It was a tough-luck weekend for Kyle Busch and his ToyotaCare Racing team. After changing engines twice in practice and losing valuable time preparing for the 167-lap race on the freshly paved 1.5-mile tri-oval at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Busch proved to have one of the strongest trucks in the field in the early stages of Saturday’s SFP 250. After getting pinched early in the race and spinning through the grass to avoid contact, Kyle Busch Motorsports’ (KBM) owner-driver rallied to lead 11 laps and appeared to be in line to compete for the win. He was making his way back through the field just past the halfway mark, when rookie German Quiorga got loose trying to make a pass to his inside into Turn 3, snapped loose and turned up into his former owner. The contact sent the No. 51 hard into the outside wall, destroying the team’s hopes for its first win of 2013 along with a brand new Tundra.
“The guys on this No. 51 ToyotaCare Tundra team worked really hard all weekend and for not having a lot of practice time because of the engine changes, we had a really fast piece in the race — we definitely were one of the trucks to beat, unfortunately our day ended early,” Busch said. “Proud of the fight that Joey (Coulter) and that 18 team put up today and Darrell (Wallace Jr.) and his guys had a strong run as well.”
After starting the race from the seventh position, the talented driver used the early stages of the event to get a feel for his truck. He remained in the seventh spot on lap 13 when he engaged in a side-by-side battle with Ty Dillon. Dillon used up all of the real estate and just before the two trucks were about to make contact, Busch cranked his wheel to the left and went spinning through the infield grass. Escaping the incident with no structural damage, but flat-spotting his tires, the Las Vegas native was forced to bring his No. 51 down pit road for four fresh tires and fuel.
Busch took the lap-19 restart from the 21st position, but slowly but surely maneuvered his way back towards the front of the field. After three cautions occurred over the next 20 laps, he had his No. 51 ToyotaCare Tundra up to the third spot for the lap-39 restart. By lap 50, he had advanced into the runner-up spot and began to reel in race leader James Buescher.
On lap 62, Busch made his way past Buescher and remained at the front of the field until he came down pit road for a scheduled stop on lap 73. Before the stop he had communicated to crew chief Rudy Fugle that his Toyota was “really good,” so the over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop with no adjustments.
With cautions dominating the early stages of the race, many teams were on different pit strategies and Busch found himself a lap down when a caution occurred on lap 83. Fortunately, the Sprint Cup Series regular was in the “Lucky Dog” position and was able to take the lap-87 restart on the lead lap at the tail-end of the longest line, scored in the seventh position.
Busch advanced into the sixth position shortly after the restart, but got slightly loose as he made a bid to return to the top five. As he settled into his ToyotaCare Tundra and set his sights on moving forward, Quiroga dove to the inside of him entering Turn 2. The right front tire of Quiroga’s Tundra turned into the left side of Busch’s Toyota and sent the No. 51 spinning towards the wall. The rear end slammed the wall, followed by the front end and the team was forced to the garage for the remainder of the race and relegated to a 27th-place finish.
Matt Crafton picked up his first win of 2013 and the third of his career. KBM driver Joey Coulter, who led twice for 15 laps, finished 0.167 seconds behind Crafton in the runner-up position. Ryan Blaney, Brendan Gaughan and Johnny Sauter rounded out the top-five finishers. KBM’s third entry, the No. 54 Liberty Tire Tundra of Darrell Wallace Jr., led twice for eight laps and came home with an eighth-place finish.
There were 11 caution periods for 52 laps. Ten drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead 18 times. Half of the 36-truck field failed to finish the race.
Busch and the No. 51 Toyota Racing team, who fell to eighth in the Truck Series owner point standings, will enjoy three weeks off before the Truck Series next event, the N.C. Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway on May 17. Live television coverage of the 134-lap event begins with the NCWTS Setup Show Friday at 8 p.m. ET on SPEED.