It was Lap 129 of Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and Kyle Busch had his car dialed in.
In the wake of Friday’s victory in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series and Saturday’s win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race, a three-event weekend sweep at his home track was well within his grasp.
Nine laps earlier, Busch had wrested the lead from eventual race winner Joey Logano, before heading pit road on Lap 129. Busch came in hot, diving off the Turn 4 banking toward the curved entrance to pit road.
Sensing that his speed might be excessive, Busch hammered the brakes in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and lit up his tires, which screamed as he slid past the commitment line. But the braking wasn’t enough, and Busch was flagged for speeding in Sector 1.
The infraction earned a pass-through penalty, but Busch managed to stay on the lead lap through the end of the race’s second stage. Restarting 16th after the final caution, Busch worked his way forward, running the fastest lap times on the track.
But Busch ran out of time after passing Kevin Harvick for third place five laps from the finish. Closing on Logano and runner-up Brad Keselowski with fewer than three laps left, Busch was held up by the lapped car of Corey Lajoie, and his winning chances – however remote at that point – were gone.
“I certainly screwed up our day,” Busch lamented. “Coming to pit road there, we tried a different brake package for us this weekend, and trying to make up time, and in order to get a bigger jump on the guys behind me coming to pit road there, just ruined it for us.
“And we had to come from the back, and I think we passed the most cars today, so I think we were the most impressive today, but doesn’t matter because we don’t have a trophy. Whatever. Next week.”