By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
DARLINGTON, S.C. – On a weekend symbolizing a sense of normalcy in the NASCAR world, Kyle Busch certainly had an eventful Sunday afternoon. He overcame an early spin to pull off a superb rally, good enough for a third-place finish in the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway.
Before the 293-lap race commenced, Busch had one of the loudest reactions among the 37-car field. As you’d expect, a mixed reception for last Sunday’s Kansas winner. For a brief moment in Stage 1, Busch was on top of the leaderboard. That wouldn’t last as those who are anti-Busch fans came up to their feet when the third-place starter spun in Turn 4. It brought out the caution on Lap 23 as Busch pitted to replace a flat tire.
What should’ve been a long day turned out alright. It gave fans of the two-time Cup Series champion something to root for as he Busch capitalized on the misfortunate. While the two drivers who finished ahead of him (Martin Truex, Jr. and Kyle Larson) were the main talking points, Busch was content on having a strong result with the 750hp package.
The only gripe he felt after the race was not having a strong long run car compared to his race winning teammate at the end.
“It seemed like we could fire off with Truex there and hang with him a little bit. Actually, we would catch him for about five laps and then it was over. Just trying to hold on after that point,” said Busch.
“Overall, real good day. I’m real proud of Ben (Beshore, crew chief) and the guys. We’ve been doing a lot of work on some stuff,” Busch continued. “We’ve been talking a lot and communication is going well. It seems like we’re getting a little bit better, overall, clicking as a group which is good.
“We can build on this momentum here and hopefully take it on into Nashville, which is a similar package racetrack as this one. Good day, good effort. The M&M’s Camry was fast. Thanks to Interstate Batteries, Rowdy Energy. We will be heading home.”
A set of positive runs, which was missing all throughout last season, has been encouraging for the entire No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing squad.
“I think the biggest thing is just being able to unload fast and consistent and good. We actually drove up to the lead today on the restart there and got the lead and then had a tire go down,” said Busch, who led nine laps. “I thought that was the end of our day, but we were able to salvage something out of that without being able to tear up the car worse than we did.
“Then to be able to get back through the traffic and have good pit stops today. The pit crew did a good job. All around, it was a good day, just lacked a little bit of overall speed to maintain with the 19 (Martin Truex, Jr.) there on the long runs.”