Kyle Busch was just half a lap away from winning for the fourth race in succession and jumping up inside the Top 30 in points when he ran out of fuel.
On a day when Kyle Busch appeared to be on his way to meeting the Chase requirements — and perhaps even a fourth-straight win — the gas gods had a different plan.
Busch, who started from the pole, led the first 16 laps of the Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday.
After the competition caution, Crew chief Adam Stevens elected to pit and Busch dropped to 13th.The No. 18 M&Ms Toyota regained the lead on Lap 52 when Joey Logano pit, but relinquished the lead to pit himself.
I wish I would’ve saved a little more there that last run. I wish I would’ve known that the 22 (Logano) was that far away from making it.
While Busch didn’t have the best car — Logano led four times for 97 laps — he was able to keep pace and posted the fastest lap of the race. On the final pit stop on Lap 123, Busch was on the same pit strategy as Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon.
A battle of conservation
With 10 laps to go, Busch maintained second-place. The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team was convinced the driver he could out-save Logano, who had the lead and a significant advantage over Busch.
“Let’s get him saving here,” crew chief Adam Stevens told spotter Tony Hirschmann.
Larson, Jimmie Johnson then Carl Edwards and Dillon dove on pit road to refuel as Logano ran out entering the Tunnel Turn with less than three laps remaining.
“He’s running out brother, save,” Hirschmann said as the No. 22 slowed and Busch took the point with two laps to go.
Seconds later, Busch uttered the words Stevens did not want to hear.
“It’s out. It’s out,” Busch said coming around Turn 2. He sputtered around to the opening of pit road where Reed Sorenson nudged him down the straightaway — long after Matt Kenseth had taken the checkered flag.
Busch wishes he 'saved a little more'
“I didn’t know we were that close,” said Busch who finished 21st. “Normally when we’re close or that close I get harped on pretty hard to save fuel. They were just telling me to save just to not put too much pressure on the car and everything else. Man, that’s a bummer. I wish I would’ve saved a little more there that last run.
We would be celebrating a win and a Chase berth ... We got greedy
“I wish I would’ve known that the 22 (Logano) was that far away from making it. He was way far away from making it. Man, that was just a shame that we weren’t able to get it done there.”
Gibbs still victorious
Busch was happy for his teammate, Kenseth, who extended the JGR winning streak to five Sprint Cup victories.
“We’ve got fast race cars right now so congratulations to Matt Kenseth for winning today for Joe Gibbs Racing,” Busch said. “Everybody at home can continue the celebration although it’s not the right JGR car for the 18, it’s certainly good for the company.”
What could have been
Despite a disappointing finish, Busch shaved 10 points from his deficit outside of the top 30 in the Sprint Cup point standings. He currently trails David Gilliland by 13 points. Still, it was just salt in his wounds to discover that a finish of 13th or higher would have satisfied the requirements for a spot in the Chase.
“We would be celebrating a win and a Chase berth,” Busch said. “We got greedy, I don’t know how greedy but that’s the position we’re in. If it came down to other things that we haven’t had the success that we’ve had here lately we would’ve had to have pitted and just made the opportunity of it and made the best finish that we could.
But, we went for broke today and come up a little bit short so can’t fault the team.”