The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry took the checkered flag on Sunday night, giving Kyle Busch his first win of the 2021 season. The 36-year-old NASCAR driver and his team made the right adjustments to set him up, but teamwork also played a major role. Busch specifically credited teammate Martin Truex Jr. with a crucial move.
The JGR driver met with media members on Sunday and provided insight into his first win of the year. He explained that the car was good but that it wasn’t necessarily a “race-winning” machine. However, the cautions, restarts, and a timely push from Truex propelled him to Victory Lane.
Kyle Busch got a trip to Victory Lane for his birthday. pic.twitter.com/rcfPzlubS5
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) May 3, 2021
“You know, the biggest thing that I was hopeful for and that happened was getting Truex behind me,” Busch told media members. “Having my teammate behind me I felt like was going to be a huge added bonus for us. To wave him on when it was time to go, when I was going to go so he could push me and get us clear going into Turn 1, and then those guys on the outside kind of got crossed up, so that gave us a clear track from thereon.
“With just two laps to go in these cars and the package you’re able to just hold it wide open as the leader,” Busch added. “You’re just trying to cut the draft as much as you can and still to make the corner the way you need to make your corner, and if you can run the bottom and wrap the bottom really tight to the white line then those guys have to go higher than you, which is just a longer way around and it’s harder to make a pass up there.”
Busch will now move forward from the win by shifting his focus
Now that he has reached Victory Lane, Busch has his spot in the playoffs. He will shift his focus to the future. Obviously, winning more races to stack playoff points is a priority, but the No. 18 team will also have to prepare for some tracks where they recently struggled. Busch highlighted this point by specifically mentioning the 750-horsepower package.
Prior to the 2021 season, NASCAR announced that there would be two primary packages used by the race teams. The 750-horsepower setup provides more acceleration and low downforce on short tracks and road courses while the 550-horsepower setup focuses on top-end speed and high downforce on the 1.5-mile ovals. The upcoming race at Darlington will mark the first time that drivers use the 750-horsepower package at the Track Too Tough to Tame.
“Yeah, I think one of the things is just trying to be a little bit stronger on the 750 tracks,” Busch told media members. “I feel like we’re kind of missing just a little bit of something there. Every time we’re on one of those racetracks we blow the rear tires off about 30, 40 laps into a run.
“We’ve got some work to do in order to keep the rear tires underneath me, and I feel like that’s the number one thing that our focus will be going into Darlington next week. It’s going to be hot, it’s going to be slippery, it’s going to be slick. That place is always a handful anyways, and now we’re going there with the 750 low downforce package. It’s going to be a handful for sure.”
Three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers are in the playoffs
With Busch taking the win at Kansas, he becomes the third member of the team to tentatively book his trip to the playoffs. Christopher Bell won the Daytona Road Course race in February while Truex won races at Phoenix and Martinsville.
JGR joins Team Penske and Hendrick Motorsports as teams sending at least three drivers to the playoffs, but no one is celebrating just yet. Reaching the playoffs doesn’t guarantee a Cup championship. There is also still one more member of the team striving to get his first win.
“I think it’s obviously encouraging to see Kyle get to Victory Lane, and we’d love to see Denny get there, too,” said Coy Gibbs, JGR’s Vice Chairman and COO. “He’s had a bunch of seconds. But this is a long, hard season, so I’m not going to jump up and down quite yet. I think it’s important to get on a roll and it’s important to carry that into the playoffs, so that’s kind of what we’re looking at.”
The JGR team will press forward with the goal of winning another race as the Cup Series season continues. The next opportunity will be the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway. FS1 will broadcast the action with Jeff Gordon, Mike Joy, and Clint Bowyer providing the call.
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