In his eleventh start behind the wheel of the No. 54 Monster Energy Camry, Kyle Busch began Saturday's inaugural Indianapolis 250 from the outside front row, in second, the highest starting position for the first-year Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) Nationwide Series team.
By the close of lap one of the 100-lap event, Busch had already taken over the first position and proceeded to pull away from the field. Lap times recorded by the Monster Energy athlete showed the black No. 54 machine one-half second ahead of its competitors. Initial feedback from driver to crew chief, "pretty good, really good, don't do anything to it," when describing the car that dominated the Nationwide Series field all weekend, including being the fastest car through two practice sessions on Thursday.
A competition yellow-flag period waved by NASCAR on lap 15 offered the team a chance to visit pit road. While other competitors 'short-pitted' in order to gain track position, the
No. 54 team took on a full tank of gas, as part of their fuel strategy plan for later in the race. The added time on pit road cost the team four positions and Busch restarted the event in fifth, on lap 21.
Busch made quick work of the field once again, moving to third within the green-flag restart lap, to second place two laps later and back to the lead by lap 27. The team maintained the lead and showed the car's strength as it pulled away from the field again, at one time six-tenths faster than the cars behind him.
"You are doing a great job," said crew chief Mike Beam to his team owner-driver. "The car is pretty good, a little free, but good," replied Busch. Under green flag conditions the team chose to make their second visit to pit road, continuing their fuel strategy plan by taking on another full tank of gas and refreshing four Goodyear tires. A caution period waved just after the Monster Energy Camry returned to the field, dropping the KBM team to 25th, then gaining the team the first place spot, after all the competitors cycled through their visits to pit road.
Momentum for the No. 54 team was still high at the halfway point in the race, when another caution-period waved for debris on the racetrack. The KBM team would have preferred the race remained green, in order to hit their fuel window for later in the race. Rather the yellow-flag forced the field down pit road, where Busch and team serviced their Toyota for the third time in the day. Unfortunately a slow pit stop, caused by the left rear tire getting stuck upon removal, recorded the team down eight spots upon exiting pit road.
The green flag on lap 67 scored Busch in 10th, as competitors bunched up at the restart. The team's attention immediately turned back to fuel strategy as they knew they would be four laps short to complete the race. Driver and crew agreed to maintain a slower lap pace, 54.00 seconds where possible, in order to make up the fuel deficit. Busch worked this plan while moving back towards the front of the pack, capturing fourth place at lap 71, when a fourth event caution waved. "Save fuel," Beam reminded his expert driver, who was positioned behind frontrunners Brad Keselowski, Sam Hornish, Jr. and Elliott Sadler.
The team still had their sights set on gaining that first victory with owner-driver Busch, when on lap 78 the No. 54 car was forced down on the track causing Busch to spin. Showing his amazing talent, the KBM team owner saved the car without any damage from impact. The tires however flat spotted and with a right front tire blown, the team was forced to visit pit road for repairs.
A pit under yellow-flag conditions, as the field was about to go back to green, gave the team a chance to replace the tires and fix any right-front fender damage. "Fix it nice," Busch exclaimed and then returned to the track, to restart in the 24th position.
One more visit to pit road on lap 86 was needed to remove grass from the front grill, which was overheating the engine. A grill swipe, windshield tear-off change and round of wedge into the left-rear offered final relief to the struggling machine.
Ironically the fastest car on the track at this point in the race was the No. 54 Monster Energy Camry, recording fastest lap times as it did in the early stages of the event. Unfortunately, the lost time on pit road and subsequent visits needed to repair the car from the spin, caused the team to lose sight of their victory lane goal.
Busch completed the Indianapolis 250 inaugural Brickyard event in the 22nd position.
The Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 54 NNS team dropped one position to 11th in the Series Owner's Points Standings, 135 points out of first place, through 19 races completed.
Keselowski collected his third series win of 2012 in the Penske owned Dodge machine, over second-place finisher Hornish, Jr., Ty Dillon, Denny Hamlin and Austin Dillon completed the top-five finishers.
There were five caution periods for 24 laps of the race along with nine lead changes across six drivers.