Kyle Larson wasn’t the only Kyle smiling Sunday night. Kyle Busch was also in a reasonably good mood for the first time this season.
Busch has struggled since the season start three short races ago. He crashed in the season opening Daytona 500 finishing 14th, then slugged it out with a damaged car on the Daytona road course the following week with only a 35th place finish for his efforts.
He did finish 10th a week ago at Homestead but was never in contention for a win.
Sunday the 2009 Las Vegas winner, struggled in the early part of the race, with his team radio filled with salty language as he and the team tired to find speed in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. When the day was done however, Busch scored his best finish of the season, third.
“We fought hard obviously,” Busch said. “We were a little behind the eight ball at the start of the green flag and just were super, super tight all day long. 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.”
While there have been positive finishes in the last two weeks, Busch admits the team is still looking for speed.
“I don’t know where we missed it so far from the simulator,” Busch said. “But that’s two weeks in a row where we’re not apples to apples.”
The series moves to Phoenix Raceway next Sunday, a track where Busch has won three times.
“I mean, it’s all about building blocks,” Busch said. “I felt like today was a good building process for us. I just always kept trying to give the best feedback I possibly could. Being able to tell him what the car was doing, where we were coming from with the adjustments we were making. He was making good adjustments all day. Seemed like the first two or three of them really didn’t do anything. We started taking swings with wrenches in the back window, stuff like that.
“I don’t know, man, it’s interesting. Last week we were on the simulator for Homestead, same thing for this week for Vegas. 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 said the team is getting closer and will continue to do so, until that first win comes. And he already knows a direction they need to go.
“We kind of had a hole that we had to dig ourselves out of. We’ve been working on that each week, getting closer,” he said. “We keep starting these races too far back or too far off on balance with the race car, we miss points in the first stage, and that’s just been killing us.”