Late-race strategy played out just the way Kyle Busch hoped it would. He just didn’t have the car to take advantage of it.
After fellow Championship 4 contenders Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick came to pit road for fuel and tires on Lap 231 of 267, crew chief Adam Stevens kept Busch’s No. 18 Toyota on the track, hoping for a timely caution as a way to finagle track position.
With Busch in the lead, the serendipitous yellow flag flew on Lap 247 when Daniel Suarez’s Toyota went for a spin off the bumper of Brad Keselowski’s Ford. Busch led the field on and off pit road for the final time, but Truex quickly dispatched him on the subsequent restart, and Logano made the winning pass of Truex three laps later.
The winner of eight races this season, Busch had to settle for fourth at the finish.
“Today we weren’t even close,” said Busch, who started second and had seen encouraging signs in the practices leading up to Sunday’s race. “On the long runs, just couldn’t enter the corner, and we were getting smoked entering the corners and not being able to turn the steering wheel.
“Overall, just a frustrating night. Adam called a great race, got us in position there when we ran-long and caught that caution, luckily, and everything came to fruition. Just when you’re half a second off, you’re not going to hold anybody back.”
Nevertheless, when Busch led the field to the final restart with 15 laps left, there was a glimmer of hope.
“Yeah, I was optimistic about it, but I didn’t think it would be that short-lived,” Busch said. “I figured I could at least maybe lead three or four laps, but Martin got a good restart. Every time I went to the gas, it just spun the tires, so I had to keep coming back out of it, and he’s going forward on me.
“Just didn’t have the best of restarts, for one, but then, for two, once it got down there to the corner, it just didn’t turn anyways, and the 22 (Logano) went by, the 4 (Harvick) went by, everybody went by. Y’all saw that—just slow.”