By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
A third-place finish slipped from Kyle Busch’s grasp at Circuit of the Americas when he pitted for a new set of rain tires laps before the final caution.
Busch ran inside the top-five throughout the final Stage of the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix. The No. 18 M&M’s Mix Toyota Camry started the final Stage after he won the second stage. Busch held the top spot until he pitted on lap 41.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver cycled back to second, behind Chase Elliott. However, he was two laps short on fuel. Busch also did not have the same pace that he had previously. Elliott pulled away in the No. 9 Llumar Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE.
In a bid to regain the lost pace, Busch pitted for four new wet weather Goodyear tires on Lap 52. Despite the fresh tires, the pace did not return to the Toyota Racing driver. Busch slotted back into 10th on track. Another caution waved a few laps later due to the heavy rains, ultimately ending the NASCAR Cup Series race.
“We had super pace early on, doing really, really good,” explained Busch. “Once it got where it was raining heavier, I lost pace to the No. 9 and those guys. We were going to finish third. I thought the tires were killed with how bad it was driving with how wet it was. So, we came in to get better tires to try to carve through the wet and it didn’t do anything. We cost ourselves seven spots.”
The 68-lap race was shortened by 14 laps. The 54 laps that were completed took over three hours, plus a 20-minute red flag following an on-track incident between Martin Truex Jr. and Cole Custer. The 36-year-old thought it was time to call it a day.
“It’s been four hours,” Busch admitted. “Enough is enough, white flag, wave it.”
The race started as mist and rain started over the 3.41-mile track. Busch had been one of 35 teams that opted to switch from the wet tires to the standard slick tires during the pace laps. Two laps into the race, Busch and many of those that had switched to slick tires were back on pit road to bolt on the wet tires.
The conditions at first were relatively tame as the rain was light. As the rain intensified, the conditions on track worsened. The racing turned dangerous as visibility evaporated, causing two major wrecks.
“It was fun for a while though when it was just sprinkling,” stated Busch. “But, when it got too heavy, it was dangerous, treacherous.”
The 10th-place finish was the eighth top-10 of the season for Busch and the 324th of his Cup Series career. It is also the 710th top-10 finish of his NASCAR career across the three National series.
Busch is locked into the playoffs via his win at Kansas Speedway. The two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion is tied for ninth in points with Brad Keselowski. Both drivers are 175-points behind leader Denny Hamlin.
Feature Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Fluharty / Harold Hinson Photography