Kyle Busch survived nearly 100 degree ambient temperatures and what was at times an uncooperative racecar to finish a solid 12th in Sunday’s STP 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. It marked the ninth time this season Busch has
finished 12th or better in Sprint Cup competition.
The driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) started third in Sunday’s 267-lap event and it was evident early on that high temperatures and a cloudless sky would create tough conditions for competitors both inside and outside the car.
After the drop of the green flag, Busch moved from third to first by lap two and held the top spot for the next seven circuits around the 1.5- mile oval. While he never again led a lap, Busch was a top-10 mainstay for the remainder of the event, despite the handling on his car becoming erratic near the mid-point of the race.
“We were just chasing the balance a little bit,” Busch said. “Anytime we were a little bit snug or anytime we were a little bit loose, it’d seem like we really couldn’t quite run with the leaders. There were a few times where we felt like we were decent and would make up ground a little bit. We would get close to somebody and try to pass and then the car would react like we burnt the tires off. They just got too hot and we started falling back from people.”
Despite those issues, it appeared as though Busch would be able to salvage a top-10 finish for the M&M’s team. Unfortunately, while Busch had to pit for two tires and fuel with 21 laps remaining, a few other teams opted to gamble on fuel strategy and ended up finishing ahead of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota.
Although the M&M’s team saw their top-10 finish fade away at the end, they left Kansas knowing that the pit crew once again performed flawlessly and that they overcame an ill-handling car to salvage a respectable result.
“It was a solid day,” Busch said. “We qualified up front (on Friday) and ran decent much of the race. We probably had a seventh- or eighthplace car today and just kind of got off fuel mileage there at the end.”
Busch’s JGR teammates, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano, finished third and 23rd, respectively.
Brad Keselowski, one of the drivers that gambled on fuel mileage, won the STP 400 to score his second career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his first at Kansas.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished 2.813 seconds behind Keselowski in the runner-up spot, while Hamlin, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five. Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle comprised the remainder of the top-10. There were five caution periods for 22 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish.
With round 13 of 36 complete, Kyle Busch continues to lead the JGR trio in the championship point standings. He remained fifth and now has 425 points, 60 markers back of series leader Edwards. Hamlin moved up one spot to 11th with 381 points, 104 markers back of the top spot. Logano dropped two spots to 25th with 300 points, 185 points behind Edwards.
TSC/Kyle Busch PR