|Kyle Busch at Gateway|
Capitalizing on Kevin Harvick’s attempt to stretch his gas mileage beyond the capacity of his fuel cell, Kyle Busch won his sixth NASCAR Nationwide Series race of the season Saturday night and his first at Gateway International Raceway.
In a 19-lap green-flag run to the finish, Busch held off Reed Sorenson to win the Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250 at the 1.25-mile racetrack. The victory was Busch’s 27th in the series, tying him with Jeff Burton for fourth place on the career win list.
Busch extended his lead in the series standings to 212 points over third-place finisher Carl Edwards. Mike Bliss finished fourth, followed by Brad Coleman. Stephen Leicht, rookie Michael Annett, polesitter Brad Keselowski, Jason Keller and rookie Erik Darnell completed the top 10.
“Good job, guys, awesome work—great racecar,” exulted Busch after crossing the finish line.
Harvick led the field to a restart on Lap 130 after the sixth caution of the race and maintained a six-to-eight car length lead over Busch until Harvick ran out of fuel on Lap 171, coasted into the pits and lost three laps as his crew struggled to restart the engine of the No. 33 Chevrolet.
Jason Leffler, running second at the time, brought his No. 38 Toyota to pit road on Lap 175, moments before Kenny Wallace’s No. 28 Chevrolet started billowing smoke and dropped oil on the track, necessitating the seventh caution. The front-runners took the opportunity to stop for fuel and tires, with Busch winning the race off pit road.
Edwards lined up fifth after a four-tire stop but couldn’t make enough headway toward the front before the laps ran out.
“It was good, hard-fought race,” said Busch who has three wins and four runner-up finishes in his last seven NASCAR Nationwide starts. “It was a real battle there with Kevin Harvick. He had a real good car tonight. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to race him there at the end. He ran out and had to come to pit road.
“They (the No. 18 Joe Gibbs racing team) gave me a great racecar. We didn’t qualify as well as we wanted to (ninth)—maybe because of the draw, maybe because of the setup in qualifying trim—but we were steady all night.”
Notes: Keselowski won the pole in an owner points tiebreaker with Sorenson. Both drivers posted identical laps of 33.158 seconds (135.714 mph). Keselowski also got credit for a track record, courtesy of the tiebreaker. ... Harvick led a race-high 106 laps before running out of gas. ... Saturday was a bad night for Rusty Wallace Racing. Scott Lagasse Jr. got loose underneath Steve Wallace and knocked the No. 66 car into the wall on Lap 85. Sixteen laps later the other RWR car of Brendan Gaughan took out Lagasse’s No. 11 in traffic. Neither wreck appeared intentional. On Lap 121, Gaughan was eliminated from the race after colliding with the No. 16 Ford of Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Q&A with the Winner
How does it feel to get your first win at Gateway?
"That's pretty cool. It goes back to this team. They gave me a great car all weekend long. We fought it a little bit in practice. We weren't sure what we had but on the long run, man that thing was really, really good. I want to thank the fans out here in St. Louis -- especially New Balance in their first race on the car. That's pretty awesome to get them to victory lane so I'm real proud of that. Z-Line, NOS Energy Drink, Toyota, Directv, Marquis Jet and Gillette of course."
How did your car handle tonight?
"The car drove really well. We fought it a little bit in practice. We kind of were working on lap time trying to get the car a little bit faster. The balance seemed to be okay. It was a little bit tight. Yesterday we made some changes to it in practice and we felt like we were heading in the right direction. Today we went out first in qualifying so we didn't qualify as well as we would've wanted to back in ninth, but man right at the start of the green flag that thing was a rocket ship. It just drove right up to the front. I'm real pleased with the way it handled there. We kind of got stuck there in second behind (Kevin) Harvick and we made some changes to it on that first pit stop to free it up a little bit to make the car handle a little bit more to my liking and we just got a little bit too loose there. It was loose enough where I liked it but it just wasn't fast enough to go early in the run. It was hard keeping (Kevin) Harvick behind me and Carl (Edwards) and all of those guys because they were a little bit better than I was at that point. During that long green run where (Kevin) Harvick ran out of fuel we were saving our stuff and saving fuel to try to make it to the end. We were about seven laps short but we were running consistent and slower lap times just trying to conserve and make it to the end. We felt like we could've but that caution came out and kind of changed the whole complexion of everything. There at the end of the race we didn't have to fight the 60 (Carl Edwards) or the 33 (Kevin Harvick). We had to race the 32 (Reed Sorenson) and we made another adjustment to tighten up the car a little bit and we seemed to hit home with it right there. The car was really good at the end of the race and we were able to get a win here tonight."
Was this one of the hardest fought Nationwide Series races you've been in this year?
"It was a good hard fought race there. It was a real battle there with Kevin Harvick. He had a really good car tonight and unfortunately we didn't get the chance to race him there at the end. He (Kevin Harvick) ran out (of gas) and I had to come to pit road and then it kind of got him a lap down I think. This New Balance Toyota was awesome tonight. I've got to really thank the guys. They gave me a great race car. We didn't qualify as well as we wanted to maybe due to the draw -- maybe just our qualifying setup and stuff -- but we ran real good tonight. We were steady all night."
How much did your race car improve during the race?
"It got a lot better. Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and myself talked a lot and we worked on a lot of adjustments. We made the car better all night and there at the end it was really good and we didn't have to fight the 60 (Carl Edwards) and we didn't have to fight the 33 (Kevin Harvick). They weren't up there with us. The 32 (Reed Sorenson) was up there and we had to fight him a little bit there on that restart but fortunately I got a good restart and got out of there without anybody on my tail too much. I really want to thank the fans. Thanks for coming out to St. Louis and supporting the Nationwide Series and supporting all of these racers here. We appreciate it."
Where does this win rank among your wins this season?
"It fits in well because it's a place that I haven't won at. The Nationwide Series running here is my only opportunity this year. The trucks come back but I won't be able to make it. I think we're in Richmond or something like that so that would be too tough to handle. Hopefully this will just keep the momentum rolling. We've had real strong Nationwide cars this year and this is just another good one."
How much sympathy do you have for Kevin Harvick after the bad luck you've had this year?
"That was a bummer. He (Kevin Harvick) really didn't get good fuel mileage at all because they pitted like six or seven laps before us on that first stint when we all had to do our green flag stops. I'm not sure if they are struggling a little bit on fuel mileage, but their motors go down the straightaway pretty good. It's definitely frustrating for him especially being that it's his car. You really want to win in your own car. I feel for him but I felt like if we could've pressured him we had a little bit better car at that point in the race. I had no point in going up there and racing him because we were racing our own race trying to make it to the end. If I would've went up there and wasted fuel and passed him really it was for no reason. We knew if he ran out that he couldn't make it to the end so we knew we weren't racing him but we were racing the 38 (Jason Leffler) and the 32 (Reed Sorenson) behind us who we knew were on the same strategy as we were."
Were you less aggressive tonight?
"There were a couple points there where I kind of let things settle out and sort themselves out before I got too antsy to try to make a move. Here at Gateway though, man, momentum is everything that if you go into the corner and slow down behind a lap car too much then it just kills your next straightaway. You are just so slow and the guy behind you can catch up like a half of a second on you in one straightaway. You've really got to be heads up. You've really got to pick where you pass lap cars. There was a situation on the backstretch there late in the race where a guy was on the outside kind of slowing down and was pointing at me to go low on him and then there was another car about 20 yards up on the inside that was slow because he knew we were coming so I had to thread the needle right through the middle of those guys. That was an anxious moment but it turned out for the best and those guys really gave me a lot of room so I thank them for that."
JASON RATCLIFF, crew chief, No. 18 New Balance Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How did you improve the car throughout the race tonight to get Kyle Busch into victory lane?
"We felt like coming into this season our short track program was probably our weakness and we were able to win at Richmond but I don't feel like we had the best car there. I just think it worked out for us because of cautions and strategies went our way. But after Richmond this whole team, everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing in the Nationwide division went to work really hard on our short track program. Now it's showing. What we were able to do at Loudon, had an opportunity at Milwaukee to win that one and now Gateway. We come to some of these tracks where Kyle (Busch) hasn't had an opportunity to visit victory lane and to be able to do that, that's special as well. The car was fast yesterday in practice but just lacked something. It wasn't like it was overly tight or overly loose, it just needed some speed. This morning, I got up fairly early considering what time we went to bed last night. Myself, the shock guy and the car chief and just really looked over our notes and looked over some things to figure out what we could do to put some speed in this car and win a race. When it started this thing just took off. We were really pleased with it all night. We over adjusted on that one stop, maybe it was a set of tires. Then the cautions just fell our way. Our pit strategy changed about three times but it always seemed that whatever strategy we were on the caution just kind of fell our way and did what we needed to do."
||Miccosukee Resort & Gaming
||Holiday Inn / Holiday Inn Express
||Michael Annett *
||Erik Darnell *
||Northern Tool + Equipment
||Justin Allgaier *
||Long John Silver's
||Stop Repair B ills.com
||Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches
||Danny O'Quinn Jr.
||John Wes Townley *
||Ken Butler III *
||Aaron's Dream Machine
||Protex by Bardahl
||Aaron's Dream Machine
||U.S. Border Patrol
||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
||Brendan Gaughan *
||Michael McDowell *
||Missouri / Illinois Dodge Dealers
||Scott Lagasse Jr. *
||America's Incredible Pizza Company
||Derrike Cope Inc.
||Drive Shaft |
||Derrike Cope Inc.
||Smith Iron Works
* Denotes Rookie