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Kyle Busch Dominates Texas Nationwide Race

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 4 2009
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series O'Reilly 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series O'Reilly 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

 

By John Sturbin |Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Fort Worth, Texas – Kyle Busch was “bad fast” Saturday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway, and the Nationwide Series record book took a beating because of it.

Busch won the O’Reilly 300 in dominating fashion, leading an event- record 178 of 200 laps around the 1.5-mile TMS quadoval en route to victory over fellow Sprint Cup regular Tony Stewart. In doing so, Busch:

• Became the first driver to win three consecutive Nationwide races at TMS.

• Is the first driver to win from the pole in 17 Nationwide races at TMS.

• Raised his own track laps-led mark from 174, in November’s O’Reilly Challenge, to 178.

• Bagged his third victory and eighth top-10 finish in nine races at TMS.

• Scored his second series victory and fourth top-10 finish in five starts this season.

Brendan Gaughan, who finished 37th Saturday, still owns the record for most consecutive wins at TMS in one of NASCAR’s three national touring series with four. Gaughan swept both NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events in 2002 and 2003.

But Busch, who has won six races this year in those three touring series – two in Sprint Cup, two Nationwide and two Truck – is closing. Bad fast.

“We won – we love history we won from the pole today so that’s cool, too,” said Busch, who has led a staggering 478 of the last 600 Nationwide laps raced at TMS. “We got that out of the way, so now everybody else can qualify on the pole and win races here in the Nationwide Series.”

Busch’s only real challenge began to unfold in the final 11 laps, after John Wes Townley brought out the day’s fourth caution with a crash between Turns 3 and 4. Stewart, running sixth at the time, opted to pit for four tires and fuel while Busch and Brad Keselowski stayed out. Stewart restarted in seventh, moved around Keselowski and into second on Lap 197 but didn’t have enough race left to overhaul Busch.

“It wasn’t an easy day,” said Busch, who finished 1.447 seconds ahead of Stewart. “Made it look easy, but I‘m ready for a nap.” Busch nonchalantly said he never felt sure he was going to win, as Jeff Burton, Keselowski and Stewart all mounted challenges. And, he noted, a lot of time had passed since his most recent victory here in November.

“With this Nationwide team, I go to the track every week thinking we’re going to win,” said Busch, the star of Joe Gibbs Racing. “We’ve got phenomenal race cars and they’re fast. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t win every single one of these deals. We should win the rest of ‘em, but I know we won’t. I feel like we’ve got a legitimate chance to finish top-three, if not win. “

In addition to Stewart down the stretch, Busch battled overheating feet on the unseasonably warm spring afternoon, and a hot rod he dubbed “inconsistent.”

“I was uncomfortable because of the handling of the car,” said Busch, driver of the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota Camry. “It was inconsistent – sometimes tight, sometimes loose. It was an odd thing for me. You expect the more laps you go you’ll snug-up and become comfortable again.  Burton got so tight he couldn’t keep on the gas in the corner anymore. The 88 (of Keselowski) was coming at the end, but I was tight and still lose. He was catching me. If we didn’t get the caution like we did, we probably would have had a whale of a show.”

As it was, only Stewart and crew chief Ernie Cope opted for four  fresh tires on the final stop. Busch and crew chief Jason Ratcliff were basically out of options, having used all six sets of their allotted Goodyear Eagle tires.

“We had a set of tires that had 10 laps on’ em, that’s the best thing we had,” Ratcliff said.

“Jason told me not to come (for tires), but if I saw a line of cars behind me I was going to come,” Busch said. “We saw this last fall. The guys that got tires couldn’t run down the leaders, so I stayed out.”

Stewart said that with 14 cars on the lead lap, it wasn’t much of a gamble to pit for four tires. “At the same time , we’re giving up track position,” Stewart said. “I told Ernie that if it doesn’t work…it’s my fault. I already made my decision about the middle of the corner I wanted to come in and get tires. I think (Greg) Biffle was only guy we had a shot of getting by if we had stayed out. I thought I could gain a lot more than I could lose.”

Again, Stewart said he was rolling the dice when the race went green for the final time on Lap 194.

“I didn’t know how far we’d be able to get up there,” said Stewart, driver of the No. 33 Armor All Chevrolet Monte Carlo. “ If we could get to the top three that’d be pretty good. Once we got to second and started pulling away from Brad…we were far enough behind Kyle we weren’t going to catch him. If the caution came out, we might have made a shot to make it interesting. He was bad fast all day long.”

Stewart, driving for fellow-Cup owner Kevin Harvick, posted his fourth top-10 finish in six races at TMS, and his second top-10 result of 2009.

Keselowski, meanwhile, earned his third top-10 finish in six starts at TMS in his backup No. 88 Hellmann’s Chevy. Keselowski , who spun and wrecked his primary car in qualifying on Thursday, started 42nd because of the switch. Saturday’s finish moved him from 15th to seventh in a points race led by Carl Edwards. A late-race incident with Joey Logano forced Edwards into the wall down the backstretch and out of contention for the win. Edwards finished 18th in the No. 60 Scotts Ford Fusion. With Harvick sitting the race out and performing color commentating duties on ESPN, Busch moved into second in the points race, 38 behind Edwards.

Keselowski  and crew chief Tony Eury Sr. were out of tires when the final caution fell, and their fate was sealed when Brad spun the rear rubber on the restart. “I tried too hard, had a small amount of wheel spin trying to get a run on him (Busch),” Keselowski said. “ I knew where he was going to restart, but I wasn’t able to execute the move.”

Keselowski said he didn’t know what to expect from his backup Chevy, much less starting at the rear of the field. But he knows Busch is the complete package.

“Kyle’s really good in general, exceptionally strong with the low horsepower engine package we have,” Keselowski said. “ And his team has the most power. He’s got a lot working for him there. He’s with a strong team and doing everything right. When he’s hot, he’s hot. He’s just unstoppable. What I’ve been trying to do is match my game to what Kyle has got. He’s just very strong. He makes mistakes like everyone else, but it seems like he’s further on the edge longer, and makes fewer mistakes.” 

                                                        —

Results of Saturday’s O’Reilly 300 Nationwide Series race at Texas Motor Speedway:

  1. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota
  2. Tony Stewart, No. 33 Chevrolet
  3. Brad Keselowski, No. 88 Chevrolet
  4. David Ragan, No. 6 Ford
  5. Paul Menard, No. 198 Ford
  6. Matt Kenseth, No. 16 Ford
  7. Mike Bliss, No. 1 Chevrolet
  8. Jeff Burton, No. 29 Chevrolet
  9. David Reutimann, No. 10 Toyota
  10. Justin Allgair, No. 12 Dodge
  11. Michael Annett, No. 15 Toyota
  12. Joey Logano, No. 20 Toyota
  13. Jason Leffler, No. 38 Toyota
  14. Steve Wallace, No. 66 Chevrolet
  15. Jason Keller, No. 27 Ford
  16. Scott Lagasse Jr., No. 11 Toyota
  17. Michael McDowell, No. 47 Toyota
  18. Carl Edwards, No. 60 Ford
  19. Michael Waltrip, No. 99 Toyota
  20. Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 5 Chevrolet
  21. Kenny Wallace, No. 28 Chevrolet
  22. Tony Raines, No. 234 Chevrolet
  23. Brandon Whitt, No. 61 Ford
  24. Robert Richardson Jr. No. 23 Chevrolet
  25. Kenny Hendrick, No. 42 Chevrolet
  26. Peyton Sellers, No. 177 Chevrolet
  27. Casey Atwood, No. 05 Ford
  28. Morgan Shepherd, No. 89 Chevrolet
  29. Danny O’Quinn, No. 01 Chevrolet
  30. David Green, No. 07 Toyota
  31. Kevin Hamlin, No. 81 Dodge
  32. Shelby Howard, No. 70 Chevrolet
  33. Kevin Lepage, No. 52 Chevrolet
  34. Eric McClure, No. 24 Ford
  35. Burney Lamar, No. 32 Toyota
  36. John Wes Townley, No. 09 Ford
  37. Brendan Gaughan, No 62 Chevrolet
  38. Brian Keselowski, No. 26 Dodge
  39. Joe Nemechek, No. 87 Chevrolet
  40. J.C. Stout, No. 0 Chevrolet
  41. Andy Ponstein, No 102 Chevrolet
  42. Terry Cook, No. 91 Chevrolet
  43. Johnny Chapman, No. 90 Chevrolet
John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 4 2009
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