Busch wins Nationwide race, trails Martin by one win
Kyle Busch moved within one victory of Mark Martin on the all-time NASCAR Nationwide Series win list with his first career Nationwide Series victory in Friday night’s Royal Purple 200 at the famed Darlington Raceway.
Busch led the final 23 laps after passing Elliott Sadler and beat out teammate Denny Hamlin to record his fifth Nationwide victory of the season and the 48th of his career – just one back from Martin’s all-time record.
Sadler held on to finish third, followed by Justin Allgaier and Steven Wallace.
Friday’s night’s victory was the first for Busch at a track that has so far eluded him in the Nationwide Series - recording two-runner up finishes in seven starts at the “Track Too Tough To Tame.”
“I love coming to Darlington and it’s a really tough, treacherous place for me. Kind of proved that because the right side (of the car) doesn’t look so great, but we still were able to win today,” said Busch. “It’s special because it’s so tough and so demanding. To beat the guy that we beat tonight -- Denny Hamlin -- that’s pretty cool too. We had a flawless race car today -- it was really awesome.”
Busch led four times for a race-high 49 laps, but almost saw his chances for a victory go up in smoke after a nine-car pileup broke out in front of him on lap 95, taking out Aric Almirola, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski.
Up front, Sadler and Allgaier led the field after electing not to pit on lap 90, with Sadler moving to the head of the pack with 39 laps to go.
What looked like a clever ploy on the part of Sadler’s team to trade fresh tires for track position was not the team’s plan, as Sadler turned back onto the track at the last minute as the leaders came to pit road.
Running on worn tires at Darlington proved to be a losing strategy, and with Busch quickly moving through the field on much fresher tires, Sadler didn’t stand a chance as Busch caught up and overtook Sadler on lap 124.
Sadler would eventually fall to third behind Hamlin, who never came close to mounting a challenge on Busch, finishing more than three seconds behind his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate.
“We challenged for the lead there on that second to last run, but when we came in that last stop we took two tires and the 18 (Kyle Busch) took four (tires) and it was just too much to overcome,” said Hamlin. “He just had the better tires and had the better car there at the end so we just didn’t have enough for him.
“With that wreck clearing out most of the cars, Kyle (Busch) was able to restart right behind me. That was the difference because I needed those cars as a buffer to separate us because he had the better tires.”
Already a record holder for the most wins in a single season in the Nationwide Series, Busch is now poised to beat Martin’s record for all-time wins as the series moves on to Dover and Charlotte, two tracks where Busch has racked up a combined nine Nationwide Series victories.
“Being within one of Mark’s (Martin) win record is special,” said Busch. “We’ve said it the last few times since I’ve probably been within five of being able to eclipse him. Maybe some of you say it’s inevitable, but to us we just keep working our guts out and making sure we bring good race cars to the race track
“We’ll see when it happens -- if it happens. I’m racing Dover and I’m racing Charlotte. Those are two really good places for me in a Nationwide Series -- I’ve run really well at both of those.” .
* Denotes Rookie
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