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Busch Wins, Danica Spins In Loudon

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 26 2010

Kyle Busch does a burnout after winning at New Hampshire on Saturday. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Mike Harris | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Loudon, N.H. – Kyle Busch won again in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series, setting a record  for career laps led on the way to his victory Saturday in the New England 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

But Busch had to share the attention Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with a driver who finished 30th, five laps off the pace.

For Danica Patrick, it was another often frustrating and sometimes confusing day of learning how to race a stock car.

IndyCar’s glamour girl, racing in only her fourth NASCAR event, collided with veteran racer Morgan Shepherd on the sixth lap of the race. The bump sent her Chevrolet spinning into the wall, though she was able to continue.

“It’s disappointing to go down a lap so early,’’ she said, talking amiably with a group of reporters while sitting on the pit wall after the race. “It’s disappointing to start the race with car damage. It’s disappointing to get lapped so many times.

“But, then again, I was thinking out there at the end that it reminds me a lot of my first couple of short oval races in an IndyCar. I got lapped liked a ton of times in those. It’s part of the

Danica Patrick spins after contact with Morgan Shepherd Saturday. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

process, it’s part of learning and I know these things are going to happen. There’s a lot of really good drivers out here and I was learning how to set people up and pass and how much track to use. I did learn a lot. It’s important to finish these laps and I’ll be better next time.’’

The 25-year-old Busch, who is only racing part-time in the series, ran away from series points leader Brad Keselowski at the end to earn his sixth Nationwide win of the season and the 36th of his career. He also became the first two-time winner in 24 Nationwide events here.

Busch led 125 of the 200 laps on the 1.058-mile oval, raising his total in eight years to 8,117. That broke the mark of 8,082 laps led by Mark Martin in 21 years of racing in NASCAR’s second-tier series.

“That’s pretty cool and it comes after beating one of the best – Mark Martin,’’ said Busch, who gave Joe Gibbs Racing its 50th Nationwide victory.

Martin is still the all-time series leader with 48 victories, a record that Busch admits he covets.

“There’s one more record I’m after  and that’s the win record to try to beat him and see how many I can set,’’ noted Busch, who moved into a second-place tie with Kevin Harvick with Saturday’s victory.

It appeared that the battle at the end of the race was going to be between Busch and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano. But Logano spun his wheels on the final restart with 18 laps to go and wound up fourth, trailing Keselowski and Carl Edwards.

“Driver error,’’ said Logano, who is the defending champion in Sunday’s Lenox 301 Sprint Cup race. “I probably should have finished second, but I spun my tires and that was my fault. Kyle beat me those last few restarts, so I knew I had to get it right this time. I hit it right, but I just spun the heck out of them.’’

A lot of the post race attention turned to Patrick, who looked grim when she first got out of the car.

There was some debate over who was at fault in the accident with Shepherd.

Patrick said she really didn’t know what happened , while Shepherd, who went on to finish 22nd, said, “It was just racin’. I drove down beside her and she didn’t give me much room.  I turned to the left and ran into her. … I hate that I got into her.

“She’s new to this. She’ll be all right.’’

Crew chief Tony Eury Jr., agreed.

“This a whole different kind of racing,’’ he said. “She wants to run a lot better than she is, but this is a tough place and a tough short track. I’m proud of her. She ran the whole race. We had that accident at the first of the race and I think it damaged the left front.’’

Asked what other short track experience Patrick has had, Eury said, “None, other than go-karts and what the IRL does, and you can’t run close in them.

“That’s the thing. I think it’s going to be a lot of depth perception, what techniques you need to use.  At one point, she said, `I bumped into the guy in front of me’ and I said, `That’s one way to get by ‘em.’ It’s a bigger learning curve than most people think.’’

Patrick, who will get back into her Andretti Autosport IndyCar next week on the road course at Watkins Glen before returning to the Nationwide Series on July 9 at Chicagoland Speedway, said she feels like she is making progress in her NASCAR apprenticeship.

“Everything’s very new for me,’’ she said. “But now we’ve had short ovals, big superspeedways, mile and a halfs, it’s been a mixed bag so far. It’s been a lot of learning. I thank all those people out there that still want to keep watching me because it can’t be fun to watch the driver you’re cheering for go laps down and get passed. But, you know, I’m learning and it’ll help me get better.’’

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

Mike Harris | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 26 2010
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