Busch Overcomes Parts Failure, Cut Tire and Ill-Timed Caution to Post Runner-Up Finish at Charlotte
Kyle Busch and the No. 51 Cessna team had an eventful return to racing in Tuesday's N.C. Education Lottery 200. After Busch complained of being on the splitter from the drop of the green flag, it was determined under the competition caution on lap 15 that a right-front stopper was broke. After replacing the part, Busch took the ensuing restart from the 33rd position. The handling issues during the Opening Stage would be compounded when the team revealed to Busch that he had a large cut in his right-rear tire.
Despite not having the handling he desired, Busch would make his way to the front of the field early in the Final Stage, leading 25 of the 28 laps from 69 to 96, before hitting pit road after a debris caution slowed the field for the sixth time.
The caution would be ill timed, as the majority of the field pitted during the fifth caution of the night on lap 88, but the No. 51 team had hoped that the next caution of the night would occur later in the event than it did, giving them fresh tires for the final stretch.
Despite being mired in the 24th position when the field went back green with just 34 laps remaining and eventual winner Chase Elliott restarting from the third spot, the Truck Series' winningest driver would mount a strong comeback. "Rowdy" gained 12 spots on the restart before another caution occurred two laps later. Busch went from 12th to fifth on the ensuing restart, but then would have to methodically fight his way forward.
By the time Busch made his way into the runner-up position with 20 laps remaining, he found himself a full second behind Elliott. Determined to keep a seven-race Gander Trucks winning streak alive, Busch focused on chasing down the leader. He would make his way to within three tenths of a second with nine laps remaining but communicated that he had used his tires up trying to reel in Elliott and would cross the stripe 0.627 seconds behind him.
Stage One Recap:
- Busch rolled off in the 16th position via a tiered random draw based on the 2019 owners' points. Despite immediately communicating that his Cessna Tundra was bouncing off the splitter, the talented wheelman would maneuver forward to the sixth position by the time the competition caution waved on lap 16.
- After replacing the right-front stopper on pit road, Busch would return to the track scored in the 33rd position. He would communicate that the splitter was too high causing his Toyota to "plow" through the corners during the second half of Stage One but would make his way back to the 14th position when the segment ended on lap 30.
Stage Two Recap:
- Veteran crew chief Danny Stockman called for a four-tire and fuel stop between stages and the over-the-wall crew would make major adjustments to the splitter height once again. After the lengthy stop, Busch would return to the track scored in the 25th position. Before the stage went green on lap 38, Stockman alerted his driver that part of the handling issues was due to a right-rear tire having a large cut.
- Halfway through the stage, "Rowdy" made his way back inside the top 10 and when the segment came to a close on lap 60 was scored in the fifth position.
Final Stage Recap:
- Before hitting pit road, Busch communicated to Stockman that his Cessna Tundra "needed more right-front longevity."
- After a speedy four-tire and fuel stop, the No. 51 Toyota returned to the track scored in the third spot when the Final Stage went green on lap 64.
- Despite reporting that his Tundra lacked overall grip, the Las Vegas native was able to take the lead for the first time on lap 69 and would be out front for 25 of the next 28 laps.
- After a two-truck accident slowed the field with 45 laps remaining, all but three trucks hit pit road for their final set of sticker tires. Busch was one of the drivers electing to remain on track, with the No. 51 team believing it was too soon to take their final set of tires.
- The team's hopes for a caution somewhere in the middle of the final 42 laps was spoiled when a debris caution slowed the field with 39 laps remaining.
- After surrendering the lead to hit pit road for the final set of tires, the No. 51 restarted 24th with 34 laps remaining. Busch gained 19 spots across the next two restarts and maneuvered his way to the runner-up position with 20 laps remaining.
- Busch was able to cut Chase Elliott's lead from one second to three tenths of a second over the next 10 laps, but he communicated that he had used his tires up trying to reel in Elliott and would cross the stripe 0.627 seconds behind him.
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