After winning his first Martinsville grandfather clock in this race one year ago, Kyle Busch looked primed to accomplish that feat for the second year in a row after leading the most laps in Sunday’s STP 500, but with handling issues plaguing him in the final stint of the race, he had to settle for a runner-up finish instead.
Busch started the day in 10th place and took over the lead for the first time under caution on lap 109. Though it was just for one lap, it wasn’t the last time his No. 18 Toyota would find itself out front.
26 laps later, Busch would be back in the lead, but for a much longer stint this go-around, leading 117 of the next 124 laps before giving up the lead to Chase Elliott just prior to the end of the second stage, resulting in the sophomore driver getting the stage win over Busch.
Though he missed out on the stage win, Busch had shown he would be a force to be reckoned with over the last 240 laps of the race and proved as much as the finish drew nearer.
Each time a new contender found themselves in the lead, Busch would take it right back a handful of laps later.
Over the final 160 laps of the race, Busch found himself in a battle with Brad Keselowski, with both drivers swapping the lead back and forth five times during that span. Busch held the laps led advantage over Keselowski, having led 274 laps on the day, but handling issues as a result of a set of tires that didn’t agree with his car would be Busch’s Achilles heel in the waning laps as Keselowski was able to take over for good with 43 laps to go.
From that point on, Busch watched Keselowski drive away in his windshield while he had to fend off Elliott to keep a hold on the runner-up position over the final laps.
“All we did was put four tires on it and it went to junk,” said Busch. “I hate it for our guys. They’ve deserved all year much better finishes than what we’ve been able to produce and here’s another one today. Just a frustrating season so far but we give it everything we got. We do all we can with what we’re given at the particular time and try to execute and do a good job. My pit crew did great today. (Crew chief) Adam (Stevens) and the guys did an awesome job on this car this weekend to get it to where it was.”
“We were lights out faster than those guys after 20, 20 laps or so you know. There that run it was at minimum at least three tenths slower the entire time and that’s why Brad (Keselowski) just was able to drive away there at the end. We were really really really struggling. I’m surprised I held off the 24 (Chase Elliott), but you know overall just not quite getting the finishes we need with our M&M’s Camry. Can’t say enough about M&M’s and Snickers and Skittles, Pedigree, American Heritage, everybody on this Toyota Camry. We just need to figure out how to finish better than what we are, or where we are running and so far we’ve just been finishing worse.”
Though Busch may have been disappointed with finishing second at Martinsville, he heads to Texas Motor Speedway next weekend looking to defend his race win from one year ago.