Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-20):
● Kyle Busch started seventh, finished 16th.
● Busch started seventh and settled into that spot for the first part of the 90-lap race.
● The driver of the M&M’S Hazelnut Spread Toyota radioed to crew chief Adam Stevens that he had a hard time turning in the slow corners of turns two, seven and 11.
● Busch moved up to sixth close to the end of the stage on lap 16 and came to pit road just before the end of Stage 1 on lap 18 for fresh tires and fuel.
● Busch and Stevens elected to forgo stage points to try and get into the best fuel windows to win the race, as they already have four race wins on the season, and the No. 18 came home 16th in Stage 1.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 21-40):
● Busch started third, finished ninth.
● The M&M’S Hazelnut Spread driver stayed out after Stage 1 as others pitted, so he restarted in the third spot.
● Busch was quickly passed on the restart by Ryan Blaney, but just one lap later he snuck back by Blaney to regain third. Busch radioed to Stevens that the racecar was better but could always use more changes to help with the slow corners.
● The No. 18 held the third spot until lap 38, when Busch again pitted two laps shy of the stage end, taking on four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. He returned to the track just inside the top-10 and finished the second stage in the ninth spot.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 41-90):
● Busch started third, finished second.
● The final stage began just as Stage 2 did, with Busch restarting third, dropping to fourth behind Blaney, then sneaking back around Blaney within two laps.
● Busch later passed Chase Elliott, but not before they made contact that dented in the hood of the No. 18 car. Still, the damage didn’t seem to slow Busch down, and he started to reel in JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr. for the lead.
● With the damage to the nose, Busch told Stevens that he lost some of his drive off the corner, and he fell back to around two seconds behind Truex.
● Busch pitted for the final time on lap 67, three laps after Truex pitted. Stevens and Busch had hoped that having three laps fresher tires would be the difference maker when the laps wound down.
● The 2015 NASCAR Cup Series champion began to eat into Truex’s lead, which was over eight seconds after Busch’s pit stop. He got within a second with 10 laps to go, but Truex had taken it easy on his tires and was able to keep Busch behind him until the checkered flag waved.
● This is Busch’s fifth top-five and seventh top-10 finish at the Sonoma in 15 career starts at Sonoma.
● The top-five finish was also his 10th of the year and his 15th top-10 finish in the first 16 races of the season.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Hazelnut Spread Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
“I had to lean on the left rear, and I just didn’t have the drive that I needed. I was trying to hold on to it, trying to save it. I knew that was going to be the problem; it had been our problem all day long. When I got close there, you get closer and then you are like, I have to go and pounce on him fast, so he doesn’t have time to pick up the pace. It didn’t work. He was obviously saving a lot. I knew he was going to be saving a lot and was going to have enough to most likely be able to hold us off, but I still tried with everything that I could to get there and ran real hard. But our M&M’S Hazelnut Spread Camry was fast. I am really proud of Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the boys. We came here a little better than we have in years past, so that felt nice. It sucks to finish second to a teammate, but it is good for the company. Overall, Martin (Truex Jr.) is really good here, so I am just pumped that I ran good.”
Next Up: The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Camping World 400 on Sunday, June 30 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. The race starts at 3 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBCSN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.