Kyle Busch 2nd at Las Vegas Remains atop NNS Owner’s Point Standings

Toyota driver Kyle Busch finished second on Saturday in Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway’s Boyd Gaming 300, NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race and secured his third top-10 finish of the season. With the runner-up claim, the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 54 Monster Energy team is now tied in first place in the series’ Owner’s Point Championship battle with Penske Racing, a familiar rival from 2013 who won the Owner’s Point battle by one marker over the No. 54 team.

On Friday the veteran team started strong with a Toyota that exhibited top speeds during the first practice session. The momentum was quickly halted, however, when during the second and final practice session Busch experienced a flat right-front tire and hit the outside of turn four causing major damage to the side of the No. 54 machine. With the primary race car damaged beyond repair, the JGR team quickly unloaded their backup car from the team hauler and turned that car’s preparation around in time for Busch to complete the practice session with additional laps. Although a scramble to prepare the second car, the crew members were confidant their black machine would once again atop the leaderboard.

Race day started well at a track familiar to the Las Vegas native. Under sunny skies, Busch and the Monster Energy No. 54 team participated in NASCAR’s group qualifying format to set the field’s starting order at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Placing top-10 speeds on the board, Busch advanced to the second and final rounds of qualifying before securing a seventh-place starting position at the speed of 178.524 mph.

Once again, though, momentum garnered with a good qualifying run was thwarted when NASCAR communicated a penalty to the No. 54 team for making an unapproved adjustment to their Camry before race start. The alternator belt was discovered to be broken and although the JGR crew thought approval had been given to make the change, a miscommunication resulted in NASCAR’s penalty, which sent Busch to the tail end of the field during the pace laps.

The additional hurdle did not deter the hometown driver and local fans watched him wheel the car through the field quickly. Within the first 10 laps, Busch drove his Camry just outside the top-10 and by lap 22 he was scored in sixth place when he reported to his team, “We’re better than anyone out here right now.” Busch’s experienced crew chief Adam Stevens responded, “Good work!”

Busch reported over the day a slightly tight-handling car through the turns, but didn’t want the team to make drastic adjustments, for fear the car would swing too loose. The team brought their Monster Energy machine down pit road three times to replenish Goodyear tires and Sunoco fuel. While Busch enjoyed the race lead three times over 33 laps, he battled hard at the end of the race with JGR teammate Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski, the ultimate race winner. After a long yellow-flag delay towards the end of the event, Busch was shuffled back on a restart and dropped to third place. The car felt slow according to Busch, who asked if he had any rear quarter panel damage, to which the team confirmed there was none.

While crew chief and spotter encouraged Busch over the final laps of the race, he did gain position on the leader, but ran out of time for a final pass to earn back the lead. Busch finished second, a repeat of his Las Vegas finish one year ago. The JGR driver commented to the media afterwards, “I don’t know what caused us to lose the lead.  That was unfortunate.  I think that was the race. Our car was super-fast on the long run when guys would get their tires hot and use up everything and what not.  You could see everybody hang with us for about 10 (laps), and then 10 to 20 (laps), and then about from 30 (laps) on is what made me better than the rest.”