Two in a Row
Date: April 15-16, 2018
Event: Food City 500 (Round 8 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (.533-mile oval)
Format: 500 laps, broken into three stages (125 laps/125 laps/250 laps)
Start/Finish: 1st/1st (Running, completed 500 of 500 laps)
Point Standing: 1st (365 points, 59 ahead of second)
Race Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner: Brad Keselowski of Team Penske (Ford)
Stage 2 Winner: Brad Keselowski of Team Penske (Ford)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-125):
● Started first and finished 12th.
● After earning the top starting spot during Friday’s qualifying session, Busch led the field to the green flag on Sunday. With cloud-covered skies and rain showers circling the area, Busch exercised caution during the opening laps. He maintained the top spot until getting passed for the lead on lap 17.
● The 2015 NASCAR Cup Series champion was in second place during a restart on lap 22, but he got caught on the outside and dropped back in the running order, finally settling in at 10th place by lap 30. He quickly reported that the Skittles Toyota was very loose getting into the turns and then wouldn’t turn in the center nor exits.
● Busch was in ninth place when rain forced NASCAR to display the red flag on lap 46.
● After a brief delay, cars returned to the track. Most teams used the caution period to get new tires and make adjustments. The No. 18 team made air pressure adjustments, changed four tires and added fuel. Quick pit work placed Busch in fifth place for the restart on lap 59.
● Once green-flag racing resumed Busch once again fell victim to the outside lane, dropping as far back as eighth place. After settling in he went to work picking off lost positions and was back in the top-five by lap 115.
● An accident on lap 118 involving race leader Ryan Blaney forced NASCAR to display the red flag. During the delay Busch noted that his racecar was handling better up top but that he still needed help with the handling in the bottom groove. Once again, the team used the break in action to change four tires, make air pressure adjustments and add fuel.
● Busch was in seventh place for the restart and wound up in 12th place when the field came around to complete Stage 1.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 126-250):
● Started sixth and finished second.
● Having just made a stop for tires and fuel, Busch stayed out during the break between stages, placing him in sixth place for the restart. With the car not handling its best during the early part of the run, Busch once again fell victim to the restart, dropping from sixth to 15h place.
● The longer a run would go, however, the more the handling on the Skittles Toyota improved, allowing Busch to quickly catch the frontrunners. This proved true from laps 175 to 197 as he raced from 10th to fifth place.
● The Las Vegas native was in fourth place when rain once again covered the track and forced NASCAR to display the red flag. The rain persisted, so NASCAR canceled activities for the rest of the day, moving the race’s restart to Monday at 1 p.m. EDT.
● After a round of pit stops, green-flag racing resumed on lap 217 with the No. 18 Skittles Toyota in fourth place. Busch was able to make his way to second place by the time Stage 2 concluded on lap 250.
● Busch reported that the car needed grip to help with the turn exits. The team made air pressure adjustments, changed four tires and added fuel.
Stage 3 Recap (Laps 251-500):
● Started third and finished first.
● Busch started the final stage in third place, and an aggressive restart saw the top-five positions traded back and forth throughout the opening laps of Stage 3. Busch finally settled into the runner-up spot and began logging laps, trying to track down the race leader.
● An accident on lap 324 involving race leader Kyle Larson resulted in Busch taking over the top spot as the field came around to take the yellow flag. In an effort to help with grip, the team made a stop for more air pressure adjustments, four fresh tires and fuel. Quick pit work allowed Busch to maintain the top spot for the restart.
● Busch quietly logged laps from the top spot during the next several circuits around the half-mile track, noting that the biggest issue he was battling was the persistent lack of rear grip. He maintained the lead until a round of pit stops during a caution on lap 353. Teammate Daniel Suarez stayed out, placing Busch in second place for the restart.
● By lap 381 Busch was back in first place, showing the way with his Skittles Toyota for the next 58 laps before Larson caught him and passed him on lap 474.
● Busch had issues with his wearing tires, fading to third. As he debated whether to pit for tires, he caught a huge break when Brad Keselowski brought out the caution on lap 475.
● The Skittles driver came to pit road for four tires and fuel and restarted second with 22 laps to go.
● Busch dropped to third after the restart, but he quickly made his way back by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for second and set his sights on leader Larson. With eight laps to go, Busch got to Larson’s bumper. With just five laps to go, Busch pushed under and then by Larson to take the lead and bring home his second consecutive win in Monday’s rain-delayed, 500-lap race.
● Busch won the Food City 500 to score his 45th career Cup Series victory, his second of the season, his seventh at Bristol and his second consecutive win after winning at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth last weekend. His margin of victory over second-place Larson was .628 of a second.
● The 45th career victory for Busch moved him up to 16th on the All Time Cup Series win list, one back of NASCAR Hall of Famer Buck Baker.
● Busch’s victory was his seventh Cup win at Bristol, the most wins there among active drivers.
● There were 13 caution periods for a total of 114 laps, including four red-flag periods over two days.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Skittles Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing:
How did you overcome all of the adversity with the race and weather to get to victory lane?
“It’s just the long, long delays and things that happen that kind of get you in and out of your game. Tell you what, you just got to stay focused for the entirety of it and try to keep going. I of course used some Skittles in order to help me do that and some NOS. We had plenty of those during the break. But I can’t say enough about this Skittles Toyota Camry. I mean Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and these boys brought a great racecar. We knew it was going to be good in the long runs. We weren’t quite as good as the 42 (Kyle Larson) on that long run before that last caution came out. I actually thought I had a tire going down, but we were able to get some tires on it and go give it everything we had. We had a 20-lap shootout, and that was everything that it was about was right there, just chasing down that 42 and being able to get there. Thanks to M&M’s, Interstate Batteries, Cessna, DVX Eyewear, Black Clover, the fans. I appreciate the fans coming out today. I know it was a hard one, a tough one, a cold one for everybody that was here in Bristol and around Bristol, Tennessee, but we appreciate that.”
How are you feeling after such a long race?
“I was breathing hard there those last 20 laps, whatever it was. That was a heck of a run right there with the 42 (Larson) – chasing him down, being able to get to him, being able to get by him and then trying to hold him off with some lap traffic ahead of us. I can’t say enough about this Skittles Toyota Camry. Adam Stevens and my guys, they continue to impress and do an amazing job for me and give me great racecars week in and week out. We knew we were going to have a great long-run car. We just had to get there and had to get some long runs. Actually, the 42 was better than us right there before that last caution came out, so I don’t know what happened to ours, but we just got really, really bad tire vibrations and just wasn’t able to run as hard as we wanted, but we got it. Came in, got them four tires put on it, and man we were fast there at the end. We chased those guys back down.”
Next Up: The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Toyota Owners 400 on Saturday, April 21 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. The race starts at 6:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX.