Race Recap for the Toyota/Save Mart 350k

Date: June 25, 2017
Event: Toyota/Save Mart 350k (Round 16 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway (10-turn, 1.99-mile road course)
Format: 110 laps, broken into three stages (25 laps/25 laps/60 laps)
Start/Finish: 4th/5th (Running, completed 110 of 110 laps)
Point Standing: 4th (542 points, 117 out of first) 

Race Winner: Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)

Stage 1 Winner: Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing (Toyota)

Stage 2 Winner: Jimmie Johnson of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-25):

● Kyle Busch started fourth, finished 22nd.

● Busch settled into a comfortable pace during the opening laps of the 110-lap race but locked up his brakes on lap five as he drove into turn 11. The incident resulted in the left-front tire being flat spotted. The situation required a trip to pit road for four fresh tires, a couple of minor adjustments and fuel. Busch was able to remain on the lead lap but was in 36th place.

● To avoid tire wear, the M&M’S Caramel driver exercised a great deal of care during the next several laps. He had made his way to 32nd place by the time the first caution was displayed on lap 14.

● The team elected to stay out during the caution period to make up track position. The decision placed the No. 18 Toyota in eighth place for the restart on lap 17.

● With less than 10 laps remaining in Stage 1, Busch was able to be more aggressive. While he lacked the fresh tires of many of the cars running behind him, Busch had raced his way to second place within a couple of laps.

● The team elected to exercise a little strategy as the laps wound down in Stage 1, having Busch pit with two laps remaining in the stage for four tires and fuel. The move would have placed Busch in the position of not having to make a stop during the scheduled break while many others would have had to stop. Busch was tagged for speeding at the exit of pit road, however, and had to restart at the tail end of the field for the start of Stage 2.

 Stage 2 Recap (Laps 26-50):

● Busch started 37th, finished 19th.

● After starting from the rear of the field for Stage 2, Busch set out to work his way back to the front of the field. His progress was stalled on lap 34 when driver AJ Allmendinger spun out. Several drivers, including Busch, took evasive action to avoid the spinning car, but it triggered a bit of a pileup. Busch drove into the back of another car, resulting in damage to the nose of the M&M’S Caramel Toyota.

● Busch came down pit road on lap 38 when a caution was displayed for debris. The team changed four tires, added fuel and made air pressure adjustments. To avoid more damage to the car and keep his tires fresh for the start of Stage 3, Busch fell toward the back of the field and starting logging purposeful laps. He was scored in 19th place at the end of Stage 2.

 Stage 3 Recap (Laps 51-110):

● Busch started seventh, finished fifth.

● Because he had taken care of his tires during the final laps of Stage 2, Busch stayed out during the break while many came to pit road for tires and fuel. The move placed him in seventh for the restart.

● The 2015 NASCAR Cup Series champ set to work, picking cars off one by one. He was up to third by lap 58, was second by lap 60 and took the lead on lap 62. He maintained the top spot for the next four circuits around the road course. He was in third place when he had to make his scheduled stop under green-flag conditions on lap 69. The team changed four tires and added fuel. When stops cycled through Busch was back in seventh place.

● As the laps wound down, Busch found himself losing more and more positions. He had dropped back to 10th place when the team elected to make a pit stop under green-flag conditions on lap 93, but by lap 102 he was back among the top-10. Busch was able to pick up a few more positions, reaching fifth place by the time the checkered flag waved.


● Busch led one time for three laps, bringing his total to 110 laps led in 13 career Cup starts at Sonoma.

● This is Busch’s third top-five and fifth top-10 finish at the Sonoma.

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

“A fifth-place finish is pretty good after the day we had. I messed up early and got us behind, but the team just kept it together and stuck with it all day. We had good pit stops, and given how it started it was a good day for our M&M’S Caramel Toyota. I just really want to get a win, so we will look to next week.”

Next Up: The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Coke Zero 400 on Saturday night, July 1 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBC.