While the result wasn’t exactly what he had hoped for, Kyle Busch did exactly what he needed to do to advance into the second round of this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), was a staple in the top-five for much of Sunday’s AAA 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, but a tight-handling racecar during the final two stints of the race dropped him to 10th at the checkered flag. Nonetheless, it was a solid finish that advanced Busch from the Challenger Round to the Contender Round of the 10-race Chase.
“Our car, especially on the long run, was a ‘10’ tight,” said Busch after recording his third consecutive top-10 and his 12th top-10 of 2014. “We did what we needed to do today with our Interstate Batteries Camry, but I’m not sure what the problem was on the last couple runs of the race. We were tight all day, but it just got worse at the end. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys are going to take the car back to the shop and see if they can figure out if something was wrong. We’ll move on to the next round and hope we can have a better handle on our car next week.”
After starting on the outside of row one, Busch held steady within the top-five until lap 126 when he overshot his pit during a scheduled stop under caution, costing him time and several positions. However, on the first lap after the restart, Busch passed several cars, vaulting from 16th to ninth. Following the next pit stop on lap 172, he had made his way back up to fifth.
Rogers threw several adjustments at the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota throughout the 400-lap race, but Busch continued to fight a tight-handling racecar. During long green-flag runs the handling issue became even more magnified. Busch battled up to second by lap 261, but he dropped through the field during the two long, green-flag runs, both exceeding 70 laps. By lap 350 Busch had dropped to seventh, and over the final 50 laps he lost three more positions. Still, a 10th-place finish was more than enough to advance Busch to the next round of the Chase.
Busch’s JGR teammates – Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry – finished fifth and 12th, respectively.