By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
As sparks flew up ahead, Kyle Busch crossed the line fourth at Martinsville Speedway. The exciting and wild finish to the First Data 500 capped off a strong day for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff driver.
Busch’s No. 18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota Camry was in the thick of the fight for the win in the waning laps. He battled Martin Truex, Jr., Brad Keselowski, and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin as the four drivers chased eventual winner Joey Logano. While Truex caught, and banged doors with Logano, Busch passed Keselowski for fourth.
Contact off the final corner between the lead duo nearly handed the victory to Hamlin. Truex’s Toyota slid to the inside before it crossed back over towards the outside wall. Busch, maintained his speed, narrowly missing his fellow Toyota Racing driver while taking the checkered in fourth.
Busch was rarely outside of the top-five. After starting on the pole, the 2015 Premier Series Champion was at the point off and on for a total of 100 laps. The continued strength of his TRD Toyota Camry could be seen in his third-place finishes in the first two stages. Changing track conditions kept Busch from moving further up the running order.
“We made adjustments to our race car all day long and I’m not sure one of them was right,” Busch admitted. “I don’t know what else we could have done.
“We tried going one way and then coming back the other and it was like neither, nothing was ever really helping us so we were just kind of stuck with what we had most of the day. We made a big change there the start of the third stage and that absolutely made us horrible, but somehow we were able to rebound so I think we finished better than we should have. We certainly wanted to get more out of here and wish we could have won.”
The fourth-place finish is the 26th top-10 of the season for Busch. He maintains the Championship Points lead, 21-Points ahead of fellow ‘Big Three’ drivers Truex and Kevin Harvick. With Logano, who is fourth in points, locked into the Championship Four, Harvick and Truex are tied for the cutoff position.