Kyle Busch wins Charlotte Nationwide race
Kyle Busch rebounded from a pit road miscue and made a risky fuel mileage gamble pay off with a victory in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch came back from two laps down and ran the final 61 laps on one tank of fuel and held off a hard charging Brad Keselowski during a green-white-checkered overtime finish to notch his fifth victory of the season and his second in a row.
Joey Logano, Justin Allgaier and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five.
It was Busch’s sixth victory and 11th top-10 finish in 14 races at Charlotte, tying Mark Martin for the most wins at the 1.5-mile track.
“We don’t like to make them too easy I guess,” said Busch. “We had a great car. In the beginning we were really tight, then we made some changes and got really loose. I was just trying to fight it and find out what I needed.
Busch’s run in the no. 18 NOS Energy Toyota will be his last Nationwide Series start until June as the Cup Series schedule splits off for the next four weeks. He currently sits second in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series standings.
“I would love to rave them all,” said Busch, “but we’ve got bigger and better things on Sundays. We’re going for that championship over there, we’re second in points. We’ve got a good start to the season (in the Cup series), we just need to finish it off.”
It was a sweet vindication for Busch after the previous week’s disastrous finish in the Sprint All Star race, where Busch hit the wall after getting blocked by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin while battling for the lead.
The incident led to a heated post-race confrontation between the two, who continued trading bards through the media throughout the week.
Busch got better help from his other JGR teammate Logano, who was behind Busch for all three of the final starts and ultimately helped push Busch to victory.
“Not enough again,” said Logano. “We thought two tires would make the difference. We were sitting in a good position there, just not fast enough. We had a third-place car and we finished third.”
In typical come-from-behind fashion, Busch rallied from two laps down after being busted speeding coming off pit road on lap 50.
Busch fought his way back through the field, getting back onto the lead lap as the field cycled through green-flag stops, cracking into the top five as the field came to pit road again on lap 139 for what would be Busch’s last stop of the day.
Busch’s crew got the out first ahead of Greg Biffle and Logano, putting Busch back at the head of the pack.
When the fourth caution flag of the day flew on lap 139, Busch and his crew chief Jason Ratcliff had a decision to make – give up the lead and come to pit road, or gamble that their fuel would hold out.
“I knew the 22 (Keselowski) were going to do whatever we did,” said Ratcliff. “After watching the All Star race last week, I felt that if it came to that and we were leading the race, if the car was handling okay, then (staying out) was going to be the call.
“When the caution came out, I was pretty confident that was what we needed to do and when I heard (Keselowski) say that they were going to do whatever we did, that just kind of solidified our decision.”
Busch stayed out, with Keselowski in tow, but two more quick caution flags put the race into overtime, stretching Busch’s fuel reserve to the limit.
“If it went green, it was going to be really close,” said Ratcliff. “With all the green-white-checkereds, it was pushing it.”
On the final restart, Busch pulled away while Keselowski and Logano fought side by side for second.
Keselowski pulled clear and began reeling in Busch, pulling to within a car length in turn four, but ran out of time as Busch flashed to the finish by .112 seconds over Keselowski
“I felt like if we had one more lap, we had a shot at it,” said Keselowski. “The 18 (Busch) and 20 (Logano) did a great job working together on restarts, getting a good push away. It was just enough to give them a one-lap cushion where I couldn’t catch him.
“It was all about the restart and he just beat us.”
Although he didn’t win the race, Keselowski still scored big, holding onto the points lead by a single maker over Busch, who will not race in the next three races.
”I’m really going to miss him,” Keselowski joked. “We bring out the best and worse in each other.
Notes: Brad Coleman will drive the No. 18 Toyota next Saturday at Nashville. Matt DiBenedetto will be behind the wheel of the No. 20, replacing Logano. … Kevin Harvick, who is third in points, 94 behind Keselowski, also will forego the Nashville race. Mike Bliss will drive the No. 33 Chevrolet for Harvick.
* Denotes Rookie
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