A driver with the last name Busch ended up in victory lane following Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway but, unfortunately for Kyle Busch, it was brother Kurt who took home the trophy.
Kyle managed to rally for an 18th-place finish after battling handling issues throughout the day, providing a marked contrast to his comfortable win in the previous weekend's Shelby 427 in Las Vegas.
“We just missed the set-up from the start and couldn't dig ourselves all the way out,” said Busch Jr, who won last year's Kobalt Tools 500 in Atlanta, “I'm proud of the M&M's guys for not giving up and being able to salvage something out of a really tough day.”
After starting ninth, Busch and crew chief Steve Addington realised early on that the set-up on the #18 Toyota wasn't where it needed to be, with the 23-year old complaining of an extremely loose condition that caused the car to have no rear grip.
While handling was a major issue for the M&M's team, however, it was a stroke of bad luck that put them further behind, as an untimely caution thrown during a round of green flag pit-stops on lap 68 when a crew member from Marcos Ambrose's car inexplicably walked across pit road and into the infield grass to retrieve an errant tyre as cars raced along the frontstretch at 200mph.
The necessary caution, which came just two laps after he had stopped, immediately put Busch at the tail-end of the cars one lap down, for those who hadn't yet pitted were able stop during the yellow-flag period.
“We were on pit-road and we got caught, but we just missed it from the get-go today,” Addington admitted, “Getting caught two laps down from there, it's just a battle. You're not going to get it back with the 'lucky dog' and there were only nine cars on the lead lap at that time. The way it cycled through when the caution came out, it caught a lot of people a lap down, but that just puts you back in traffic and then it's harder to work on your car.”
Still fighting a loose handling racecar, Busch was still two laps down on with 102 tours in the book, and then went three laps down on lap 146, now back in 36th spot. However, with many other teams in the same position because of the untimely caution, he was able to work his way back into the top 20 by lap 225, despite effectively being 4.5 miles behind the leaders.
While the M&M's Toyota handled the best it had all day, however, Busch was just too far behind to make any further progress on the leaders over the final 100 laps, and ended the race as the first car three laps down.
“We just had no grip out on the racetrack,” Addington concluded, “We started making gains on it there at the end, and then we could make it last for about 30 laps before it would go away. I told the crew not to touch the car because we're going to take it back to the shop and look at it.”
Busch's JGR team-mates Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano finished 13th and 30th respectively. With round four of 36 complete, Busch dropped one spot to seventh in the championship standings, 120 points behind series leader Jeff Gordon.