Date: Aug. 19, 2017
Event: Bass Pro Shops Night Race (Round 24 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (.533-mile oval)
Format: 500 laps, broken into three stages (125 laps/125 laps/250 laps)
Start/Finish: 18th/1st (Running, completed 500 of 500 laps)
Point Standing: 2nd with 850 points, 101 out of first
Race Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 2 Winner: Matt Kenseth of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-125):
● Kyle Busch started 18th, finished first.
● Busch wasted no time making a run for the front of the field from the drop of the green flag, cracking the top-10 by lap 28 and then making his way to sixth place by the time the first caution was displayed on lap 62.
● Throughout Stage 1 the only issue Busch reported was in regard to the car handling on the tight side in the center of the turns and loose in the top groove. Despite the slight handling issue, Busch continued his run to the front, taking the lead for the first time on lap 115.
● The M&M’S Caramel driver went on to trade the top spot with driver Kyle Larson during the final 10 laps of Stage 1. After a thrilling duel, Busch took the lead on lap 125 to win Stage 1.
● The team used the caution period to make a trip to pit road for a minor chassis adjustment, four tires and fuel. Problems on pit resulted in Busch losing a handful of positions and placed him in sixth place for the restart.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 126-250):
● Busch started sixth, finished eighth.
● Once again, Busch wasted no time in flexing the muscle of the No. 18 M&M’S Caramel Toyota, taking over second place by lap 150 and reclaiming the lead on lap 167. He did relinquish the top spot for a handful of laps but returned to the point on lap 198.
● The 2015 NASCAR Cup Series champion maintained his hold on first place throughout most of Stage 2. He was leading when the caution came out for an accident on lap 231. In an effort to position the team toward the front of the field for the start of Stage 3, crew chief Adam Stevens brought Busch down pit road for four tires and fuel.
● Green-flag racing resumed with six laps to go. Busch logged the laps, finishing Stage 2 in eighth place.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 251-500):
● Busch started third, finished first.
● The M&M’S Caramel Toyota driver quickly grabbed second place at the start of Stage 3 and then settled into a comfortable pace behind Erik Jones. He quietly logged laps in the runner-up spot, reporting briefly that the car was again handling on the tight side.
● As the race advanced the handling on the M&M’S Toyota continued to trend to the tight side, and Busch noted he needed something if he was going to be able to contend for the win. The handling deteriorated enough for Busch to lose a handful of positions, so the team used a caution on lap 354 to pull a spring rubber, change four tires and add fuel.
● Adjustments made immediate improvements; Busch restarted in fourth place on lap 360 and returned to the lead on lap 361.
● Caution waved on lap 396 with Busch in the lead. He noted that the car’s handling would start well at the beginning of the run but progressively build to the tight side. The team changed four tires, added fuel and made air pressure adjustments. Varying pit strategies resulted in Busch restarting in third place. He fell back a couple of spots during the restart before finally settling in at the fourth position.
● Green-flag racing was interrupted again on lap 415 with Busch in fourth place. With only one set of fresh tires remaining, the majority of the field stayed out on the track so as to save tires for a late pit stop. Busch was in fourth when green-flag racing resumed on lap 421 and made an aggressive move to take over second place. While he made a play for the top spot, he said the car’s handling made it impossible to make the pass for the lead, reporting that the rear tires were chattering and the car was tight in the turns.
● Following the final restart of the race, though, Busch worked his way past his Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammate Matt Kenseth and then future JGR teammate Jones for the lead.
● Once Busch grabbed the lead he stayed there for the final 56 laps to bring home the weekend sweep of the Cup, XFINITY and Truck Series races at Bristol for the second time in his career.
● Busch won Stage 1 to pick up his 10th stage win of the 2017 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series season.
● Busch led seven times for a total of 156 laps.
● The Las Vegas native scored his 40th career Cup Series victory, his second of the season and his sixth at Bristol.
● Busch’s sixth Bristol Cup win breaks a tie with his brother, Kurt Busch, and is now the most among active drivers.
● The 2015 NASCAR Cup Series champion completed the weekend sweep of NASCAR’s top series races for the second time in his career, with the first coming in 2010, also at the half-mile Bristol short track.
● M&M'S Caramel has now been the winning paint scheme in two of the four races it's been run on the No. 18 car this season.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Caramel Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How much does this win mean to you as you sweep Bristol for a second time in your career?
“That one was a lot harder. Man, Erik Jones put up a whale of a fight. That was all I had. I was running with my tongue hanging. My arms were jello and my throat hurts, but man that’s awesome. Can’t say enough about everybody on my Joe Gibbs Racing team. Adam Stevens (crew chief) and the guys are phenomenal. Car might not have been perfect, but I’m never perfect. I never feel like we’re perfect, but this M&M’S Caramel Camry was fast. So proud of Rowdy Nation, this one’s for you.”
How much fun was racing Erik Jones at the end and getting the broom again?
“Is this the XFINITY Series or the Cup Series? I mean, Erik Jones put up a whale of a fight. I just can’t say enough about that young man. He’s a great kid. I have a lot of fun with him. I have a lot of respect for him. He raced me awesome out there like a great teammate and gave me the room when necessary and raced me hard when necessary. Man, it’s just great to have a guy like that. This M&M’s Caramel Camry was awesome tonight. Adam Stevens and these guys they never quit working on it. Every single pit stop we kept working on it, kept adjusting on it, so I can’t say enough about his Toyota Camry, everybody at TRD – want to thank Interstate Batteries, NOS Energy Drink, Cessna, DVX Sunglasses and, of course, the fans. This is for Rowdy Nation. Rowdy Nation’s really what fuels us to get ’em out, to get around and get along, and all the noise is good noise, that’s how I feel about it. These M&M’S Caramels are going to be celebrating tonight.”
Next Up: The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is Bojangles’ Southern 500 on Sunday, Sept. 3 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. The race starts at 6 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBCSN.