54 Team Leads 92 of 100 Laps to Earn Eighth Nationwide Series Win of ‘13
Date: July 27, 2013
Event: Indiana 250 (Race 19 of 33)
Series: NASCAR Nationwide Series
Location: Indianapolis (Ind.) Motor Speedway (2.50-mile rectangular oval)
Start/Finish: 1st/1st (Completed 100 of 100 laps)
Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Kyle Busch and the No. 54 Monster Energy team not only won Saturday’s Indiana 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Indianapolis (Ind.) Motor Speedway, but dominated it, leading 92 circuits of the 100-lap event. The Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 54 team extended their successful season by recording their eighth victory and 13th top-10 finish in 19 events run to date, in 2013. The 28-year-old Busch earned Toyota Racing their first victory at the legendary 2.5-mile speedway with today’s win.
Already the winningest series driver, Busch recorded his 59th victory in 259 starts and his first-career win at the Indiana track. Just as significant, for the fifth time this year, Busch accomplished the team’s win from the pole-starting position, the 31st pole of his Nationwide Series career. Achieving the first-place starting spot was accomplished when Busch broke the 100-year-old track’s qualifying record, setting the pace at 179.644mph for a 50.99-second lap. The feat broke a tie with NASCAR veteran Sam Ard from 1983, placing Busch at the top of the record books for the most pole-to-victory wins in a race season. With a race-high 92 laps led Saturday, Busch achieved his 12,177th career lap led in the series with 1,206 of those laps driven in the top spot this season alone.
Busch led the field to the green flag upon start and quickly pulled ahead of his competitors, at one point advancing two seconds, or 10 car lengths, ahead of the field. At lap 8 of the scheduled 100-lap event, the Monster Energy driver relayed to his crew, “The car is good. There’s something freaking me out right now in turn two, though, I feel a real push, something I haven’t felt before.” Spotter Tony Hirschman confirmed back to the Monster Energy driver there was a strong crosswind blowing that direction and that must be what he was feeling with the car. There was no indication the Camry had any issues, confirmed on lap 11 when Busch keyed the radio, “The car is really good. It’s tight a little in the wind but don’t worry about that.”
At lap 22 crew chief Adam Stevens strategized with Busch over the radio, “Save gas. We are pushing the pit window.” On lap 30 under the green flag, the team visited pit road for the first time of the race to refresh four Goodyear tires and Sunoco fuel, without needing to make any car adjustments. The team maintained first place and Stevens reported back to their driver after making calculations, “That was better gas mileage than we thought.”
An event caution period waved on lap 49 but the leading JGR team chose not to visit pit road, instead choosing to remain on track until the next fuel window was reached. The team then pitted on lap 65 and packed the fuel cell with as much Sunoco fuel as the Toyota Camry would handle. Luckily the No. 54 team would return to the racetrack before an event caution waved on the next lap, 66, which allowed the black and green machine to maintain first-place on the track. With fuel no longer a concern, Stevens relayed to Busch, “We are good to the end, and have a few more left in case of green-white-checkered finishes.”
Two more caution periods occurred within the last 20 laps of the event, which changed the picture slightly. On the last green-flag restart at lap 95, Busch was challenged by the No. 2 car of Brian Scott who took over the first-place spot and started to pull away with holding the race-ending lead. Two more challengers approached the No. 54 Camry, the No. 22 of Joey Logano and the No. 21 of Kevin Harvick and suddenly the Monster Energy machine and Busch had their work cut out for them, for the first time in the race. While the No. 54 team spotter Hirschman reminded Busch to be patient and ‘get into a rhythm,’ Busch began working to regain the lead.
In three laps Busch drove away from the charging third and fourth-place competitors and reeled in the first-place No. 2 car, overtaking the lead on lap 98. Back in the position he felt comfortable with all day, Busch kicked the Monster Energy Camry into high-gear and finished the race, capturing the checkered flag as he crossed the famous red bricks in first.
Upon celebration from the famed Brickyard victory lane activities, including a ‘kiss’ on the bricks with his wife Samantha and team by his side, Busch described his Brickyard day to the media, “It’s Indianapolis – it’s pretty awesome to be able to win here. Whether you’re driving Nationwide or Cup, sports cars, Formula 1, Moto GP, anything – it’s cool to win at this place just with all the history and all the automobiles that have raced on this surface before. All the fans that have been here over the years – it’s pretty awesome and it’s pretty special. It’s really awesome for Monster Energy. I should have been here last year, but I messed up and then I almost messed up again and gave it away. I was able to preserve there and get back. I can’t say enough about this Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing engines, Nationwide Insurance. It’s just an awesome day, an unbelievable day. It’s such a great race car built by these guys, Adam Stevens (crew chief) and everybody here on this JGR team.”
When asked about breaking NASCAR veteran Sam Ard’s record for most wins from the pole in a single season, Busch described, “That’s awesome. We also set the record for the most poles in the series. Whatever records are left let me know and I’m going to try to put my name on them.”
Adam Stevens, crew chief of the successful Monster Energy team explained when asked post-race, “I don’t know if I would go so far as to say we had the strongest car throughout the weekend. We did have a good test here recently, that was cut short by weather, but we got what we needed out of it. We made the changes that we needed to in order to get our car where it needed to be at the test. Honestly, a big factor in this weekend – we kind of hit the lottery here with the weather conditions. It was almost identical to the test. It’s very unusual for Indiana this time of the year, as you well know. That helped our cause. We didn’t have to chase the car much.”
Stevens continued, “The weekend played out fine and practice went pretty well. We were back and forth on a few things and I think Kyle, myself and the guys really put our heads together and put some good race adjustments in it and that showed today. I was a little bit surprised by the qualifying speed, but in a pleasant way. We didn’t have a chance to make a mock run. The race there, you knew how it was going to play out strategy-wise, you just didn’t know when the cautions were going to fall. We chose to stay out there short of our window when a bunch of guys came and got four tires and fuel. We knew that they did it so they could take two tires when we all got in our last pit window. Obviously, if we had needed the track position at that time then we would have done the same thing. I wanted to make sure he had four fresh tires at eth end of it so he could run hard when the caution came out. If we had to pit under that caution – if we would have gone another lap, then we would have been behind all those guys that took two on that stop. If it would have gone green, we still would have been in good shape, but we got a little good fortune there with the weather for sure and with that caution falling after we came down pit road.”
The No. 54 Monster Energy team owned by J.D. Gibbs maintains first place in the Owner’s Point standings, now leading the No. 22 of Penske Racing by 41 points. Saturday’s performance earned the JGR contingency NASCAR’s 3M Lap Leader Award, Coors Light Pole Award and the Mahle Clevite Engine Builder of the Race Award (JGR Engines).
JGR teammate Brian Vickers finished fourth and earned the series’ ‘Dash 4 Cash’ bonus payout. Other JGR teammates Matt Kenseth and Elliott Sadler finished seventh and 13th respectively. Scott, Logano, Vickers and Harvick filled out the top-five finishing positions. There were four caution periods for 18 laps of the race along with six lead changes across four drivers.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series competes again on August 3 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, in the U.S. Cellular 250 presented by the Enlist Weed Control System, with television broadcast starting at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Drew Herring will make his second start behind the wheel of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 54 Monster Energy Camry.
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