The erratic start to Kyle Busch's season continued on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Busch started 13th but quickly worked his way to the top spot by lap 45. A pit road speeding penalty on lap 46 dropped him to 17th and on the verge of falling one lap down.
Las Vegas has a unique pit lane in that its first timing line is a few feet before the first pit stall. That first timing line also victimized Busch's teammate, Denny Hamlin. A caution on lap 65 helped him to regain track position and he recovered to finish fourth.
Busch said that he recognized how early the penalty came in the race and focused on just staying patient and working his way through the field. He had one of the fastest cars in practice and was able to work his way back to the front but just wasn't able to chase down the leaders on the final green flag run.
"Our car was fast," Busch said. "It just wasn't as fast as it needed to be today on the long runs... We just kept getting too loose and (were not) able to keep track position throughout the run after about 10 laps or so."
While Busch would have liked to have won at his hometown track, a top-five finish effectively removes him from the bottom of the standings. Early finishes of 34th and 23rd resulted in Busch entering today's race 32nd in the standings but he leaves in 17th.
Next up is Bristol, a track Busch has won at five times during his career but not since the spring of 2011. Busch finished sixth at the half-mile last fall but has finishes of 32nd and 14th prior to that - a fact not lost on the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.
"We've had a lot of success at Bristol, but not lately," Busch said. "We've really hit a road block there for whatever reason. " We have to get back on our horse a little bit and this is a good way to do it. We've had a tough start to the year and a good finish here today, but it's a long year to go and we have an uphill battle to climb, so we'll just continue to claw out of it."