Kyle Busch finished third in the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in what he called a “good building process” for him and crew chief Ben Beshore.
Sunday afternoon was Busch’s second top-10 finish of the season and second consecutive. Busch said he kept trying to give the best feedback he could throughout the afternoon, and Beshore, who he was paired with during the offseason, made good adjustments. Busch didn’t score points in the first stage, but was in contention in the second and then came on strong after the final round of pit stops.
“It’s all about building blocks,” Busch said. “I felt like today was a good building process for us. … Seemed like the first two or three of them (adjustments) didn’t do anything. We started taking swings with wrenches in the back window, stuff like that. I don’t know, man, it’s interesting. Last week we were on the simulator for Homestead, same thing for this week for Vegas. It’s just not correlating close enough for us.
“If we can get that better and closer, I feel like there’s something there. (We were) off on balance to start, got way better towards the end. Still, there was room for improvement there at the end. Overall, our speed was a little off. We weren’t going to keep up with the 5 [Kyle Larson] or the 2 [Brad Keselowski]. Definitely on restarts, we could see that I was really slow, just getting attacked on by everybody, drove backwards. It took me a while to fight my way back upfront, but that was our day.”
Busch and Beshore have spent the last two weeks trying to climb out of an early hole. The team sat 17th in points after finishing 14th in the Daytona 500 and 35th on the road course. And because finishing position weighs into the performance matrix that sets the starting lineup, it’s making race day more challenging.
“We keep starting these races too far back or too far off on balance with the race car,” Busch said. “We miss points in the first stage and that’s just been killing us.”
The lack of practice is the reason Busch has turned toward the simulator so much. Busch said he spent five hours working on the simulator, trying to get the right balance for his car and make it raceable or have it drive the way he needs.
“Then, in real life, it’s just not quite correlating between the two,” Busch said.
There will only be practice at seven other races this season, so Busch acknowledges making the simulator better is important.
“This week, we came to the racetrack super, super tight,” he said. “I mean, eight numbers tighter on the racetrack than it was in sim. Typically, when you’re good in the sim, you’re about two numbers loose. I don’t know. That’s a 10-number difference, right? It’s just a big deal. A lot of it is tire. We have to figure out the tire model and try to make what we think is right there. I don’t know; we’ll keep working on it. That’s the only tool we’ve got.”