Kyle Busch was on the move after starting seventh for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 season finale Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He had steadily advanced and was running fifth when, while he left his stall following a lap-117 pit stop, the left-rear axle broke on his No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry.
As a result, the Las Vegas native spent significant time behind the wall to repair the axle as well as a rear gear that was broken along with the axle. The mechanical issue led to disappointing 39th-place finish as Busch finished 10th in the final Sprint Cup point standings.
“We were hoping our night was going to turn out a little bit better,” said Busch, who finished the season with one win, nine top-fives and 15 top-10 finishes. “We started the race tight, and we really got our car driving well there before we had a rear axle and gear break. I think we were up to fifth and looking to gain more. I’ve never had a rear axle break in my life. Not sure if it’s something I did or not. The guys had a really fast pit stop there, and we were trying to get as many positions as we could on pit road there. That’s really tough luck for our M&M’s Camry. Can’t say enough about everyone back at Joe Gibbs Racing for giving us great cars, M&M’s, Interstate Batteries, Toyota, TRD throughout the season. It just wasn’t our year.”
Busch’s team, led by crew chief Dave Rogers, made wedge and air pressure adjustments to try to fix the No. 18’s tight condition during the first three pit stops of the race. By lap 100, Busch had a car that was driving very much to his liking as the sun set on Sunday’s season finale in South Florida. Busch found himself in fifth by lap 114 and came to the pits after the caution flag waved on lap 116. As Busch exited his stall, the rear axle broke and Busch was unable to exit his pit stall. After briefly taking the car behind the wall near the pit stall to change the left-rear axle, it was determined that the rear axle issue also caused a broken rear gear. The M&M’s team brought the car back to the garage to repair the rear gear. Once they returned to the track on lap 144, Busch was 43rd, 24 laps off the pace. Through attrition he moved up to 39th by the time the checkered flag waved.
Busch’s JGR companions – Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry – finished sixth and seventh, respectively.