For the second week in a row, Kyle Busch made it a clean sweep.
After winning both the Camping World Truck Series and Sprint Cup races at Martinsville Speedway last weekend, Busch wheeled both No. 18 Toyotas — in the Xfinity and Cup races at Texas Motor Speedway — to clean up again.
“Good job guys, way to dig all night,” Busch said over the radio following his 36th career Cup win.
Although he didn’t have the fastest Toyota — or led the most laps — the decision by crew chief Adam Stevens to take four tires on the team’s final stop was the key to gaining track position in the closing stages of the race.
“Our car was really, really fast, especially entry and the center of the corner,” Busch said. “As the night progressed, I think the track came to us. Our car got a little better. Adam made some great adjustments all night long. We fought it in the beginning. We weren’t very good. Our other teammates were really fast. The 19, the 78. I don’t know what happened to the 19 but the 78, we just out-tired them at the end. Overall, a great night for JGR, a great night for Toyota.”
Busch held a 3.904-second lead over Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the finish.
“You all did a hell of a job this weekend — again,” Earnhardt told his crew. “We should have won.”
Joey Logano finished third followed by Jimmie Johnson and rookie Chase Elliott — who posted a career-high fifth-place finish. Kasey Kahne’s eighth-place finish was his best in 2016 and resulted in top 10 finishes for all the Hendrick Motorsports Chevys.
Late pit call costs Truex
Martin Truex Jr. dominated the event. He led 141 of 334 — leading the field by more than eight seconds during the course of the race. But the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team elected to stay out on the track on Lap 289 when the rest of the field pitted — then stayed out again on the next caution two laps later. Truex restarted on Lap 301 on older tires than Busch and was passed by Busch on the restart. He finished sixth.
“It hurts a little bit,” Truex said. “But we’ll take the positives out of it and move on.”
Polesitter Carl Edwards led the first 30 laps — and 124 circuits over all. However, the team failed to secure his tires during the fourth caution and Edwards was forced to pit on Lap 222. He fell back to 19th but recovered to finish seventh.
The race was slowed by seven cautions. And while there had not been any significant accidents with the new lower downforce aerodynamic package in the first six non-restricted-engine races of the season, that changed on Saturday night.
Austin Dillon, who stayed on the track with Truex when the rest of the leaders pitted on Lap 289, dropped through the field after the Lap 292 restart. Two laps later, Denny Hamlin took the air off of the No. 3 Chevy exiting Turn 2. Dillon checked up and Johnson plowed into the back of him sending the Richard Childress racer spinning of the backstretch and into the wall. Eleven other drivers were involved including Dillon’s teammates Ryan Newman and Paul Menard — all three continued over the final 34 laps. Newman finished 17th — the first car off of the lead lap.
But patience paid off for Busch, the defending Sprint Cup champion, who for the second time since 2013 swept the weekend in the Lone Star State. He also became the first driver since Harry Gant in 1991 to go back-to-back in securing four consecutive races in multiple series.
“It’s pretty darn good, I’ll tell you that,” Busch said. "I’ve got a great wife, a great son and I’m having a blast, living the dream with Adam Stevens and these guys, and Joe (Gibbs, JGR owner) and JD (Gibbs, JGR co-chairman), thinking about you guys back at home and of course Coy (Gibbs, JGR COO) is here with us. Everybody back at the shop has been building great race cars, they’ve been doing a great job for us.
"The crew chiefs here have been really working together, gelling together and putting everything together. It’s just fun, right now it’s all clicking and going together. I think it’s maybe a little bit of a struggle for (Matt) Kenseth right now, but man, I’ve been in that position before, you just have to fight through it. Maybe I can give the old man a little bit of advice this week, I’ll talk to him. Things are great for our team. Can’t say enough about our team. Cool to be here in Texas.”