Kyle Busch makes quick work of Bristol truck field
Busch went from worst to first after starting at the tail end of the field and then rolled the dice on a short pit stop, stretching his fuel to lead the final 116 laps - including three laps of overtime - to post his third 19th career truck series victory and his third consecutive win at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile.”
Aric Almirola was second, followed by Ron Hornaday, Jr., Mike Skinner and Justin Lofton.
Busch needed just 91 laps - a little less than half the race distance - to slice his way to the lead, then had to sweat it out through a red flag and a final green-white-checkered finish to secure his third victory of the season in just his eighth start.
“It was a really good night. Being in victory lane at Bristol is pretty cool,” said Busch. “We had the right pit strategy. Fortunately, Eric (Phillips, crew chief) made a nice call to pit when we did.
“We saved fuel for the rest of the day. I wasn’t 100 percent aggressive on saving fuel, but I was 92 percent and we were able to prevail and get up front. It ran out on the second-to-last restart and then it ran out again on the last restart coming right there to the line. I think we led the most laps and ultimately get to victory lane.”
As if to show just how close their gamble was, Busch ran out of fuel just after taking the checkered flag
Busch won the pole for the 200-lap event but ended up starting at the tail end of the field after the team elected to change engines.
Starting at the rear of the field might seem like a daunting challenge to some - and at a track like Bristol, seemingly impossible – but to Busch it was just another day at the office.
“It was a bummer deal that we didn’t get to start from the pole and kind of lead the laps and play our strategy out a little bit, but it was still cool coming from the back I guess,” said Busch. “I wish there was an award for it or maybe a bonus for sitting on the pole, then starting in the back and coming up through there and winning. That’s just me.”
With Busch moving to the rear of the field, Elliott Sadler led the opening 17 laps after moving up to the inside of the front row for the start.
In typical Bristol fashion, the yellow flags flew early and often, with a record-setting 13 caution periods for 71 laps.
Following the third caution for Jason White’s blown motor on lap 30, Busch made his first – and final – pit stop of the night, and barely 35 laps later was rubbing bumpers with Mike Skinner for the lead.
When Skinner pitted during the eighth caution flag on lap 90, Busch inherited the top spot with 110 laps to go and checked out on the field, moving out to nearly a full straightaway lead.
With only a handful of lap remaining, Busch seemed to have the race in the bag before the yellow flag waved again for a six-truck pileup in turn four that took out David Starr and Ken Schrader and set up a three-lap shootout for the victory.
Running and on fumes and with his engine already sputtering, Busch sweated it out through a short red flag and then got a good jump over Almirola on the final restart to put him in position for the win.
With the white flag in the air, last lap crash brought out a record 13th caution flag, but it came out too late to stop Busch, who crossed the stripe ahead of the caution flag allowing him to coast to the finish.
Almirola’s runner up spot allowed him to gain a little ground on Todd Bodine in the series points standings, now trailing the 2006 series champion by 211 points.
Bodine came home sixth, followed by Brad Keselowski, Timothy Peters and Brazilian driver Miguel Paludo, who scored a top-10 finish in his first Truck Series start. Matt Crafton rounded out the top ten.
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