Kyle Busch felt his Joe Gibbs Racing team had one of their better performances with the 750-horsepower package at Darlington Raceway, which resulted in a third-place finish.
“But just missing a little bit on the long run,” Busch said. “It seemed like we could fire off with (Martin) Truex there and hang with him a little bit. Actually, we would catch him for about five laps, and then it was over. I was just trying to hold on after that point. Overall, real good day.
“I’m real proud of Ben (Beshore, crew chief) and the guys. We’ve been doing a lot of work on some stuff. We’ve been talking a lot, and communication is going well. It seems like we’re getting a little bit better; overall, clicking as a group which is good. We can build on this momentum here and hopefully take it on into Nashville, which is a similar package racetrack as this one. Good day, good effort.”
Busch has been decent with the high horsepower, low downforce package used on short tracks. However, Cup Series teams were using it for the first time in a few seasons at Darlington, an intermediate facility. It played right into teammate Martin Truex Jr.’s hand, as he dominated and won the race.
“I don’t know why there’s a five, six, 10-second difference, whatever it was between us and the 19,” Busch said. “Just overall, there’s a little bit of a disconnect with where the 19 was on overall speed. They would drive out on us eight seconds or whatever it was, so I think that distance right there, why can my teammate run eight seconds on me? We should be able to keep the gap closer than that, so that’s where I feel like we really have to work.”
However, the result was a rebound from an early flat tire. As Truex passed Busch for the lead in Turn 3 on lap 22, Busch’s Toyota slid up the track with a wiggle, and then Busch spun to the inside. A corded right-rear tire was the culprit, and Busch had to limp back around to pit road. Fortunately, he managed to stay on the lead lap and ended the first stage 16th, the last driver on the lead lap.
Trouble for race leader @KyleBusch! 😱
He was a lap shy of leading his 18,000th career lap. pic.twitter.com/fi1U2SJVPf
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 9, 2021
Busch was second to Truex in the second stage and spent the rest of the race amongst the top five. Once he lost second place to Kyle Larson with 40 laps to go, Busch settled into third to the finish.
“I think the biggest thing is just being able to unload fast and consistent and good,” said Busch of the takeaway. “We actually drove up to the lead today on the restart there and got the lead and then had a tire go down. I thought that was the end of our day, but we were able to salvage something out of that without being able to tear up the car worse than we did.
“Then to be able to get back through the traffic and have good pit stops today. The pit crew did a good job. All around, it was a good day, just lacked a little bit of overall speed to maintain with the 19 there on the long runs.”
Asked how things are with his team overall after 12 races, Busch said, “I think things are going good. We’re talking a lot – Ben and myself and the group. We’re clicking a little bit, and we’re trying to get everybody on the same page where I like to feel a car, drive a car, that sort of stuff.
“Today, I felt like we were a little off on that. I didn’t quite have the feel that I was looking for until that last run. The last run was our best run, I thought, but that was just a little too late. The field got spread out by that point.”