Kyle Busch and his JGR crew score NASCAR firsts at Richmond, both good and bad

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA - APRIL 03: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Mars Crunchy Cookie Toyota, pits during the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway on April 03, 2022 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Among the debut of NASCAR’s Next Gen car at Richmond Sunday came something else new. For the Joe Gibbs Racing team, it was a new way to do pitstops. A change that saw a different bit of choreography. Instead of a traditional stop where the rear tire change runs around the back of the car, the entire crew ran around the front.

On lap 128 during green flag stops the team reported the crew preformed a 9.19 seconds 4-tire pit stop, the fastest in NASCAR history (no doubt aided by the fact that the new car only needs a single lug nut rather than five). Then during stops during the Stage 2 break they completed an even faster stop, 9.18 seconds, making that the fastest in NASCAR history.

Busch was in the mix all race long but saw his chance for a win disappear late in the going. NASCAR’s Next Gen cars come with a new set of rules, and one of those prevents the team from putting tape on the very front grille on the car. Busch and his team became the first to be penalized under this new rule.

On lap 348, while running inside the top five, NASCAR noticed tape on the grille of Busch’s No. 18 Toyota and forced him into the pits and have it removed. His crew chief later told Busch on the team radio that the tape and been put there instead of the brake duct 200 laps prior.

Whether that was due to a miscommunication, or a problem with the new choreography isn’t known just yet. Busch came out 14th two laps down; however, he put on a furious charge back toward the front, recovering and finishing ninth, and on the lead lap.

Photos: NASCAR at Richmond Raceway, Sunday Apr. 3, 2022

Greg Engle