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Toby's Take: Fine Details Matter; Time for Kyle Busch to Take the Gloves Off

Fuel tank miscalculations have been ultra-costly over the last two NASCAR Cup Series race weekends, and this week it bit Martin Truex Jr. and his crew chief James Small.


hero image for Toby's Take: Fine Details Matter; Time for Kyle Busch to Take the Gloves Off

Over the last two weeks in the NASCAR Cup Series, we've seen fine details on pit road make a massive difference in a driver's finishing position. With the margins between being the fastest guy on track, and being the 30th place guy being so tight, fine details matter now more than they ever have.

If you want to win a NASCAR Cup Series race, or even finish inside the top-five, everything has to be perfect. There is no margin for error anymore.

Martin Truex Jr. looked like he had a shot to win Sunday's Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, but ultimately, he got bogged down battling Chris Buescher for the race lead in the closing laps.

The battle between Truex and Buescher allowed eventual race-winner Kyle Larson to close in, and with Larson being on 13-lap fresher tires, neither driver stood a chance.

Still, Truex was in solid position to score his second runner-up finish of the season. That is, until his fuel tank, which was replinished on Lap 67, ran dry.

As Truex crawled, and then stopped on track, everybody else, including Kyle Busch, who was also out of fuel, zoomed on by. As Truex was able to finally inch across the finish line, by hitting his starter motor over and over, he had fallen all the way to 27th.

He had created an iconic moment for fans in attendance, who cheered him crossing the finish line at a snail's pace, but it was little consolation for Truex.

"It stinks," Truex stated. "We worked hard all day to have a good finish. Clearly in second, and ran out of gas in the last corner. One of those years."

His final lap clocked in at 3 minutes, 19.625 seconds. It was a back-breaking finish. Heartbreaking even. Thankfully, Truex hadn't gotten around Buescher sooner. He very well could have been in the lead when the fuel tank went completely empty. Could you imagine that heartbreak?

Ryan Blaney, who finished seventh on Sunday could. He suffered that very fate the week prior at Gateway, when his car sputtered coming off of Turn 4 to grab the white flag. As Blaney coasted around the track, his Team Penske teammate Austin Cindric went on to score his first win since the 2022 Daytona 500.

The end result for Blaney was a 24th-place finish.

Like Blaney, Truex had no idea that he was going to be short on fuel. Like Blaney's crew chief Jonathan Hassler, James Small had no clue that his race car didn't have enough fuel.

"Just thought we were at least half a lap to the good there, and obviously, we were about I don't know, an eighth of a lap short," Small told Frontstretch.com. "So, yeah, not ideal."

In a sport where victory margins are often measured by thousandths of a second, and where inspection comes down to fractions of a centimeter, the fine details matter incredibly. Not planning for enough fuel has cost two potential championship contenders a combined 48 positions over the last two NASCAR Cup Series events.

As we keep clicking off the final 10 regular-season races, and we notch more and more winners, those points could prove very costly for Truex and Blaney.

Photo Credit: Aaron Giffin, TobyChristie.com

Time for Kyle Busch to Take the Gloves Off

Photo Credit: Aaron Giffin, TobyChristie.com

I didn't think I'd ever live long enough to utter the following sentence, but Kyle Busch is seemingly being bullied by anyone and everyone on the race track, right now.

The latest occurance came on the final lap of Sunday's race at Sonoma Raceway, where Ross Chastain collided with Busch in Turn 4 while battling for the fifth position.

After the race, Busch lamented his day being ruined by Chastain, who was on fresher tires at the end of the race.

"A couple of guys there at the end of the race had better tires than we did but we were going to have a good day," Busch explained. "Unfortunately, one of those got into us on the last lap and ruined our day. It's frustrating to not get the finish that we deserved."

While his first potential top-five finish since Dover Motor Speedway was no more, Busch recovered in an attempt to latch onto a top-10 finish. However, as he exited Turn 11, Busch's fuel tank ran dry, and he sputtered across the finish line in 17th.

Fortunately, for Busch, Martin Truex Jr. coming to a stop on the frontstretch due to running out of fuel himself, brought out the caution flag on the final lap, and froze the field.

With Busch still being able to coast, at a reasonable speed, allowed him to be credited with a 12th-place finish. It was a decent finish to a frustrating final lap for Busch.

But Busch, who has been one of the best drivers, and most aggressive drivers, in the NASCAR Cup Series garage since he entered the series full-time in 2005, is beginning to become a punching bag (literally and figuratively) for the competition.

At Gateway, he was on the wrong end of a dust-up with Kyle Larson, which resulted in a 35th-place finish. Busch's first DNF of the season dropped him below the Playoff cutline, and while he did gain a few points on the cutline with his 12th-place finish at Sonoma, he very well could have been inside the cutline had it not been for the contact from Chastain.

It's got to be frustrating for Busch, his No. 8 Richard Childress Racing team, and Busch's large fanbase.

Even when Busch has flashed his signature hard-nosed driving style, he has wound up getting the bad side of things. In the NASCAR All-Star Race last month, Busch wiped Ricky Stenhouse Jr. out on Lap 2, and following the race, Stenhouse landed a right hook to Busch's jaw.

Right now, Busch is in a situation that he's rarely, if ever, found himself in during the course of his racing career. He's being pushed around. It's time for Busch to stand up for himself on and off the racetrack.

He's a two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, who has the most combined wins in NASCAR National Series history, it's time that he receives the respect that he deserves from the competition.

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