From a disappointing outcome at Darlington Raceway to rallying under the lights at Richmond Raceway on Saturday, September 12, it has been an eventful week for Kyle Busch in his quest to defend his NASCAR Cup Series championship. Despite a rough start with an interim crew chief atop the pit box, Busch was able to methodically work his way through the field and emerge with a top-10 result.
Coming into Saturday night’s race at Richmond, Busch was also coming off a seventh-place run at Darlington a week earlier and without his crew chief Adam Stevens, who was serving a one-race suspension as a result of two lug nuts discovered not safely secured on Busch’s No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry during post-race inspection. As a result, Jacob Canter, a rookie crew chief for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series who achieved one victory with Busch earlier this season, served as an interim crew chief for Busch and his No. 18 Cup team.
Before the race started, Busch, who was scheduled to start in sixth place, was sent to the rear of the field since his No. 18 Toyota failed pre-race inspection twice. When the race started, Busch wasted no time methodically working his way to the front. Following the first 10 laps of the race, he was scored in 26th place. Another 10 laps later, he gained four additional spots in 22nd place. By the time the competition caution flew on Lap 30, Busch had made his way up to 21st place.
Pitting under caution to deal with tight conditions to his car, Busch proceeded to march his way inside the top 20 throughout the first stage. When the first stage concluded on Lap 80, Busch was scored in 13th place.
Lining up in sixth place for the start of the second stage, Busch kept himself running inside the top 10. At one moment in the stage, Busch cracked the top five. When the second stage concluded on Lap 235, he settled in sixth place and collected a handful of stage points.
Restarting in sixth place again for the start of the final stage, Busch stabilized himself within the top 10 as he also made another appearance in the top five. With 57 laps remaining, Busch emerged with the lead and he led four laps before he made a green flag pit stop.
Returning back on the track inside the top 10, Busch was all to gain a handful of spots for the remainder of the race under green to finish in sixth place for his 15th top-10 result of the season. Busch’s top-10 result came a day after he finished in third place in his fifth and final Xfinity Series start of the season at Richmond. With his result and finishing ahead of Playoff contenders like Kevin Harvick, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman and Clint Bowyer, Busch is in ninth place in the Cup Playoff standings and is 18 points above the top-12 cutline.
“Kind of same as last night [in the Xfinity Series race],” Busch said on NBCSN. “Just not quite enough turn in the middle of the corner to keep wrapping on the long runs. The short runs it seemed like I was actually a little bit loose and then, it was starting to go a little bit tight and then, it was tight loose. Just not enough overall grip, I guess. Kind of been fighting that a little bit this year. The guys gave a great fight. Adam [Stevens] not being here and I thought Jacob [Canter] did a great job. We all know Adam was back at home. … Overall, that’s all we had. We fought hard with our M&M’s Camry and we came up short of a top-five. Good night for us.”
Busch, along with his fellow Playoff contenders, will return for the next scheduled NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, September 19, which will air at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.