Busch Rebounds from Lap-One Incident For Top-Five Finish
Box Score Info:
RACE: NASCAR XFINITY Series; Irish Hills 250
TRACK: Michigan International Speedway
START: 1st, pole winner at 193.564mph
LAPS: Completed 125 of 125 laps
RACE WINNER: Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs RacingPost-Race Highlights:
- NASCAR’s XFINITY Series entered week thirteen of the 2017 season at Michigan International Speedway (MIS) for a warm Saturday afternoon race event. Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) veteran Kyle Busch and the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota team started from row one, a first-place starting spot captured in 37.197 seconds. What began as a promising start to a strong race for the No. 18 team quickly ended when going into turn one, just after taking the checkered flag, another competitor and Busch tangled, causing the NOS Energy Drink Toyota to spin across the track and gather damage to the right-rear quarter panel of the car. The team would visit pit road nine times through the rest of the race to tackle the damaged areas of the Toyota and improve the car balance so that Busch could make his way back through the field. The veteran series driver drove from 40th place to fifth place, at the end, and salvaged the team’s ninth top-five result of the season.
- The pole-qualifying win by Busch secured his 60th-career first-place starting spot in 332 races in NASCAR’s XFINITY Series. The accomplishment was recorded at a speed of 193.564mph over a lap time of 37.197 seconds. The top qualifying spot was the NOS Energy Driver’s third grab in three starts so far in the 2017 race season, his second pole in 10 races at Michigan International Speedway.
- Preparing for the green flag the team, spotter and driver were ready for a strong run at the Michigan track nestled in the “Irish Hills.” Upon taking the starter’s nod and speeding towards turn one, however, Busch’s day would soon change quickly as he prepared to clear his competitor in the No. 22 and tangled without enough clearance, sending the blue and orange NOS Energy Drink Camry spinning across the race track. Damage was collected to the body of the No. 18 JGR entry, and the team would spend the rest of the day finessing the sheet metal and working to adjust the car so Busch could drive back through the field with success. The wreck and subsequent visits to pit road would put the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink car in the 40th position to continue his day. “Regroup and take a big breath here, we have a long race to go still,” heard over the radio by crew chief Eric Phillips to his veteran driver.
- Restart on lap five and Busch would start his foray from the back of the field. He slowly gained positions, picking off spots until he reached the 19th position at the end of race stage number one. “I’m getting tighter as I go along, no side force,” the driver relayed to his team who planned for chassis adjustments that would keep balancing the hurt machine. Busch also thought he had a tire rub at this stage and the team visited their pit box three times to ensure there was no issue that would cause further damage to the No. 18 machine. The team had fallen back to 27th place while taking time to conduct those pit-road visits for tire checks. In the middle of the second stage Busch was still battling around the top-20 competitors and started to ask for water and ice bags during his pit-road visits. “Keep making it live, stick to our plan,” longtime spotter Tony Hirschman was heard over the radio encouraging Busch to continue his effort to gain positions back. “I just don’t have side force,” Busch continued to explain while making the most of his damaged race car.
- The end of race stage two recorded Busch in the 20th position and he continued to describe his biggest hurdle with the car feel, “By myself I’m okay to move the car around, I’m actually a little tight, but in traffic I just lose control of the car and I’m spinning every time.” A restart to begin the last segment of the race and Busch moved his vehicle from 20th to 16th then continued the charge forward. He reached the ninth spot and drove in that position through several caution periods at the end of the race. The adjustments made on his earlier just weren’t yielding the results he and Phillips had hoped for. A few competitors had difficulties on track in remaining laps of the event, and Busch kept the No 18 free from those incidents. While his end result yielded a final fifth-place spot, Busch showed his racing skills ultimately after starting on the pole, enduring a lap-one accident, starting in the rear of the field, visiting pit road multiple times and passing an estimated 52 cars on track, to ultimately bring his team home among the top racers of the day. While not the finish Busch and team originally planned for, the day was a successful turnaround.
- Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin and the No. 29 Hisense USA Toyota team earned the top finishing position of the day and Joe Gibbs Racing’s third victory at the 2-mile Michigan track in this series. The margin of victory by the winner today was the closest at MIS since the beginning of electronic scoring in NASCAR XFINITY Series racing.
- Saturday’s XFINITY Series event recorded an average speed of 124.671mph and saw 10 lead changes across five drivers. Busch led the field to the green flag, but with an on-track incident going into turn one, no further lead lap was recorded by the 18 team. There were seven caution periods for 32 laps of the 250-mile event.
- With Saturday’s fifth-place finish the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink team remains in sixth place in the series Owner’s Championship competition, now 178 markers behind the No. 22 of Penske Racing. The NASCAR XFINITY Series competes again Saturday, June 24 at Iowa Speedway in Des Moines and will be covered live on FS1 at 8:30pm local time.
Driver KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing:
How did the lap one incident affect your race today?
“I hate it happened. The car wasn’t any good after the damage, but I made something out of it. Thank you NOS Energy Drink and Toyota, but it wasn’t our day. We’ll go again in Kentucky."