers (crew chief) did a phenomenal job helping me and giving me a car that I could come back through the field with. We were really off when I made contact on pit road. We made it through that and we had a solid third-place day out of it, so that was cool. Can't thank M&M's Pretzel, Toyota, and everyone that helps with this program enough."
While the talented 25-year-old started a solid ninth, he bided his time and methodically worked his way to the front, passing older brother Kurt for the lead on lap 131.
Busch moved out to a comfortable advantage thereafter, and looked to be on cruise control until the aforementioned pit road incident. It was there where after Rogers dialed up a two-tire stop, Busch quickly exited his pit box just as the cars of A.J. Allmendinger and Brad Keselowski were entering their respective pit stalls. While Busch managed to avoid making contact with Allmendinger, he was unable to avoid Keselowski, who as he turned into his pit stall slammed into the right front of Busch's M&M's Pretzel Toyota.
Even though it seemed like a devastating blow, Busch, Rogers, and the entire M&M's Pretzel team didn't panic. Over the course of the next 100 laps, the group worked tirelessly to repair the car's front-end geometry during each caution period. By Lap 274, all the repairs had been made and Busch's night got back on track. He restarted in 21st-place after the final repairs were made under the previous caution on lap 277, and he started gaining track position quickly as soon as the green flag dropped.
By lap 291, Busch found himself in 13th-place, and as the caution waived again on lap 302, a smart decision helped gain even more track position. The M&M's Pretzel team elected to take just two tires on lap 303 while many others took four. The result was Busch jumping up to fifth-place when the race restarted on lap 306.
From there, Busch fell no further than sixth, even though he was still battling a tight-handling racecar, When the yellow caution flag flew for the final time on lap 378, Rogers decided to take just two right side tires. A blazing-fast stop by the M&M's Pretzel crew, with front tire changer Nick Odell narrowly getting across the front of the car, helped Busch restart in seventh on lap 382.
Over the final 18-lap charge to the finish, Busch picked off four positions and finished off a very impressive comeback, showing that the No. 18 team may be a force to be reckoned with for a Sprint Cup championship at season's end.
"These are the nights that championships are made of," said Busch. "We've protected ourselves tonight, got back up through there, got a good, solid third-place finish out of it, and I'm happy about it. I'm not dissatisfied at all that we didn't win tonight's race. I would've liked to have won, but we didn't have a car capable of doing it after we got caught up in that wreck. "I feel really good about where we're at. At the beginning of the year, started out a little slow. Had some 20th-place finishes, teens, stuff like that. Now recently, the last six or seven races, we've clicked off some top-10, top-fives in a row. We had a win last week at Dover, third-place here. Now we go to the summer stretch. Some of the racetracks I don't excel that well, next week at Pocono, for instance -- hopefully we can get some good runs at those places, keep our momentum going of what we have so far this year."
Kyle's older brother Kurt, who won last weekend's non-points NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte, swept the city's Sprint Cup action by winning the Coca-Cola 600. It was Kurt's second win this season, his first point-paying win at Charlotte and his 22nd career Sprint Cup victory.
Kyle and Kurt have swept the last six races contested among NASCAR's top three series, as Kyle captured Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series victories two weeks ago at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, as well as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series events over the past two weekends in Charlotte.
Daytona 500 champion Jamie McMurray finished .737 of a second behind Kurt in the runner-up spot, while Kyle, Mark Martin and David Reutimann rounded out the top-five. Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth comprised the remainder of the top-10.
Busch's JGR teammates, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin, finished 13th and 18th, respectively.
There were eight caution periods for 34 laps, with seven drivers failing to finish.
With 13 of 36 races in the books, Busch continues to lead the JGR trio in the championship point standings. He remained in second spot with 1,869 points and is 29 markers behind series leader Kevin Harvick. Hamlin maintained his fifth position in the standings and has 1,732 points, 166 points arrears Harvick. Logano also stayed in his 18th spot and has 1,461 points, only 86 points back of 12th-place Newman, who currently holds the final spot for 12-driver Chase for the Championship.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the June 6 Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.