Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-80):
● Kyle Buschstarted second, finished third.
● Busch started on the front row and maintained second place for most of the first stage.
● The M&M’S driver held the second position through the first two pit stops of the race. He radioed to crew chief Adam Stevens that his car was loose to start the run but started to develop a tight-handling condition in the center of the corner as rubber was laid down on the track.
● The 2015 Cup Series champion dropped one spot toward the end of the first stage and found himself third by lap 80.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 81-160):
● Busch started ninth, finished sixth.
● The M&M’S driver came to pit road on lap 83. There was an issue with both front tires, and Busch dropped to third after the pit stop.
● Busch dug in from there, moving up to sixth by the time the caution waved on lap 139, but he told Stevens he was loose on the bottom and tight on the top.
● After a strong stop by the No. 18’s over-the-wall team on lap 145, Busch moved up to fourth, but handling issues dropped him two spots to sixth by the end of Stage 2.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 161-267):
● Buschstarted fourth, finished fourth.
● Busch came to pit road on lap 196, and trouble with the stop dropped him to eighth on lap 196.
● The M&M’S driver fought hard on the ensuing restart, moving up to fourth by lap 207.
● As the laps wound down, Stevens called for Busch to stay out while the leaders pitted, hoping for a caution to gain track position. That caution came on lap 247 after there was contact between Daniel Suarez and Brad Keselowski.
● Busch came to pit road one lap later for four tires and an air pressure adjustment, with the M&M’S team vaulting to the lead off of pit road.
● On the ensuing restart, however, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. got by Busch as he fell to fourth with handling issues. All Busch could do was bring his M&M’S Camry home in fourth, a disappointing finish to a strong eight-win season.
● Busch led one time for a total of 21 laps.
● In all, Busch had eight wins, 22 top-fives and 28 top-10 finishes on the season, with all either tying or eclipsing career highs in those categories.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
“I don’t know, just not at all what we wanted, obviously, and not what we expected, either. We knew the 22 (Logano) was fast, but man, I thought we were way closer than that. We kind of held up the first half of the race, but after that we were just never close. I don’t know what happened, just didn’t have the feel in the racecar that I needed tonight. Just all night long, as soon as we got out of the gas and into the corner we were just sideways, just turning to the right and trying to save it. You do that for 50 or 60 laps, whatever it is on tires, and you just can’t hang on. I couldn’t hang after eight laps, let alone the 50. Bummed for all of our guys. Adam Stevens (crew chief) and my guys did a phenomenal job. This M&M’S Camry team was really, really good – just not good enough on the night we wanted the most. We finished fourth, last of the playoff guys. That’s not what it takes these days.”
How did you feel about the strategy to stay on the racetrack for the long run while the other contenders came to pit road?
“That was just the fact of the matter of nobody giving up. Don’t give up behind the wheel and just keep driving and keep trying to swing a hail Mary and see what we could get. The strategy fell right in our lap and the pit stall fell right in our lap, but none of it meant anything if you don’t have a fast-enough racecar. I knew I was just a sitting duck on that restart. I figured I could hold them off for four laps or five laps maybe, but damn, not even a straightaway and they’re gone. That’s just all there is to it.”
Next Up: The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season kicks off Feb. 9-17 with the traditional Speedweeks at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The 61st Daytona 500, the first points-paying race of the season, is scheduled for Feb. 17 and will be broadcast live on FOX.