Two for the Show
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Predicting the outcome of the Nationwide series points battle is fairly easy to figure these days. You find out which Sprint Cup regulars are going to race full time in the Nationwide and that’s where you find your favorites.
This year’s favorites heading into the season were Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch for just that reason.
And sure enough, that is the way things are starting to go.
Last weekend’s Nationwide race at Bristol ended with Edwards on top of the standings – where he started the race – and Busch moving up from fifth to third. Kevin Harvick won the race, moving him to second in points, but Harvick is not committed to running the entire schedule so he will begin heading down the standings in short order.
The Nationwide teams have this weekend off, but when they resume next weekend, it will be Edwards vs. Busch as the story line. Edwards’ lead will be 124 points.
Busch led three times for a race-high 156 laps in the Scotts Turf Builder 300 last Saturday. But a late-race penalty denied the driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota his 23rd career Nationwide Series victory and a shot at closing the gap on Edwards even more.
Busch was in the lead when he pitted under caution on lap 254 of the 300-lap race, but during the stop, a rear tire rolled outside of his pit box. With his four-tire stop complete, the jack dropped, signaling to Busch that it was time to go. Unfortunately, the errant tire had not been captured as Busch pulled away from his pit stall. The miscue resulted in a penalty, with NASCAR issuing Busch a stop-and-go pit stop on his next trip around the .533-mile oval. As a result of the additional stop, the Joe Gibbs Racingdriver lost several positions and had to restart the race in 15th.
Despite the setback, Busch rallied to a sixth-place finish, which gained him valuable points in his quest of his first Nationwide Series title.
“We had a good car,” said Jason Ratcliff, crew chief of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota. “Kyle drove the wheels off of it. He drove hard. He worked hard today, and when you work hard and you don’t get your rewards for it, it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating for him, it’s frustrating for this race team, but we’ll move on.”
And the team will work on its over-the-wall efforts.
“We’ll figure out what we need to do in that same situation next time a tire gets away,” Ratcliff said. “We would’ve been better off if we could’ve held him there until we got the tire back. It would’ve lost us a couple spots, but we obviously wouldn’t have gone back to 15th. But it happens. We were working on the right front fender and I was paying attention to that and I didn’t see the tire get away and by the time I saw it he was gone. It is what it is. We had a good car, though. He drove hard and we’ll regroup and go to the next one and try to win it.”