Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Pretzel Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), looked strong early in the Aaron’s 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. However, some contact coming to the white flag forced him to lose his momentum, and with the race ending under yellow on the final lap, Busch ran out of time to improve and brought home a 12th-place finish.
“We had a pretty good M&M’s Pretzel Camry,” said Busch, who has one career Sprint Cup win at Talladega, in April 2008. “We started in the back but made our way into the top-three, and I was just biding our time. The 2 (Brad Keselowski) spun there in front of me, and we got a piece of that. The guys did an awesome job fixing the damage. We made our way back up there at the end, but someone got into my left rear coming to the white flag down the frontstretch and pinballed me into the 13 (Casey Mears), so that hurt our momentum, and then the caution came out and we ended up 12th. Our M&M’s Pretzel Camry was better than that, but that’s how it goes in plate racing.”
While Busch qualified 19th fastest on Saturday, he started the 188-lap race from the rear of the field after the team had to change an engine following Friday’s final practice. Even though he started at the back, Busch wasn’t content on staying there long. By lap 35 he moved up to 10th and settled into third by lap 46. Busch held within the top-five until Keselowski spun in front of the field on lap 137, catching the right side of the No. 18 M&M’s Pretzel Camry. While the damage was fixable, Busch had to make multiple stops to make sure the car was properly repaired for the run to the finish.
The Las Vegas native restarted 24th on lap 144 and quickly moved up, running 12th by lap 146. Over the course of multiple caution flags during the final laps to the finish, Busch moved up to as high as seventh. However, during the two-lap shootout that decided the 500-mile race, the right front of Marcos Ambrose’s car made contact with the right rear of Busch’s Camry, sending it into Mears’ left side and hindering Busch’s momentum as the field took the white flag. Busch had little time to recover, as the caution waved when the field entered turn three, ending the race to the checkered flag and forcing him to settle for 12th-place in the final running order.
Busch’s JGR teammate Denny Hamlin won the Aaron’s 499. It was Hamlin’s 24th career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season, and it came in his milestone 300th start.