Race Recap for the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix
Date: May 23, 2021
Event: EchoPark Texas Grand Prix (Round 14 of 36)
Series: NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas (20-turn, 3.426-mile road course)
Format: 68 laps, broken into three stages (15 laps/17 laps/36 laps)
Start/Finish: 4th / 10th (Running, completed 54 of 54 laps)
Note: Race shortened 14 laps from its scheduled 68-lap distance due to heavy rain.
Race Winner: Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Stage 1 Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)
Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-15):
● Kyle Busch started fourth and finished ninth, earning two bonus points.
● The driver of the M&M’S MIX Toyota Camry qualified fourth earlier in the day, but the drama began early for the entire field as rain picked up just as the race took the green flag.
● Busch started the race on slick tires but was forced to pit on lap four to get rain tires, as the rain was too steady to stay out on slicks.
● When the caution waved on lap eight, Busch came to pit road for four rain tires and fuel. He restarted 20th due to many others staying out under the caution period.
● Busch was able to work his way up into the top-15 by lap 14, and with several others ahead of him pitting before the stage ended, Busch made his way up to ninth by the end of Stage 1.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 16-32):
● Busch started seventh and finished first, earning 10 bonus points and one playoff point.
● The M&M’S Mix driver stayed out during the stage break caution and restarted seventh on lap 17.
● The next portion of the race featured a bevy of cautions, with visibility almost nonexistent. Several wrecks slowed the pace, and a red flag period toward the end of the stage helped Busch make it up to second with four laps to go in Stage 2.
● Busch was able to jump to the lead on the restart, winning a spirited battle with Austin Cindric for the lead with three laps to go in the stage.
● The M&M’S MIX driver was able to pull away under the final laps of the stage to bring home his second stage win of 2021.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 33-54):
● Busch started first and finished 10th.
● The two-time Cup Series champion led the first eight laps of the final stage before having to come to pit road for tires and fuel on lap 41. He came back out in the track 22nd and was hoping to catch a caution before the end so his No. 18 would make it all the way on fuel, as the rest of the field needed to make one more stop.
● Busch told crew chief Ben Beshore that his front tires had worn out, so while running third the team made the decision to come to pit road on lap 52 for tires. They also topped off the fuel tank, as Beshore calculated they would be two laps short on fuel if the race went caution free.
● Just two laps later, with Busch sitting in 10th, NASCAR waved the caution flag as the rain picked up heavily around the course. The red flag waved a short time later, with 14 laps remaining. NASCAR soon decided to call the race early due to a forecast of heavy rain for the rest of the evening in Austin.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S MIX Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How difficult was the visibility?
“There were certainly times where you could not see. You’re behind guys and in traffic, and there is just so much spray down the backstretch that you just could not see. There were other times for me running around the racetrack where I think I was up to ninth or eighth or something and I’m blind through the esses. Just so much dirt and stuff up on the windshield that the windshield can’t stay clean. Light rain is okay, but heavy rain is not.”
Did your pace fall off late in the race?
“We had super pace early on, and we were a really good M&M’S MIX Camry. Once it got to where it was raining heavier, we lost pace to the 9 (Chase Elliott) and those guys. We were going to finish third. A couple tires were killed with just how bad it was driving and how wet it was, so we came in to try to get better tires to carve through the wet. That didn’t do anything, so we cost ourselves seven spots, but it is what it is.”
The next event on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 30, at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The race begins at 6 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.