By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Compared to most races since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Kyle Busch had a progressive afternoon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, finishing third in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400.
Busch’s road towards his first top-five of 2021 was a grind as he battled a super tight No. 18 Ethel M Chocolates Toyota Camry. Things began finally clicking was the final stage where he was on the move making progress while others struggled gaining ground.
It certainly paid dividends with his result, but there’s still significant room for improvement.
“We fought hard obviously. We were a little behind the eight ball at the start of the green flag and just were super, super tight all day long,” said Busch. “Ben (Beshore, crew chief) and the guys made awesome adjustments to and I was trying to give the best feedback I can to give them good information that they can base that off of and make the good adjustments.
“We improved each time. I don’t know where we missed it so far from the simulator, but that’s two weeks in a row where we’re not apples to apples.”
Busch added that for the second straight race, something was amiss on the simulator.
“It’s just not correlating close enough for us. If we can get that better and closer, I feel like there’s something there,” Busch stated.
“Off on balance to start. Got way better towards the end. Still there was room for improvement there at the end. Overall our speed was a little off. We weren’t going to keep up with Kyle (Larson) and Brad (Keselowski).
“Definitely on restarts we could see that I was really slow, just getting attacked on by everybody, drove backwards. Took me a while to fight my way back up front, but that was our day.”
After four races, Busch currently sits 14th in points, 10 above the playoff cutoff line. In a season that we’re seeing a superb start from Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske, Busch is aware they’re here to play.
That said, he knew those teams were going to be strong at Vegas, but some stood out over others. Those being race winner Larson and runner-up Keselowski, which he brought up again in the post-race video call.
“They were really fast here last year with Chase (Elliott). I thought Chase was fast early in the race. I never saw the front, so I don’t know. I think I seen him up there,” said Busch.
“(Larson) was just able to close the deal and finish it off. But, yeah, they certainly are pretty quick. It was interesting how (Brad) was up front, the 2 was fast all day. I think (Joey Logano) never really got there. (Ryan Blaney) I think was okay.
“Yeah, I mean, we as JGR, we are definitely a little bit behind. We’ll continue to try to work on that and get better. But as the perception seems to be, Hendrick and Penske are certainly ahead of us, yes.”