Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team headed to Dover International Speedway on Sunday looking for the second win of the season. However, an early issue disrupted Busch’s day. The NASCAR driver dealt with engine problems that sent him to pit road early.
The issue surfaced prior to the competition caution. Busch told his team that he was having engine issues and that it seemed like he had an internal issue. The pit crew raised the hood during the yellow flag stop and said that a valve spring could be responsible for the issue. Busch and the team decided to run until they saw smoke.
Busch was not the only Joe Gibbs Racing driver dealing with early issues. Teammate Martin Truex Jr. started on the pole but quickly lost the lead to William Byron. He then fell to 11th after the competition caution. Truex remained close to the top 10 throughout the first stage, but he repeatedly said on the radio that he couldn’t get the No. 19 Toyota Camry to do anything he wanted.
Busch lost his ability to keep pace with the leaders
With the No. 18 Toyota Camry struggling due to an engine issue, Busch could not maintain the same level of speed as his peers. Those on the lead lap averaged speeds more than 150 mph. Busch averaged speeds around 140 mph. The No. 18 was noticeably slower, resulting in multiple cars easily overtaking him.
The issues continued on lap No. 58. Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, William Byron, and the other top drivers raced past the No. 18, dropping it a lap down at the midpoint of the first stage. Though Busch continued to turn in lap times under 26.75 seconds, the minimum requirement to remain in the race.
The struggles continued as the first stage continued. Drivers kept passing Busch, leading to him falling another lap down. He joined nine other drivers at least two laps down, a list that included Anthony Alfredo, Josh Berry, Josh Bilicki, and Cody Ware.
Busch made it to the end of the first stage without anything getting worse, but he continued to fall behind the pace during the break. The No. 18 team popped the hood and worked on the engine in an effort to make it work correctly. Busch ultimately got back on the track for the start of the second stage, but he was seven laps down and running in last place.
Dover is traditionally one of Busch’s best tracks
The driver of the No. 18 JGR Toyota Camry struggled to keep pace on Sunday due to an engine issue, marking a significant change at the Monster Mile. Busch has a history of success at Dover, especially in the Cup Series.
He entered Sunday’s race with 32 starts at the one-mile oval and 20 top-10 finishes. Busch has reached Victory Lane at Dover three times during his Cup career, including the most recent win in 2017. Based on his string of success at the difficult track, Busch entered the weekend as one of the top options to win. However, the early engine issues ruined his chances.
With the mechanical issue disrupting his day early, Busch will look ahead to the first-ever trip to Circuit of the Americas in Austin. He previously tested out the unique road track with fellow Toyota Racing drivers, but Sunday’s race will mark his first time heading out with more than two other vehicles.
“It’s definitely an interesting place. There’s a lot of tricky corners that are here, kind of some hidden corners as well,” Busch told media members in April after testing the track. “When you’re coming around [Turn] 1 and you feel like you’re doing a good job of being in the right place, it’s not, ‘No, wait. We’ve got to go that way next.’ It’s definitely different. It’s a long course — a lot of corners, a lot of high-speed straightaways, heavy braking zones, so it’s definitely going to have its challenges for the drivers as well as the equipment.”