The defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch, driving the #18 M&M’s Toyota, saw his winning streak end as multiple tire issues sent his Toyota into the wall and was spun once ending his race day early just 258 laps into the 500-lap Food City 500, Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Ky. Busch has five career Sprint Cup series victories at Bristol, tied for the most wins with his older brother Kurt Busch of the active NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers. Ky. Busch has not won at the track since March 2011, in 2012 the track took out some banking by grinding the upper groove of the track, and to Busch it is like his victories came at a much different track.
“This track has sucked for me ever since the grinding,” Ky. Busch said. “I’m about sick and tired of coming here since it sucks to race.”
Drivers tend to keep close to the outside wall in the upper lane because the tire rubber in the upper lane creates much more grip, giving the track one preferred line for the drivers at the 0.533 mile short track in Thunder Valley.
Busch, who was a favorite to win, melted a tire bead just 52 laps into the race brushing the outside wall bringing out the caution, to add insult to injury Busch was hit with a speeding penalty exiting the pits. Within 64 laps on Lap 116, Busch was tapped from behind by Chris Buescher in the #34 and spun out down to the bottom apron, Busch managed to avoid major damage to the #18 Toyota.
Goodyear Racing offered an explanation for what happened in the first instance to the #18 on Twitter.
It looked as if Busch was going to rally from the incidents as he steered his #18 M&M’s Toyota back into the top 10 when the driver was hit with another speeding penalty that sent him back to 30th on Lap 192. Once again Busch drove through the field with ease as he cracked the top 10 on Lap 250 when 8 laps later Busch had another tire go down, sending him back into the wall for the hardest hit of the day.
“It’s (expletive) killed,” Adam Stevens, crew chief, said over the radio as he summoned his driver to the garage. “We’re done, go home.”
Busch said his car ended up getting too tight just before he crashed and blew a tire. After exiting the #18 Toyota Busch said. “Once I got single file there after the last restart, I was just cruising, just riding along. The car felt fine. I don’t know why it kept getting tight and it kept blowing right fronts.”
“Guess it just wasn’t meant to be,” Busch said. “We drove up from the back to the front a couple times and showed them what we’re made of, but unfortunately it doesn’t matter when you’re in the garage.”
Busch was not the only Joe Gibbs Racing drivers with tire issues during the race; Matt Kenseth hit the wall twice after his right-front tires blew out, and like his teammate Kenseth exited the race early after the #20 hit the wall for a second time sending him to the garage.
“We just keep blowing right front tires, I don’t know why,” Kenseth said. “The first one was a little confusing, I knew I blew a right front, but I thought they were telling me it wasn’t flat so I was a little confused. This one just blew a lot earlier and the angle was a lot worse hitting the wall.”
Denny Hamlin ran into troubles during the race, first with a front-right fender falling off after brushing against the wall, and then when he blew a tire of his own on the #11 Toyota, Hamlin would finish the race as one of the last cars on the lead lap in 20th.
Carl Edwards was the sole JGR driver who avoided troubles during the race, in fact Edwards dominated the race, and the #19 Toyota started the race on the pole and led a race high of 276 of the scheduled 500 laps for the Food City 500.
Goodyear is taking those tires from the #11, #18, and #20 Toyota teams for further analysis.