Event: Coca-Cola 600 (Round 13 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval)
Format: 400 laps, broken into four stages (100 laps/100 laps/100 laps/100 laps)
Start/Finish: 1st/1st (Running, completed 400 of 400 laps)
Point Standing: 1st (573 points, 67 ahead of second)
Race Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 3 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-100):
● Kyle Busch started first and finished first.
● The M&M’S Red, White and Blue driver was passed for the lead before completing lap one, but he dug in and reclaimed the top spot on lap five.
● Within the first 35 laps, Busch reported that the car’s handling was simultaneously getting tighter and looser. He attributed the tight issue to a buildup of tire rubber on the track and noted that that car was mostly loose at the entry to the turns, particularly in turn three.
● The team used the caution period on lap 36 to make air pressure adjustments, change four tires and add fuel. Quick work in the pits enabled Busch to maintain the top spot.
● A caution on lap 83 gave everyone the opportunity to come down pit road for fresh tires. Busch noted that he liked how his car was handling in the short run, so the team elected to make no changes. He restarted in second place and was in front by the time he reached turn one. He cruised to the conclusion of Stage 1 to score the stage win.
● Busch noted at the conclusion of Stage 1 that the car was starting to turn better, so the team elected to only change four tires and add fuel during the break, once again getting the M&M’S Red, White, and Blue Camry off pit road first to maintain the top spot for the start of Stage 2.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 101-200):
● Busch started first and finished first.
● The 2015 NASCAR Cup Series Champion picked up in Stage 2 right where he left off at the conclusion of Stage 1 – taking the lead and then extending it.
● Busch relinquished the lead during a round of green-flag pit stops that began around lap 157. On lap 159 he brought the M&M’S Red, White, and Blue Toyota to the attention of his crew, who changed four tires and added fuel. A handful of drivers were operating on different strategies, but it did little to deter Busch, who raced his way back to the top spot on lap 174.
● The Las Vegas native cruised to the conclusion of Stage 2 to pick up another stage win, earning another 10 bonus points.
● Once again, the team simply changed four tires and added fuel, and quick work allowed Busch to return to the track in first place to start Stage 3.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 201-300):
● Busch started first and finished first.
● Busch was leading when caution was displayed on lap 225. He noted that the M&M’S Toyota was starting to handle a little loose. Anticipating that the track would continue to create a tight-handling situation, the team once again made no adjustments while changing four tires and adding fuel. After a tight race off pit road with teammate Denny Hamlin, Busch was declared the leader for the restart.
● During a caution on lap 258, Busch reported that the handling of his car was getting to be a bit more challenging. Crew chief Adam Stevens directed the team to make air pressure adjustments, change four tires and add fuel. The pit crew continued to rise to the challenge, getting Busch off pit road first to maintain the lead.
● The M&M’S Red, White and Blue Camry was on cruise control for the next several laps, maintaining a healthy lead through to the end of Stage 3.
● At the conclusion of Stage 3 Busch reported that the car was “really good” and, if anything, was starting to get just a bit snug. The team elected to go with no adjustments, simply changing four tires and adding fuel. Busch returned to the track the way he left it, in first place for the start of the final stage.
Stage 4 Recap (Laps 301-400):
● Busch started first and finished first.
● During the opening laps of Stage 4, Busch quietly and methodically set up a comfortable pace with yet another healthy lead.
● The strategy for the final 100-lap stage was simple for the M&M’S team, who had dominated the race: Keep the car up front by splitting the final stage into two 50-lap runs.
● Busch pitted for the final time on lap 353, taking four tires and fuel and no changes to a car that had been flawless the entire night.
● From there, Busch’s M&M’S Red, White, and Blue Toyota Camry cruised to victory as the final stage went all 100 laps without a caution, capping a dominating performance.
● Busch won the Coca-Cola 600 to score his 47th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory and his fourth of the season, scoring the maximum number of eight playoff points by winning all three stages and the race win.
● Busch led four times for race-high 377 laps. With his laps led in the Coca-Cola 600, Busch surpassed the 15,000 laps led mark in his Cup Series career.
● This was Busch’s eighth top-five and 10th top-10 finish in 13 races contested so far in 2018 season.
● The win was Busch’s first points-paying win at Charlotte and his first-ever trip to victory lane in his 29th starts there.
● The win also made NASCAR history as Busch became the first driver in NASCAR history to win at all tracks at which he made at least one start. Busch has now won at all 23 current tracks on the Cup Series schedule.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Red, White and Blue Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How special is winning this race for you?
“This one’s very special. I don’t think there’s anything that can top Homestead, just with the meaning of what the championship is, but the Coca-Cola 600 – I’ve dreamt of this race since I was a kid and being able to win this race. Always watching the All-Star race and then the 600 the following weekend and being able to come out here and now win the Coca-Cola 600 is just phenomenal. It’s a little boy’s dreams come true. And man, I just want to say that I thank NASCAR, for one, for giving me a chance to come out here and have this opportunity to race for my dreams and to accomplish those things. I don’t know if it’s ever been done before, but the first one to check off all the tracks and get it all done. I don’t want to go to any new ones, that would just have to start the whole process over. But holy moly, I can’t say enough about M&M’s. Love the red, white and blue scheme and what it means – all of our heroes, whether they’re fighting for us right now or whether they’re fallen heroes. Certainly, want to give remembrance to (Sgt.) Eric Toth who’s with us and who is riding on our car tonight and his family who are with us here this weekend. That’s very, very special. Appreciate NASCAR doing that with NASCAR Salute the troops. Can’t say enough about M&M’S Red, White, and Blue, Interstate Batteries. This Toyota Camry was awesome tonight. Adam Stevens (crew chief) and all my guys are just phenomenal to work with, and it’s so much fun right now. Also, want to thank Cessna and Rheem and DVX Eyewear. Of course the fans. The fans for coming out here and supporting us all through all this. Man, Black Clover, DVX Sunglasses. Man, this is so huge.”
Your team came through flawlessly tonight, didn’t they?
“Yeah, my guys were on it tonight. They were certainly really good on pit road. I can’t say enough about my crew. They’ve been that way all year long. You know, a lot of wins are due to a lot of circumstances going right, and certainly, we’ve got the pit crew going right with us right now. Fast racecars, as well. There were a few other fast cars out there I was keeping my eye on as they were coming up through the field – the 4 (Kevin Harvick) for one, the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) for another – and it just seemed like they could never really get into our territory. But you know, all in all just a phenomenal night.”
First driver in the modern era to win at every active track, what does that mean to you?
“It’s awesome. I mean I’ve dreamt of that – not only winning here and winning the Coke 600 as a kid and being in victory lane here for this race but to just be a force to be reckoned with, you know. I go across the country and race Super Late Models because I want to win at every single racetrack. I just want to show that there is no weakness. My guys have given me that chance here tonight, and being able to get to victory lane with this M&M’s Toyota – it sure looks pretty in victory lane here tonight. I definitely want to give a shout-out to all of our men and women, all the service men and women across the world past and present, fallen and of today’s heroes – we had (Sgt.) Eric Toth with us here and his family riding along with us this weekend, so that was a pleasure. Got to meet up with them earlier and spend some time, so that was really cool.”
Next Up: The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Pocono 400 on Sunday, June 3 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!