Kyle Busch had his No. 51 Toyota Care Tundra right where he wanted it as the field took the white flag in Friday night’s NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. “Rowdy” was in the second position, tucked behind fellow Toyota driver Johnny Sauter, waiting to make his move on the final lap. Shortly after the two Toyota’s crossed the start-finish line, a wreck ensued behind them, ending the race under caution and relegating Busch to a second-place finish – his third runner-up result in five Truck Series starts at “The World’s Center of Racing.”
“We would’ve had a really good day if it was a 100 lap race, but it was only 99 today,” said Busch, who has finished in the top five in four of his five Truck Series starts at Daytona. “We didn’t get a chance to bring it back. The Toyota Care Tundra was awesome. All the guys on this KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) team did a great job. Just phenomenal being able to build three trucks really quick to get us out here and I appreciate them being able to help us qualify up near the front — top Toyota. To be able to come out here and race and run strong like that and be in position all night, I mean, shoot, I think the worst I fell was fourth, fifth or sixth — something like that — but wish we could pull off a win here in a Truck race. It’s the only one I’m missing — I’ve got ARCA, Nationwide and Cup at Daytona — have yet to get a Truck win, so I’ll try again next time.”
Busch, who qualified in the sixth spot, advanced into the third position by the time the field had completed one lap, where he remained until the first caution of the race occurred on lap 26. When pit road opened, he brought his No. 51 Toyota Care Tundra to his over-the-wall crew, who administered a four-tire and fuel stop and returned their driver back in the third position.
Kyle Busch Motorsports’ (KBM) owner-driver remained running in the third spot until a 13-truck incident on lap 54 brought out the race’s second caution. Busch brought the Toyota Care Tundra down pit road once again, getting four more fresh tires – with an air pressure adjustment – and a full tank of fuel.
With several teams on varying pit strategies, the Las Vegas native took the lap-60 restart from the third position. Just three laps later, a single-car accident slowed the field again. Busch, as was the case with many teams, took the opportunity to come down pit road and top off with enough fuel to make it to the finish.
Busch restarted from the fourth position when the field went back to green-flag conditions on lap 67. He partnered up with fellow Toyota competitor Matt Crafton, who tried to push the No. 51 Toyota Care Tundra to the front of the field. The pairing was nearly successful, but just as the two trucks pulled even with the inside lane, Todd Bodine got a strong push and surged back to the front of the field before the No. 51 Tundra was able to complete the pass.
On lap 69, Toyota’s winningest driver in all three National Touring series was finally able to put his No. 51 Tundra out front. The lead was short lived, as Bodine reclaimed the lead a lap later. Busch surged back to the front of the field on lap 74, where he remained until eventual-winner Johnny Sauter claimed the top spot on lap 85.
A five-truck mishap on lap 83 slowed the field for the fifth time. Already good to go to the finish on fuel, Busch remained on track as did the leader, Sauter. The No. 51 Toyota Care Tundra was able to find a hole in the bottom lane shortly after the final restart and tucked in behind Sauter. The 30-time winner in the Truck Series kept Sauter’s No. 98 in close range, as he formulated a plan in his head and waited until the final lap to make his move.
The bumper of Busch’s No. 51 Tundra was attached to the rear bumper of Sauter’s No. 98 Tundra as the two crossed the start-finish line with one lap remaining. Shortly after, an accident occurred and the race ended under caution, leaving Busch with his 21st career runner-up finish in the Truck Series.
Sauter picked up his seventh career Truck Series victory, which was the 100th win for Toyota in NASCAR’s third division. Busch finished in the runner-up position and veteran Ron Hornaday Jr. came home third. Justin Lofton and Jeb Burton rounded out the top-five finishers in the season-opening event.
Darrell Wallace, a 19-year-old rookie making his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut, overcame an early miscue on pit road to bring the KBM No. 54 DefyDiabetes.com Tundra home in the 12th position. After running inside the top 10 for the majority of the race, Joey Coulter’s KBM No. 18 GunBroker.com Tundra got caught in the outside lane on the final two restarts and came home with a disappointing 22nd-place finish.
There were six caution periods for 20 laps. Six different drivers led, exchanging the lead 11 times, including Busch who led twice for 12 laps. Eleven drivers failed to finish the 100-lap race.
The next event on the Truck Series schedule is the Kroger 250 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Saturday, April 4 at 1:30 p.m. ET.
-Kyle Busch Motorsports PR