Kyle Busch had speed in the Coca-Cola 600, but not Hendrick Motorsports-type speed. Busch was best in class with a third-place finish Sunday night and admitted he had nothing for the four Hendrick cars.
Raw speed was the difference, the two-time series champion said. Busch battled the Hendrick drivers hard and spent much of the second half going at it with William Byron and Chase Elliott. And there was one restart where Busch lined up alongside Kyle Larson and gave it his best shot for the race lead, only for Busch to be quickly disposed of and left fighting amongst the other top-five drivers.
“When we were running there through some of the middle parts of the race, we were wide open from (Turns) 1 and 2 and just barely breathing it through 3 and 4,” Busch said. “You need to be wide open all the way around to complain about raw speed, but realistically, you just need to go from that corner (four) to that corner (one) faster, and that’s straight-line speed, so that’s overall. They (Hendrick Motorsports) were fast, and they look good under the hood, and they had good aero, too.”
Busch didn’t deny he tried to break up the Hendrick party to keep them from earning a 1-2-3-4 finish for the second time in three weeks. Asked how close Joe Gibbs Racing is to Hendrick Motorsports, Busch said, “Not close enough. On a one to 10, if Larson was a 10 tonight, we’re about a seven, so we’ve got some work to do.”
Busch was still happy with his car and told his No. 18 team that it was really good during one portion of the night. Crew chief Ben Beshore tweaked Busch’s Toyota all night, but it was little things that could be improved. If anything, Busch believes they took a seventh-place car and turned it into a third-place car.
“Thought we had a second-place car there before the final pit stop,” he said. “After the final pit stop, it just wouldn’t take off; it wouldn’t go, so something was different.”
Nevertheless, Busch was satisfied with the result and would like to believe his team is on an upswing. Since winning at Kansas Speedway earlier this month, Busch has four top-10 finishes in the last five races. The team has been pocketing points to position themselves as a solid top-10 contender, and Busch hopes they can keep the momentum rolling.
“We’ve had some strong runs, and we’ve had some runs that were better than the finishes that we got out of them as well,” Busch said. “Overall, we had a really good piece – strong from start to finish there. We just kept trying to make some little tweaks to it and make it a little bit better.
“I don’t know what happened on that final pit stop. We got out in front of those guys, but they had the momentum to get by me, I guess, and I was just too loose and too sloppy on the front side with some speed. But once we got rolling there, we got a lot better and were able to run them back down. But we just couldn’t get back by them. Great night.”