Busch Wins “A Pretty Big One” At Bristol
By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Joe Gibbs Racing Nationwide Series crew chief Jason Ratcliff knew from the first time he met Kyle Busch the Nevada native would eventually earn a record 50 career victories in the NASCAR series. Busch accomplished the feat Friday night in his 219th race – the Food City 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
After dominating the 250-lap event on the tough half-mile track, Busch found himself locking horns with JGR teammate Joey Logano on the final lap for the narrow 0.019-second victory. It was the closest ever finish in a Nationwide race at Bristol and the seventh closest in series history since electronic scoring was implemented in 1993.
“There’s an awful lot of accomplishments and it’s hard to pin point exactly where they fall, but, certainly, tonight is a pretty big one,” Busch said after breaking Mark Martin’s record of 49 career Nationwide victories. “Just being able to race that hard and race against a teammate like that, knowing he had just as good a stuff as I did. If there had been two more laps, he probably would have got me.”
The last-lap duel was set up by the final caution period that consumed laps 192-197. Logano, Jason Leffler and Elliott Sadler opted to remain on the track while the rest of the lead-lap cars pitted. When the race returned to green flag conditions Logano led with Busch in fourth. Logano paced the field for 12 laps before Busch regained the lead.
On the final lap, Logano dove to the inside of Busch and raced him door-to-door, inching
ahead as they exited turn 4. Busch, however, had the outside groove and his Toyota carried the momentum down the frontstretch and into victory lane.
“It’s a frustrating deal,” Logano said. “It stinks to be that close and you don’t get the win. It’s two times this year. Dover and then here that we’ve been so close to winning these things and we didn’t put it together.
“When he got those fresh tires he was able to get by me with new tires. Once the tires kind of equaled out, I was catching him through the traffic and then I got under him a couple of times, couldn’t clear him and I knew I had one more shot there on the last lap. I got door-to-door with him and I was going to slide it down in there and do everything besides wrecking him. I went in there and slid him up the race track, bounced off doors and all.”
Busch, who led four times for 186 laps, admitted the final lap would have been “a lot uglier” if he hadn’t been racing his teammate.
“Who’s to say what would have happened, but depending on who you would have been racing with is how dirty it would have got,” said Busch, who averaged 93.218 mph in the race that was slowed by five caution flags for 27 laps.
In planning for that final lap, Busch said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to give Logano the inside or the outside.
“I kept getting a little too loose when I would go down to the bottom and try to run around the bottom of the race track,” Busch explained. “I don’t know if it was aero with him being so close to me or just the right rear sliding out from underneath me. The middle was where I could carry the most momentum and run down the straightaways a bit faster than him. I knew if it came down to a race where we would bang each other’s doors through (turns) 3 and 4 like we did, that getting back to the gas and coming through turn 4 as hard as you could, taking the momentum from the top side would be the way to do it.”
Clint Bowyer, the only other driver to lead the event, finished third.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. maintained the standings lead by five points over Sadler, who finished eighth.
– Deb Williams can be reached at email@example.comNo Comment