The Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) team returned to Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) in Fort Worth hopeful for a better finish than in the spring race, a 30th-place result due to an overheated engine. This time, the driver would be team owner Kyle Busch, who from 2008 to 2010 at TMS swept five consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series races and was looking for his sixth career victory at the Lone-Star state track, this time as driver of his own No. 54 team.
The weekend started off well when the Monster Energy Camry posted the fastest lap time during the final series practice session, giving the Toyota team the final qualifying spot for Saturday. The 29.50-second lap at 183.051mph resulted in a pole-position qualifying run, placing Busch and team first on the grid for the 200-lap night race. The pole award was Busch’s third in 14 races at Texas Motor Speedway, and second pole for the owner-driver and KBM team in 2012. Busch now has 25 total career pole-awards recorded in 242 Nationwide Series races, giving him sole possession of fourth on the all-time series pole list.
Busch led the pack to the green flag as the sun lowered over the 1.5-mile oval and immediately settled into his first-place position. From the start of the race, Busch described the car to his team as being “good.” An initial track caution appeared early on lap 12 and the team elected not to pit, a decision that was consistent with other competitors. The yellow-flag period gave Busch and team a chance to discuss track position and the lines being taken by his closest competitors at the time, the No. 2 of Elliott Sadler and the No. 33 of eventual race winner Kevin Harvick. Busch now described the car as being a little “tight, center to exit,” so the team could prepare for adjustments during a future visit to pit road.
The second of five event cautions waved on lap 44 and Busch brought the No. 54 machine to his stall at the front of pit road. The only car adjustment the 27-year old driver wanted was a piece of tape on the grill, along with taking fresh tires and more Sunoco fuel. The No. 54 team returned their leader to the field, still in first-place for the green-flag restart.
At lap 64, the tide started to change and the No. 33 of Harvick would take the lead from Busch, who fell in positions. “I’m really loose – barely hanging on,” Busch described to his crew. He continued, “This is a much different car on stickers (tires).”
The third event caution at lap 83 allowed the team to make adjustments to the car to battle the loose condition. The team pitted from the fifth position, but quick work by the crew on pit road returned the
No. 54 Camry to the track in second place. After a green-flag restart, the Monster Energy machine moved to first, then battled between first and third place over 30 laps, eventually settling into the third spot.
Busch relayed to the team that the car was just staying too loose to maneuver to the front of the field. Turn entries were the areas where the car would have the least grip, which didn’t allow Busch to hold his position while battling for the lead. Two more visits to pit road would provide the opportunity to make further changes to the car, however, the team owner-driver would comment, “I’m still a 1 to 1.5 loose.”
Things became real exciting during a green-flag restart at lap 159, when Busch found himself four-wide on the track, as he maneuvered to the front of the field from an eighth-place spot. After driving through the traffic, Busch found himself back in second place. “We’re getting real now,” spotter Tony Hirschman exclaimed over the radio, encouraging the track veteran to stay positive.
The No. 54 machine remained in the second-place position over the next 20 laps, which included a final event caution, but did not warrant a further visit to pit road. The last green-flag restart at lap 181, gave Busch one more opportunity to fight for the lead, which he secured on lap 182, for one lap. Busch’s car was still giving him handling issues however and as the final event laps counted down, he was passed for position by the No. 22 car of Ryan Blaney, which posted Busch and the No. 54 in third-place at the checkered flag.
Busch commented post race, “We had a really good car, just man saw it in practice the 33 (Harvick) was stellar. The guys worked really, really hard – can’t say enough about them. We had a great run tonight. A solid run – a top-five all night. Wish we could have come home second. But if I had a nickel for every second or third-place position I’ve had this year – I’d be a rich man. Can’t say enough about Monster Energy, Toyota and M&M’s – all of our partners here at KBM.”
Harvick recorded his fifth NASCAR Nationwide Series victory at Texas Motor Speedway, placing him tied with Kyle Busch for the series track win record. It was his second win of the 2012 season and39th of his career, followed in the second-finishing spot by Blaney. Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Denny Hamlin completed the top-five finishers. There were five caution periods for 22 laps of the race along with 11 lead changes across five drivers, including Busch who led three times for 65 laps.
The No. 54 Monster Energy team remained eighth in the Owner’s Point standings, 159 points from the leading team owner Joe Gibbs. The next event on the NNS schedule is the Nov. 10 Great Clips 300 at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway, with the television broadcast starting at 3:30 pm EST on ESPN and on the MRN radio broadcast. Kyle Busch will make his 22nd start of the season behind the wheel of the KBM No. 54 Monster Energy Camry, hoping to continue the positive momentum from recent Kansas and Texas events, and finish the next Nationwide Series race with a long-awaited win for his 2012 season and with his own company.