Even though Kyle Busch finished second in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 19th annual Brickyard 400, don’t blame him for wanting to do a celebratory burnout after taking the checkered flag.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), had been experiencing a bad-luck streak over the last seven races that had left him without a top-five finish since May. But Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the talented 27-year-old finally got the monkey off his back by bringing home his sixth top-five finish of the season that vaulted him two spots upward to 11th in the point standings.
“It was just a great day for us in this M&M’s Camry – it was phenomenal,” said Busch, who now has six top-10 finishes in eight career Sprint Cup starts at Indianapolis. “We unloaded really well. Dave Rogers (crew chief) and the guys gave me a great racecar. I can’t say enough about them. We gave it everything we had – we had a little miscue on a pit stop, there, but we rebounded nicely and we were able to come out of here with a second place today. It feels like a win for us for as bad as the last two months have gone. Just excited to hopefully be able to turn this around and hopefully start getting headed in the right direction – get ourselves finishing the way we we’ve been running.”
After starting seventh, Busch quickly picked off positions ahead of him from the start of the green flag. He sat fifth by lap three and briefly took the lead during a round of green-flag pit stops on lap 27. He moved his way up to third after another round of pit stops, this time under caution, on lap 43. But, as he exited his pit stall, Busch’s engine briefly stalled and several cars were able to pass him along warm-up lane exiting pit road. NASCAR ruled that he would have to restart behind all the cars that passed him when his engine stalled, putting him 13th on the ensuing restart.
Despite the setback, it didn’t take Busch long to gain those lost positions back. After that great restart on lap 45, Busch moved up to ninth by lap 57 and into the top-five by lap 60. Busch sat among the top-five for the next 35 laps, but used another incredible restart on lap 97, when he jumped from seventh to second in just one lap, to put himself in position to fight for the race win. From there, Busch never dropped below third for the remainder of the 160-lap race.
While Busch had a strong racecar, he knew he didn’t have anything for race-winner Jimmie Johnson, who appeared to be the class of the field as he pulled away easily in the final laps and beat Busch across the finish line by 4.758 seconds.
“Jimmie had a really, really good racecar, that’s for sure,” Busch said. “Jimmie Johnson wasn’t even in his own ZIP code today, he was in his own country. But, all in all for our team, we’re just excited about the opportunity to get going here to Pocono and Watkins Glen – a couple of places we’re really excited about going back to and build of our finish here today.”
Busch’s JGR companions – Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry, and Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry – finished sixth and 33rd, respectively.
Johnson won the Brickyard 400 to score his 58th career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his record-tying fourth Sprint Cup win at Indianapolis. Johnson tied Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon as the winningest Sprint Cup drivers at Indianapolis with four wins apiece. Johnson and Gordon are also tied for second on the all-time Indianapolis Motor Speedway win list with four-time Indianapolis 500 winners A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears. Seven-time Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher is the track’s all-time leader with five U.S. Grand Prix victories at Indianapolis.
Finishing behind Johnson and Busch were Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Gordon to round out the top-five. Polesitter Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for a total of 25 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish the 160-lap race.
With round 20 of 36 complete, Hamlin leads the JGR trio in the championship point standings. He remained fifth with 667 points, 64 behind new series leader Earnhardt. Busch moved up two spots to 11th with 588 points, 143 out of first and 55 behind 10th-place Clint Bowyer. Logano dropped one position to 17th with 544 points, 187 away from the top spot and 99 behind 10th.