Getting Rowdy In Atlanta

Box Score Info:

RACE: NASCAR XFINITY Series; Rinnai 250
TRACK: Atlanta Motor Speedway
DRIVER: Kyle Busch
CAR: No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota Camry
START: 1st, POLE, 30.153 seconds, 183.862 mph
LAPS: Completed 163 of 163 laps
RACE WINNER: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing

Post-Race Highlights: 

  • NASCAR’s XFINITY Series entered week two of the 2017 season at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway (AMS) for a 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 POLE first-place qualifying lap at 183.862  mph captured in 30.153 seconds. The lead starting spot was Busch’s series-leading 58th in 329 career XFINITY series starts. Busch battled both loose and tight-handling conditions with his Toyota Camry mid-race, only to see improvement after pit stop adjustments gave the series veteran the car balance needed later in the race to maintain the lead and take home the checkered flag. The win was Busch’s 87th victory in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, his seventh at Atlanta Motor Speedway in all three of NASCAR’s top-racing series. 
  • Busch’s win was the series-leading 87th victory in 329 starts, the former XFINITY Series champion and Joe Gibbs Racing’s second XFINITY Series win at Atlanta Motor Speedway in two years. The Saturday afternoon finish earned the series most-winningest driver the Duralast Brakes “Brake in the Race” Award. 
  • Kyle Busch won the Coors Light Pole Award with a lap of 30.153 seconds at 183.862mph to put the defending race winner in the first-place starting spot for the afternoon’s 251.02mile, 163-lap race. It was Busch’s first pole of 2017 and sixth first-place start at Atlanta Motor Speedway across all series. 
  • Busch took the green flag from the first-place spot to begin the series’ first race segment. He led the first six laps before another competitor passed him for the lead. “My car’s tight in the middle, I need security in the rear exiting the turns,” Busch described to the No. 18 team’s crew chief this season, former champion with Daniel Suarez, veteran Scott Graves. At the end of segment one Busch was still scored in second place and the team made their first pit-road visit for adjustments. In the second race segment Busch further described his Toyota Camry as, “too yawed out, need more rear stability.” His car had better forward bite, however, and the No. 18 team was then able to drive both the high and the low lines to find more speed. The NOS Energy Drink Camry was in third place to end segment two and a second pit stop was conducted to further adjust car handling. 
  • The third race segment restart came with traffic and Busch began from a sixth-place position on lap 88, then drove into the fourth spot six laps later. The driver was heard over the radio, “Car drives better this run. The back is starting to ‘go away’ earlier though.” The team was in third place. A caution flag at lap l17 and Graves brought his driver to pit road one last time for final car adjustments. The over-the-wall pit crew, veteran team members who have pitted Busch’s various cars over the years, changed four Goodyear tires with enough speed that the No. 18 gained one position to second place. Another late caution period and subsequent pit-road visit and the team would continue to meet the car balance Busch ultimately needed. That last fast pit stop put the NOS Energy Drink Camry back into the lead position Busch started the race with. Busch captured the win, while navigating final lapped traffic, and scored his second win and the second win for Joe Gibbs Racing in the XFINITY Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway. 
  • Saturday’s XFINITY Series event recorded an average speed of 128.435 mph and saw six lead changes across four drivers. Busch led the field two times across 26 laps. There were five caution periods for 26 laps of the 250-mile event.    
  • With Saturday’s victory the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink team strengthens their drive towards the front of NASCAR’s Owner Championship Points Standings, now in eighth place.    
  • The NASCAR XFINITY Series competes again Saturday, March 11, for the Boyd Gambling 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 at 4:00pm EST.  

Driver Kyle Busch post-race thoughts:

Was this win an example of hard work?

Yeah it was. We weren’t great early on. We weren’t great through the middle and Scott Graves (crew chief) and these guys, they worked on this car all day long. Really brought the NOS ENERGY Drink Toyota to life there at the end. Pretty proud to put ourselves in Victory Lane here once again. Two years in a row. It took me so long to get here to begin with and now we won two in a row. That feels really good. Can’t say enough about Toyota, TRD and everybody that works so hard. Everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing. All these guys on this team. Of course, XFINITY. Their XFINITY Stream App. That’s pretty cool to have. I love watching that thing all over my cell phone. And then of course too, Cessna. We appreciate them. DBX, the race fans, Incredible Bank. What else can I say? We just keep knocking them out of the park here in the XFINITY Series. But we love it and we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else."

How does it feel to get him (crew chief Scott Graves) to Victory Lane?

It was. Thanks. It certainly means a lot to get him to Victory Lane - to get this group of guys to Victory Lane. They just won a championship. They’re fresh off of that so certainly they want to get back to Victory Lane any chance they can get. And we got ten chances here this year with me. Looking forward to that opportunity. If anybody wants to put a bounty out there and I’ll go race for it. I’m one for one right now. Maybe I can get an extra million if I win all ten. I don’t know.”

What adjustments did you make during the race?

“We just kept working on it you know. It wasn’t perfect at the beginning but rarely are they. We just kept trying to make it better and better and this NOS ENERGY Drink Camry was awesome there at the end. It really came to life. We just kept having to get rear grip in the car, but also up front. We were just kind of lacking a little bit overall most of the day, but we kept making it better, kept doing the right changes and got it to where we needed it there at the end for that final run. Can’t say enough about my pit crew. These guys did awesome getting me off pit road first for that final run.”

 What was going on there on the outside line there at the end? Was it you, the car or something with the track?

“It must be me. There was a couple of other guys that did a way better job at it than I did here today. Unfortunately, I just haven’t been able to figure it out, but man once we got going we were pretty good. It means a lot to get these guys to Victory Lane. This group, they’re fresh off a championship last year with Suárez, so they’re used to winning. But we want to make sure we keep them winning and in Victory Lane. Hopefully we can go ten for ten. We’re one for one right now. Let’s keep it going.”

SCOTT GRAVES, crew chief, No. 18 NOS ENERGY Drink Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

What was it like getting ready for this race?

“I know we were all a little anxious to get out here and see what it was going to be like obviously with practice being the first time we had seen this package for us the other day. A lot of hours spent in the off-season thinking about, working through some different scenarios – if it’s going to be this then we need to work on this direction – so we had a lot of things planned out. Luckily, when we started off, it actually wasn’t too far off, so engineers on the team, everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing, all the guys worked really hard to get it that way, so really fortunate the way we started off.”

How is Kyle Busch different from the other drivers you’ve worked with?

“Yeah, it’s just the experience level. I mean, obviously he (Kyle Busch) can guide you a lot more throughout practice. The younger guys, it’s more of a mentoring – you spend a lot of time talking about, ‘Here the car’s here. We think this is what it’s going to do during the race and how we need to have it feel at the end of practice.’ Kyle obviously has a lot of that built in. When he comes into it, he knows what he wants, so from that point it’s a big help really and I can take some of my ideas and we try them and then he’ll have ideas and we’ll try them, so it’s definitely a lot different from what I’ve had, but really looking forward to more races.”