Race Recap for the Toyota Owners 400
Date: April 21, 2018
Event: Toyota Owners 400 (Round 9 of 36)
Series: Monster EnergyNASCAR Cup Series
Location: Richmond (Va.) Raceway (.75-mile oval)
Format: 400 laps, broken into three stages (100 laps/100 laps/200 laps)
Start/Finish: 32nd/1st (Running, completed 402 of 402 laps)
Note: Race ended in overtime, going two laps past its scheduled 400-lap distance
Point Standing: 1st (415 points, 56 ahead of second)
Race Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)
Stage 2 Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-100):
● Started 32nd, finished sixth.
● Busch started deep in the field in 32nd, but he didn’t stay there long, moving into the top-20 by lap seven, top-15 by lap 18 and top-10 by lap 35.
● The M&M’S Flavor Vote driver’s progress up through the field slowed over the last half of Stage 1.
● Busch was battling a car that was getting a loose condition as the run wore on, yet he had moved up to sixth by the end of the 100-lap Stage 1.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 101-200):
● Started fourth, finished sixth.
● The M&M’S Flavor Vote team performed quick service on the first pit stop of the day on lap 105, vaulting Busch from sixth to fourth when Stage 2 got underway.
● Busch quickly moved up from there and held the runner-up spot by lap 139.
● However, Busch started to experience some handling issues halfway through the run. He radioed to crew chief Adam Stevens that the M&M’S Flavor Vote Toyota was loose mostly on entry and exit of each corner, and he had dropped to fifth by lap 169.
● Busch fell to sixth as Stage 2 concluded.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 201-400):
● Started sixth, finished first.
● Busch moved up from sixth to fourth quickly after the start of the third and final stage, but handling issues resurfaced as the run wore on. He pitted on lap 274 for tires and air pressure and wedge adjustments, then cycled out in fourth once everyone had pitted.
● Busch settled into fourth until the caution came out on lap 331, and he pitted on lap 333.
● The 2015 Cup Series champion jumped to second on the ensuing restart, but the caution waved again on lap 361, and Busch pitted for tires on lap 362.
● Busch was running second when yet another caution waved. This time, on a lap-370 pit stop, the M&M’S Flavor Vote crew’s quick work vaulted Busch to the lead, which he was able to keep during two more cautions and one final pit stop.
● Busch won the Toyota Owners 400 to score his 46th career Cup Series victory and his third consecutive win of the season, after winning at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on Monday and at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth two weeks ago. His margin of victory over second-place Chase Elliott was .511 of a second.
● The 46th career victory for Busch moved him up to 15th on the All Time Cup Series win list, tying him with NASCAR Hall of Famer Buck Baker.
● Busch’s victory was his fifth Cup Series win at Richmond, the most at the three-quarter-mile short track among active drivers.
● There were six caution periods for a total of 46 laps.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Flavor Vote Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
What does it feel like to be in victory lane for the third consecutive race?
“All these guys – everybody on this whole M&M’S Flavor Vote Camry, they do a great job for me. I can’t say enough about Adam Stevens (crew chief) and my guys and the pit crew tonight. They won this race for us. They got us off pit road first those last two times that we came down for tires and got us where we needed to be. In case anybody is wondering why this car is so many different colors this week, it’s for the M&M’S Flavor Vote. So, anybody can go and vote for their favorite flavor of M&M’s – so there’s Mint and Expresso or Raspberry – and then those flavors will be in stores this summer, and fans can vote now on social media. It’s a pretty cool deal that M&M’s does every year and gets new flavors out to the market. I can’t say enough about this Toyota Camry. It was just awesome today. Out front all day long. I want to thank DVX Sunglasses, Rheem, Interstate Batteries, Cessna, NOS Energy Drink and all of the fans. This is really cool for as good as the crowd was tonight. Really cool out here in Richmond, really chilly, but otherwise it was a fantastic evening, so hopefully everybody enjoyed that.”
How cool is it to win three races in a row?
“It’s definitely cool we’ve won three in a row. We did it a couple years ago, and now I don’t know if you can shoot for four in a row. It’s hard to go to Talladega with that much of a winning streak and think that you can go to victory lane, but we’re going to go there anyway and give it a shot. We’ll see what we can do. Our guys are amazing. They’re awesome every week, and I love racing with these guys and Joe Gibbs Racing. Everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Costa Mesa, I appreciate you guys. I think this is the first Toyota to win the Toyota Owners 400 if I’m not mistaken – but if I am, congratulations to the last guy – but I’m pretty happy to be here tonight.”
How were you able to make your way through the field early in the race?
“The first run of the race we actually made really good ground. I was really happy with the way our car took off there at the beginning of the race. As the night kind of wore on we just didn’t quite have that advantage on everybody. Everybody kind of gained and got a little better, and we made some adjustments and changes to the car in order to try to help ourselves, and it seemed to be better there. Then, the last couple runs were just short runs. Adam (Stevens) and the guys making the right adjustments to the car to have it faster on the short run was where it was at.”
Have you ever had this much momentum in your career with three straight wins and seven consecutive top-three runs?
“No, and you know I certainly would love to be doing this if this was week 10 of the playoffs; we’d be talking about something pretty cool, but I hope it’s not peaking too early. Obviously, this is way early in the season. We’ve got a long way to go. These guys are hungry and warmed up and ready to rock.”
Next Up: The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Geico 500 on Sunday, April 29 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX.