Race Recap: Apache Warrior 400
Date: Oct. 1, 2017
Event: Apache Warrior 400 (Round 29 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Dover (Del.) International Speedway (1-mile concrete oval)
Format: 400 laps, broken into three stages (120 laps/120 laps/160 laps)
Start/Finish: 2nd/1st (Running, completed 400 of 400 laps)
Point Standing: 2nd with 3,041 points, 18 out of first
Race Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner: Brad Keselowski of Team Penske (Ford)
Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing (Chevrolet)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-120):
● Kyle Busch started second and finished second to earn nine bonus points.
● Busch started the race in the runner-up spot but struggled to find the handle of his M&M’S Caramel Toyota early in the race; he dropped to seventh by lap 21 and ninth by lap 70.
● The M&M’S Caramel Camry was too tight, and Busch fought to keep the right-front grip secure during the opening green-flag run of the race.
● Even with the handling woes, Busch caught a break late in the opening stage. Only a handful of cars had not made green-flag pit stops, with Busch among the group, when the car of Jeffrey Earnhardt slid into the sand barrels at the entrance of pit road, causing the first caution of the race.
● Busch was scored the leader. He came down pit road on lap 89, where he exited second.
● The M&M’S Caramel driver settled into second for the final 30-lap run of Stage 1.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 121-240):
● Busch started first and finished fourth to earn seven bonus points.
● Following a strong stop from the M&M’S Caramel team on lap 123, Busch took off to an early lead in Stage 2 before surrendering the top spot to Kyle Larson on lap 145.
● With his handling woes still prevalent, Busch dropped to fifth by lap 165.
● Busch worked his way back up to fourth by lap 210, reporting that the rear of the car was much more secure and the handling the best it had been all race.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 241-400):
● Busch started fourth and finished first.
● The M&M’S Caramel Toyota driver started the final stage in fourth and settled into that spot during the first green-flag run of Stage 3. Still, Busch was battling a tight racecar as he and crew chief Adam Stevens plotted their strategy for the race to the finish.
● With his car as tight-handling as it had been all day, but still very fast, Busch came to pit road for the final time on lap 329.
● Busch chased down leader Chase Elliott and passed him on lap 399 to score the win.
● There were four caution periods for a total of 24 laps.
● Only 12 of the 40 drivers in the Apache Warrior 400 finished on the lead lap.
● Busch won the Apache Warrior 400 to score his 42nd career NASCAR Cup Series victory, his fourth of the season, second in a row and third at Dover.
● Busch led four times for 30 laps.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Caramel Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
Tell us about your race winning pass
“It’s no doubt the moment that you live for – it’s the moment that all these guys live for, and what we do with this M&M’S Caramel team. This Toyota Camry was not the best there early on, but we made a lot of gains on it and got it where it was really good there at the end. I was making the most out of it there and being able to run the top and get some speed going with some momentum around the top side. And I can’t say enough about Chase (Elliott). I mean, he’s an awesome competitor and great kid, great friend; I raced with him in late models. Coming off of (turn) two there, you know, he could have pulled up and checked up my momentum. I did kind of check up because I wasn’t quite sure, but then he gave me enough room and I put it back down and just kept my momentum up there, got along side of him and got ready for the entry to (turn) three.
How were you able to work on the handling and get your car able to be a race winner?
Just we kept working on it all day long. We kept making adjustments to it every pit stop, every chance we got, and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys did a really, really good job of that. I think the biggest thing there at the end was just having a little bit fresher lap tires than Chase did, and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be enough when I got close. I got within five lengths and I stalled out and I was like, ‘Oh, man, I think that was it,’ you know? But I got back to the top and got enough momentum back rolling. Chase was kind of plugged up with the lap cars in front of him, so I think the lap cars actually helped us with that one. Overall, just a great day for us, great job by the team being able to get in victory lane here in Dover. It’s been a long time since we’ve been in victory lane here, and it’s hard to come by wins here because Jimmie (Johnson) takes up all the darn Monster trophies. But it’s nice to have a third or fourth in my collection – I can’t remember.”
The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Bank of America 500 on Sunday, Oct. 8 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBC.