Date: Nov. 10, 2019
Event: Bluegreen Vacations 500k (Round 35 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: ISM Raceway near Phoenix (1-mile oval)
Format: 312 laps, broken into three stages (75 laps/75 laps/162 laps)
Start/Finish: 1st/2nd (Running, completed 312 of 312 laps)
Point Standing: 1st (5,000 points, CLINCHED BERTH IN CHAMPIONSHIP 4)
Race Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 2 Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-75):
● Kyle Busch started first, finished third.
● With his first pole of the season on Saturday, Busch led the field to the green flag and maintained the top spot for much of the first stage.
● Busch radioed to crew chief Adam Stevens that his car was tight in the center of the corner but started to free up as the run went on.
● The first caution of the race waved on lap 67, and Stevens called Busch to pit road to take on four fresh tires and fuel. Busch restarted in third, as Brad Keselowski and William Byron did not pit under the caution.
● Just a few laps remained in the first stage, and Busch was able to maintain the third spot to finish Stage 1.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 76-150):
● Busch started third, finished fourth.
● Busch restarted the stage in third and maintained the spot until JGR teammate Denny Hamlin got around him on lap 93.
● The M&M’S driver told Stevens that his car was too tight from the center of the corner through the exit, and he sat in fourth for much of the second stage.
● Busch held onto the fourth position to finish the second stage.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 151-312):
● Buschstarted third, finished second.
● The Las Vegas native started third in the final stage and settled in that spot for the first part of Stage 3.
● With Hamlin taking the lead, Busch now needed to get ahead of Logano to clinch the fourth and final transfer spot to the Championship 4 finale next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
● The M&M’S driver dug deep, slipping past Logano on lap 187. He pulled away from Logano as the No. 22 car dropped through the field.
● After Busch came to pit road on lap 245, he found himself in the runner-up spot well behind Hamlin for the final run of the race.
● It looked as if Hamlin would win the race and Busch would finish in the runner-up spot, but then a caution waved with nine laps to go. The field came to pit road on lap 306, preparing for a four-lap shootout to decide the win. For the restart, Hamlin was lined up in first, Ryan Blaney in second and Busch in third.
● Hamlin held serve on the restart, and Busch got by Blaney, so the teammates still ended up finishing 1-2. Hamlin advanced with the win and Busch advanced on points to the Championship 4 along with the winners of the previous two races, Kevin Harvick and JGR’s Martin Truex Jr.
● The runner-up finish was Busch’s 16th top-five of the season and his 11th top-five finish at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.
● This is the fifth straight season Busch has competed in the Championship 4. He won the title back in 2015.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How big of a swing did the car and everything else take once you lost that clean air out front?
“Yeah, a little bit, I guess. Just didn’t quite have enough. I knew the 11 was the best car in practice. I knew we were going to be about third to fifth. We were second. Guys did a great job, this M&M’S Camry was good. Thanks to everybody at JGR, Stanley, Toyota, TRD. It’s cool to have a chance to go race for a championship. Just keep coming up short.”
How do you go to Miami and do what this team hasn’t been able to do in the last 21 races?
“Yeah, thanks for the reminder. Fight as hard as we can, do the best job we can, exactly what we did today. Today we just weren’t good enough. Next week we’ll just have to make sure that we are. Somehow, some way, if it works out, it was meant to be. If it doesn’t, then it’s not. Hopefully the sun will come up for another day.”
Did you have anything for Denny Hamlin at the end?
“No. I guess if I would have, I would have been a little closer. We gave it everything we had today. The M&M’S Camry was good out front, and then we lost the lead and could never get it back. Kind of seemed that way for a few guys, I guess the 22 (Joey Logano) most notably. We were a little bit slower than the 11 (Hamlin) all weekend long. We kind of saw it in practice just a little bit. They had a really good car, did a really good car, and they executed well and took two tires there at the end. It’s funny, two tires can overdo four. I have yet to understand that, again. But, must be an aero package thing. So, we’ll just go on to Homestead with a chance to race for a championship and give it our best.”
What was going through your mind when the late caution came out with so much on the line?
“Doesn’t surprise me. Just come on down and get a chance with my guys to put four tires on my car and make some adjustments and try to go out there and outrace him in a shootout. Denny (Hamlin) was so far ahead of us on rolling on pit road that we just weren’t going to have a shot to beat him off pit road. Overall though, the guys did a great job. Our M&M’S Camry was good this weekend, just not great. The 11 (Hamlin) was definitely better than us all weekend, and they showed it and executed it again today. We get to go race for a championship now, so we’ll focus on next week.”
Next Up: The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 on Sunday, Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The final race of the 10-race playoffs starts at 3 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by NBC and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!