Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-80):
● Started third, finished second.
● Busch started the 267-lap race in third and dropped to as low as sixth by lap 19 as he was battling a loose condition.
● The M&M’S Chocolate Bar Toyota improved over the course of the run, and Busch made his way back up to second after his pit stop on lap 41.
● The Las Vegas native settled into the runner-up spot behind eventual stage winner Kevin Harvick and brought home nine stage points by finishing second.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 81-160):
● Started second, finished 18th.
● Busch came to pit road after the stage on lap 83 for tires and fuel, and excellent work by the M&M’S Chocolate Bar over-the-wall team helped him restart second in Stage 2 behind Brad Keselowski, who only took two tires.
● Busch battled hard early in Stage 2 with Joey Logano and Harvick for the lead, finally taking to the point on lap 121.
● As the leader, Busch came to pit road on lap 129 for tires and fuel; however, he entered pit road too fast and couldn’t get slowed down, so he was penalized by NASCAR for speeding in the first section of pit road and was forced to come back down pit road for a drive-through penalty.
● He returned to the track in the 24th spot and one lap down with less than 30 laps to go in Stage 2.
● Even though he went a lap down, Busch went to work and was able to unlap himself under green. He finished 18th as the caution waved for the end of Stage 2 on lap 160.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 161-267):
● Started 16th, finished third.
● Strong work by the M&M’S Chocolate Bar team gained Busch two spots off of pit road to start the final stage.
● Then, Busch showed why he is one of the more talented drivers in the sport, as he carved his way from his restart position of 16th to the top-10 by lap 173 and continued to make his way back up toward the front of the field.
● Busch worked his way to the top-five by lap 208 as the final pit stop of the day was looming.
● Following the second stage break, the race went caution-free for the final 107 laps of the 267-lap race.
● Busch did an excellent job of reeling in the leaders over the last green-flag run, as he passed Harvick with two laps to go but didn’t have enough time to catch Team Penske teammates Logano and Keselowski, finishing his day in third.
● Busch posted his second top-five finish of the NASCAR Cup Series season and the 272nd top-five of his career.
● The Las Vegas native scored his seventh top-five finish in 16 career starts at the 1.5-mile oval. He narrowly missed sweeping the weekend after wins in Friday night’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race and Saturday’s Xfinity Series event.
● Busch led twice for a total of 13 laps.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Chocolate Bar Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
“If we didn’t have the speeding penalty on pit road, we would have won this race, but the guys gave me a great piece and we were certainly fast there at the end. I couldn’t run low if they ran low, and I couldn’t run high if they ran high, so you’re always trying to figure out which way to go. I certainly screwed up our day coming to pit road there. We tried a different brake package for us this weekend, and trying to make up time in order to get a bigger jump on the guys behind me coming to pit road there just ruined it for us, and we had to come from the back. We were running some of them leaders down and closing in on them running 31-flats, and once I got within the vicinity of them, I just stalled out to 31.40s and couldn’t go any faster in order to gain on them anymore. I would try to go low, they would go low, try to go high and they go high, and it’s just an air game. Very frustrating, but overall we had a really fast car – the M&M’S Chocolate Bar Camry was good, and driver threw it away.”
Next Up: The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the TicketGuardian 500k on Sunday, March 10 at ISM Raceway near Phoenix. The race starts at 3:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX.