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Race Recap: Season Finale

Date: Nov. 19, 2017
Event: Ford EcoBoost 400 (Round 36 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Homestead-Miami Speedway (1.5-mile oval)
Format: 267 laps, broken into three stages (80 laps/80 laps/107 laps)
Start/Finish: 3rd/2nd (Running, completed 267 of 267 laps)
Point Standing: 2nd with 5,035 points

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

Stage 1 Winner: Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing (Chevrolet)

Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing (Chevrolet)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-80):

● Kyle Busch started third, finished third.

● Busch started the race third, but strategy came into play early in the race.

● When a caution waved on lap five, with limited sets of tires available for the race, crew chief Adam Stevens chose to have Busch stay out when pit road opened, while several other cars chose to pit.

● The M&M’S Caramel Camry had to takes its medicine on the front end of the run, with several of the cars with fresh tires going around Busch. He fell to as low as 12th on lap 23.

● Busch pitted for the first time on lap 40, taking fresh tires under green. Quickly he showed that on the new tires he was better than many in front of him.

● He found himself in ninth by lap 46, fifth by lap 65 and third by the time Stage 1 came to an end, getting by fellow Championship 4 drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 81-160):

● Busch started third, finished fourth.

● The Las Vegas native restarted third in Stage 2 and climbed up to second by lap 132.

● Much like Stage 1, the more consecutive green-flag laps he ran, the better he compared to the rest of the Championship contenders.

● Busch pitted on lap 146 and ran out the last 11 green-flag laps in the stage to finish fourth.

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 161-267):

● Busch started second, finished second.

● The M&M’S Caramel Toyota driver jumped into the lead on lap 176, passing Truex, who had led the first 15 laps of the final stage.

● From there, a sharp strategy was employed by Stevens. While Truex and Harvick stopped much earlier than Busch, the No. 18 team hoped to make it to the end on a two-stop strategy.

● But just as Busch was about to catch Truex, who was on old tires, the caution waved on lap 233.

● Busch came to pit road on lap 234, changing four tires and gaining one spot on the stop.

 The ensuing restart, Busch fell back to fourth, but he eventually got by Joey Logano for third. Over the course of the final 25 laps, Busch started to reel in the leaders, as he was faster on the long run all race long.

● With 10 laps to go, Busch had gotten by Harvick for second and had closed in on Truex for the lead. But by pushing to catch the leaders, the No. 18 was starting to be hindered by tire wear.

● While Busch gave it his all to get by Truex over the final laps, he came up just over a half-second short of another Cup Series championship. While it was a bitter pill to swallow, Busch and the M&M’S Caramel team gave it their best effort.

Notes:

● Busch posted his sixth top-10 finish in 13 races at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The runner-up finish was his 14th top-five of the season and 22nd top-10 finish in 2017.

● Busch led four times for a total of 43 laps.

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

“That’s what happens when you lose in this format, but we gave it everything we had with our M&M’S Caramel Camry. We gave it our all, so congratulations to the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.). They deserved it probably on every other race but today. I thought we were better. Doesn’t matter though. They were out front when it mattered the most. Just unfortunate for us that that caution came out. It kind of ruined our race strategy and we weren’t able to get back to where we needed to be, and then I had to fight way too hard with some other guys trying to get back up through there, but that’s racing.”

Next Up: 

The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season kicks off Feb. 10-18 with the traditional Speedweeks at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The 60th Daytona 500, the first points-paying race of the season, is scheduled for Feb. 18 and will be broadcast live on FOX.  

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