Kyle Busch again had one of the best cars on one of NASCAR’s biggest nights. But he again left the Sprint All-Star race empty handed.
Busch finished third on Saturday night, far from indicative of how his No. 18 Snickers Bites Toyota ran. He won the second and third segments and finished second and fourth in the other two. But when Busch headed down pit road before the final 10-lap segment for the prize, his Joe Gibbs Racing team didn’t get the best stop. He entered second and came out third, a big difference when it came to clean air and a chance to win.
“It was really good. Obviously I felt like we had a really, really fast racecar,” said Busch afterwards, notably dejected about his finish.
“The Snickers Bites Camry was awesome, probably the best car here, just ran up front most of the night and had really good runs through the segments there, we had two of them, and average wise we were right there with Kurt [Busch]. He beat us out a little bit. Ultimately it came down to pit road where my guys always prove their worth. Unfortunately tonight we didn’t have the best of stops and come out third and that was the race right there.”
As part of the new rule package for this year’s All-Star event, a driver’s average finish during the first four segments would determine the order they would enter pit road for their mandatory four tire pit stop ahead of the fifth segment. During the race’s fourth segment, Busch was reminded by crew chief Dave Rogers to think big picture, think about his average and save his car.
But he wasn’t as easy as it sounded as he quickly found himself in a position he didn’t want to be in. He started the segment third but a poor start heading into turn one resulted in Busch getting loose and swallowed up by the competition. As he slid back he made contact with Ryan Newman, who had made it three wide and swung to avoid Dale Earnhardt Jr. who was racing him on the outside.
It rubbed the lettering off of Busch’s Goodyear tires, but luckily there was no major damage. It did however, keep him from edging out brother Kurt for the best average finish as Kurt won the segment and Kyle finished fourth.
“You’ve got to be on the front row if you’re gong to win this thing, and unfortunately there on the restart getting side drafted and sucked around and hit from behind and loose and everything else, I had to finally get straight and get everybody off me and be able to race, and once I could do that I could go forward,” he said.
Johnson won from starting on the front row as Busch battled for his third place finish. The series will return to Charlotte next weekend for the NSCS longest race, the Coca-Cola 600. Busch though, evening while acknowledging he’d probably be amongst the fastest and favorites again, took little comfort in that fact on Saturday.
For in this race he’s won the pole, wrecked with his brother, dominated segments and everything in between. Before seeing another way to lose his shot a $1 million even while again looking like he had it solidly in hand.
Said Busch, “Just another missed opportunity here with the best car with me behind the wheel and come home without a win.”