|Date: Oct. 14, 2018
Event: 1000Bulbs.com 500 (Round 31 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (2.66-mile oval)
Format: 188 laps, broken into three stages (55 laps/55 laps/78 laps)
Start/Finish: 9th /26th (Running, completed 193 of 193 laps)
Point Standing: 2nd (3,111 points, 46 ahead of cutoff – IN THE PLAYOFFS)
Note: Race extended five laps past its scheduled 188-lap distance due to a green-white-checkered finish.
Race Winner: Aric Almirola of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford) in overtime
Stage 1 Winner: Kurt Busch of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 2 Winner: Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-55):
● Kyle Busch started ninth and finished 16th.
● Busch quietly logged laps during the first half of Stage 1, racing his way into fifth place by lap 10. A caution one lap later gave the team the opportunity to come to pit road to top off the fuel, allowing the No. 18 to make it to the end of Stage 1 without stopping again.
● It was on lap 20 that Busch made his first report on the car’s handling, noting that the M&M’S Toyota was sitting a too high on the track and was really tight at the exits of the turns.
● Eight laps later Busch started dropping back in the running order and reported that the car simply would not turn. By lap 30 he was running just outside the top-15.
● Busch hung on to finish Stage 1 in 16th place. The team used the break to pit for chassis adjustments, four tires and fuel. Quick pit work placed Busch in ninth place for the start of Stage 2.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 56-110):
● Busch started ninth and finished seventh.
● Caution slowed the start of Stage 2 on lap 62. Busch and the majority of the frontrunners made a stop for fuel only in the hopes of being able to race to the end of Stage 2 without another stop. The team also made a slight wedge adjustment. Busch was in sixth place when green-flag racing resumed on lap 66.
● The 2015 Cup Series champion started challenging for the lead once green-flag racing resumed. He took over the top spot on lap 69 only to relinquish it one lap later. Three laps later Busch had to jump out of line due to the persistent tight-handling issue and settled into a comfortable pace in 15th place.
● Busch had raced his way back into the top-10 when a caution was displayed for a single-car incident on lap 103. The team elected to stay out to maintain track position for the conclusion of Stage 2. Busch restarted in eighth and picked up one more spot to finish Stage 2 in seventh place.
● The team used the break to make an extended stop on pit road for adjustments, making changes to the shocks, chassis and air pressure. After adding four fresh tires and fuel, Busch returned to the track in 25th place for the start of the final stage.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 111-193):
● Busch started 25th and finished 26th.
● The M&M’S driver logged laps toward the back of the pack to start Stage 3. He tested out the changes, noting that while the car was still handling on the tight side it was easier to run the top lane and easier on the tires.
● Rather than mix it up at the front of the field and risk getting involved in an accident, Busch exercised a little preservation by running comfortably further back in the field.
● As the laps wound down, Busch attempted to make a move to the front, leveraging the momentum of cars around him.
● Caution waved on lap 185 with Busch in 16th place. The caution set up a green-white-checkered overtime finish. As the field came around to take the white flag signaling the final lap, a number of cars started running out of fuel and setting off a series of accidents. Unable to avoid the melee, Busch made contact with the retaining wall.
● Although the damage was severe, Busch was able to finish the race scored in 26th.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
“I don’t know what happened (in the last-lap accident). There was a wreck in front of us, we piled in and got collected in it. I didn’t really see what happened there. We tried everything today with our M&M’S Toyota Camry and just struggled to get up front.”
Next Up: The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Hollywood Casino 400 on Sunday, Oct. 21 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!