Kyle Busch brought home his second victory in as many days by capturing Sunday's Autism Speaks 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
The driver of the No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) came off a dominating win in Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race in his No. 18 Combos Toyota for JGR to lead 131 laps in the Sprint Cup show, including the final 35 circuits around the 1-mile oval to score his 18th career Sprint Cup victory.
“It's phenomenal. It feels really, really good,” said Busch, who now has two Sprint Cup wins at Dover. “I can't thank the guys enough. The whole M&M's Camry team did such a phenomenal job. M&M's, Interstate Batteries, Toyota, Sprint, the fans, Marquis Jets and Gillette – we just can't say enough about all the people behind us. It's fortunate for us to be in this position and Dave Rogers (crew chief) working as hard as he does. That's what it takes to win one of these deals. We came on there at the right point and I thought we were going to beat him (Jimmie Johnson), but I didn't know. The '48' (Johnson) was really, really fast today.”
What Busch was alluding to was his day-long battle with four-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion Johnson. While Busch started a solid fourth and led some early laps, it was Johnson who darted to the front of the field after each restart, leading eight times for a race-high 225 laps.
Even thought it appeared that Johnson had the dominant car, Busch and crew chief Rogers showed great patience while fine tuning their M&M's Camry throughout the 400-lap race. They worked on improving an overall loose handling condition along with Busch's desire to get his racecar to turn better through the corners. Rogers threw everything he had at the No. 18 machine, with air pressure, wedge and track bar adjustments – he even inserted a spring rubber – to improve the car's handling.
Rogers diligence finally paid off as Busch reported the car's handling had improved after a two-tire stop on lap 246.
As the laps wound down with Johnson and Busch running 1-2, respectively, the key moment came during the last pit stop of the day with just 37 laps remaining. With both Johnson and Busch pitting under green at the same time, it was the M&M's over-the-wall team that bested Johnson's title-winning outfit and sent Busch out inches in front of the No. 48 team. Not only did the No. 18 team beat the 48 team out of pit road, but NASCAR informed Johnson that he was too fast exiting and had to return to pit lane to serve his pass-through penalty under the green flag. From there, Busch led the final 35 laps and cruised to a 7.551-second margin of victory over second-place Jeff Burton. It was his 69th career victory across NASCAR's top three divisions (Sprint Cup – 18, Nationwide – 34, Camping World Truck 17).
“It's just a testament to these guys and what all they do,” said Busch, who led a total of 494 laps over the course of the three NASCAR races he competed in this weekend at Dover, as he led 172 laps in Friday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race before a fuel issue relegated him to a 16th-place result, and 191 laps en route to Saturday's Nationwide Series win. “Awesome stops on pit road. I think they won the race for us today and it was just a great effort by everybody. We were just so loose for most of the race. I guess it's a good thing I can hang onto it that long. I'm like, 'Come on man, tighten it up. Let's go.' Dave (Rogers) did a phenomenal job. He kept me going and kept my head in the game and just being able to work on the car, trying to make it better. We weren't the best in the beginning, but we were definitely a top-four car today. And then we worked on it there at the end, and about lap 250 or 260 we really started coming on.
“This is a long race and it's very hard to stay patient. But today we just – we ran fourth so I wasn't too worried about it. We had a good racecar. It was fast, but it was just a little bit unbalanced. So as soon as we got the balance right, the thing really came to life and took off. The M&M's people are here today, Combos was here yesterday. I wish it was a triple, but I'd rather miss out on Friday to get one Sunday.”
Busch's JGR teammates – Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano – finished fourth and 10th, respectively. The last time all three JGR drivers finished in the top-10 came in August 2008 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway when Busch finished second, Hamlin was third and former JGR driver Tony Stewart came home eighth.
Finishing third behind Busch and Burton was Matt Kenseth, while Hamlin and David Reutimann rounded out the top-five. Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Stewart and Logano comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were five caution periods for 24 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish.
He gained one spot to climb to second with 1,699 points and is 69 markers back of leader Harvick. Hamlin gained one spot to rise to fifth and has 1,618 points, 150 points arrears Harvick. Logano also picked up one spot. He's now slotted at 18th and has 1,332 points, only 102 points back of 12th-place Martin Truex Jr., who currently holds the final spot for 12-driver Chase for the Championship.