While Kyle Busch didn’t win Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, you can’t blame him for feeling like celebrating.
The driver of No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) rallied from a midrace pit-road speeding penalty to score a third-place finish in the fourth race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
For Busch, a top-five finish wouldn’t otherwise be notable, but at Kansas – where he has finished 30th or worse three out of the last four races – his first career top-five finish on the 1.5-mile oval had him grinning from ear to ear afterward.
“We won today, we just didn’t get the champagne and the trophy,” said Busch, who recorded his fourth top-10 finish in the four Chase races contested thus far. “This M&M’s Camry was awesome – I can’t say enough about (crew chief) Dave Rogers and the fight in this 18 bunch. The guys gave me a great racecar from the start. We definitely worked on it and we hit on some things during our qualifying runs that was really good for us, and we carried that into the practices yesterday and then into today’s race. Just a great M&M’s Camry. Those first two guys were gone; (Joey Logano and Kyle Larson) were checked out, and I had nothing for them, but just glad to be able to hold off the rest of the guys behind me and come home third. Proud of the effort, and it’s Kansas, so it’s good. Now we can move on and see what we can do at some of these other places.”
After starting seventh, Busch was a mainstay within the top-10 of the running order for the first 120 laps of the 267-lap race. Crew chief Rogers kept working on the loose-handling M&M’s Toyota. While the race had been smooth up to that point, some adversity struck the No. 18 team on lap 124 when Busch was penalized for speeding on pit road, which necessitated him starting at the tail end of the longest line on the ensuing restart.
He restarted 22nd on lap 127, but Busch was calm and collected on the radio. His calm showed on the track as well, as he picked off positions one by one. He worked his way up to 15th by lap 143, 10th by lap 163 and all the way up to fifth by lap 223.
Suddenly Busch went from aiming for a top-10 finish to looking like he might have a shot at the victory. So when caution waved on lap 231 for an accident involving Greg Biffle, Busch hit pit road for one final time one lap later. With quick service from his M&M’s team, he found himself second coming off pit road. However, over the course of the final two restarts, Logano and Larson – who had the best cars all day – were just too strong and got by Busch. Still, the Las Vegas native was able to hold off a hard charge from Martin Truex Jr. to record his first Kansas top-five finish. In fact, Kansas marked the final track where Busch had not recorded a top-five finish. He now has a top-five at every active track on the Sprint Cup schedule.
“Dave Rogers and all the M&M’s guys did a really good job this weekend,” Busch said. “They listened to my feedback, and I felt that my feedback was good. We got the pieces in place that we needed, and all race long, and we kept up with the racetrack and we kept up with our adjustments there. Those first two guys there, they just checked out on us. I had nothing for them, and I felt like I was running a pretty good pace, but those guys were flat out flying. There may have been a couple other good cars out there today that didn’t have good finishes that could have finished third, fourth, fifth, but I felt like we were a good sixth- or seventh-place car. Circumstances worked in our favor there, and we ended up third. Again, can’t say enough about the effort of this team. I’m really looking forward to the next few weeks.”