Kyle Busch had a fast No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, but over the course of 600-miles at Charlotte, it wasn’t as fast another JGR Camry.
“We were just a little bit off, just not quite as good as the 19,” Busch said of teammate and Coca-Cola 600 winner Martin Truex Jr. “The 19 was really, really fast. They were the best car; they drove all the way up to the lead and were really fast. We had the 4 [Kevin Harvick] early, the 19 there, the 2 [Brad Keselowski] was pretty fast, so there was some guys out there that I felt like we were right around and could contend for a win, but the 19 was just going to have all of us. So, overall, solid day coming home third.”
Early in the day, Busch, the defending winner of the Coke 600 appeared prime to contend for a repeat. He led 79 laps, which ended up being the second-most of any driver, and finished third in Stage 1 and Stage 2 and was then second in Stage 3.
But from Busch’s standpoint it was a frustrating and challenging day. Loose in the daylight and still loose when the sun went down, Busch said he’s yet find a happy medium with the car’s balance using the new aero kit.
“And I can’t make up time when I’m either too loose or too tight,” Busch said. “I can run laps with those guys, and obviously when you’re backing it in the fence, that’s a lot harder to control than pushing up to it.”
In the final stage, Busch suffered damage to the right side of his car when older brother Kurt spun in front of him. The nose of Kurt’s car caught the right side of Kyle’s, damaging the passenger door and side skirt. After falling back to 21st, Busch worked himself back into contention and through cautions and restarts was inside the top 10 when he brushed the wall.
Busch said the damage was immediately apparent. “The first tailpipe’s about closed off, so I don’t know what that means and how much it hurts horsepower, but I’m going to guess it’s not a benefit.”
Busch lined up fourth for the final restart with five laps to go, and picked off one position before the checkered flag.
“It had good speed, just not the 19-car speed,” said Busch. “I don’t know what the 19 had different than us, but they were way faster.”