Race Recap for the STP 500

Date: April 2, 2017
Event: STP 500 (Round 6 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway (.526-mile oval) 
Format: 500 laps, broken into three stages (130 laps/130 laps/240 laps)
Start/Finish: 10th/2nd (Running, completed 500 of 500 laps)
Point Standing: 6th (188 points, 80 out of first)
Race Winner: Brad Keselowski of Team Penske (Ford)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-130):
● Started 10th, finished third. 
● M&M’S driver Kyle Busch reported a tight-handling condition throughout the first portion of Stage 1.
● The M&M’S team had a successful stop during the lap-69 caution period, picking up three positions on pit road and two additional positions after the Nos. 2 and 22 suffered pit-road penalties.
● Busch raced as high as second in Stage 1 chasing down the leader, his Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammate Denny Hamlin, with 30 laps remaining in the stage.
● The M&M’S team chose to pit during the lap-106 caution period, relinquishing their second-place spot to focus on the overall race strategy. They restarted ninth after several teams opted not to come to pit road.
● Busch’s Camry endured slight damage on the final restart in Stage 1, but the M&M’S driver was still able to race forward and finish the stage in third.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 130-260):
● Started first, finished second. 
● After opting not to pit during the Stage 1 caution period, Busch started Stage 2 from the pole position.
● Due to Busch’s quick moves in traffic and the guidance of M&M’S spotter Tony Hirschman, Busch was able to navigate through traffic and lap several cars throughout Stage 2.
● Busch had extended his lead over second place to 3.19 seconds with just 25 laps remaining in Stage 2.
● The No. 18 driver faced adversity with three laps remaining in Stage 2 when contact was made between Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. while Stenhouse fought to avoid going a lap down. The contact forced Busch up the track, and Chase Elliott was able to steal the Stage 2 victory away from Busch on the final lap.

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 260-500):
● Started second, finished second.
● The M&M’S crew successfully pulled out the left-side fenders from the late-stage contact made with the No. 17 and maintained the second spot for the start of Stage 3. 
● Busch was able to dominate the restart and overtake the No. 24 to regain the lead on the first green-flag lap of the final stage.
● A mere four laps after the lap-283 restart, Busch had already gained a lead of slightly more than a second over second place.
● During the lap-336 caution period the M&M’S team pitted for four tires, fuel and adjustments to assist Busch with drive off. The team came off of pit road first and restarted third behind two cars who opted not to pit, and Busch was able to quickly regain the lead.
● Busch reported a tight-handling condition in the center of the turn that was causing his exit to be loose. The issue hindered his ability to sustain the lead, and he dropped to second on track prior to the lap-406 caution period.
● The M&M’S driver was able to gain momentum on his drive off of the corner, but Busch ultimately wasn’t able to combat the No. 2 car’s roll through the center and ended the race in the runner-up position.
● Busch led seven times for a total of 274 laps. 
● There were 18 lead changes throughout the STP 500. 
● There were 14 caution periods for a total of 95 laps.

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 

“The M&M’S guys did a great job. (Crew chief) Adam (Stevens) and everybody on this team did a great job giving me a car capable of winning. It’s just frustrating when you come down pit road and you don’t make any changes and you bolt a set of tires on it and it goes to junk. I hate that that happened. We still haven’t finished where we should have this year. We haven’t gotten any finishes that are indicative of where this team’s been running or where we’re capable of running or finishing, and that’s just frustrating, so we’ll continue on. Can’t say enough about M&M’S and SNICKERS and Skittles, Pedigree, American Heritage, Interstate Batteries and everybody on this Toyota Camry.”
Next Up: The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on Sunday, April 9 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The race starts at 1:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX.