Kyle Busch's Toyota Wins Dodge Challenger 500
DARLINGTON, S. C. - Kyle Busch made it clear Saturday night that he demands respect, and the 22-year-old driver proved that he deserves it with a convincing victory in Saturday night’s Dodge Challenger 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the newly resurfaced Darlington Raceway.
This time, he didn’t have to spin anyone out to do it.
Just one week removed from his late race run-in with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. that cost him a victory at Richmond, Busch fought his way back from being a lap down to earn his first career victory at the “track too tough to tame”, beating out Carl Edwards by more than three seconds to notch his third victory of the season. Jeff Gordon, Earnhardt, Jr. and David Ragan followed.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said Busch on victory lane. “Darlington showed again tonight that it’s one of the hardest places – always has been, always will be. Even with fresh asphalt this place is tough.”
Busch led 169 of the 367 laps despite a racecar that Busch called "the most pathetic he's seen in his life”, battling back from brake problems, a pit road miscue and so many scrapes against the wall that his no. 18 Toyota was missing most of its right-side decals.
“It just doesn’t turn,” Busch said of the new car. “It doesn’t want to do what it needs to do here. Anytime you want to get by somebody, you just have to save your stuff and try to maneuver past them somehow, someway, but it’s hard to do.”
Busch’s actions on the track have led to him becoming one of the least popular drivers among the fans, who thoroughly booed Busch during pre-race driver introductions.
“I don’t care,” said Busch of his rude welcome from the fans. “I’m here to race, I’m here to win. If I win, it just makes ‘em more upset and crying on their way home.”
Busch had led 62 of the first 110 laps and was solidly in the top five before being penalized for a missing lug nut on lap 142.
Busch raced his way back onto the lead lap and moved back into the top five on lap 252 and just 18 laps later Busch was back in front of the field, moving past Gordon to re-take the top spot.
Busch and Gordon traded the lead again before Busch beat everyone off pit road during the final round of pit stops with 63 laps to go, leaving Edwards and Gordon behind as the race went green the rest of the way.
Edwards was snakebitten by the same vibration problem that plagued his four Roush-Fenway teammates, but Edwards stuck it out to pull out his fifth top-five finish of the season.
“My hat’s off to Kyle,” said Edwards. “I wanted to beat him so bad.”
“I’m definitely disappointed to finish second. Kyle had the fastest car tonight, he was pretty unbeatable. To finish second, beat the rest of the field, that’s pretty good from where we came from.”
Gordon’s third-place finish was only his fourth of the season, but a big comeback following his four previous finishes.
“We are definitely making big strides,” said Gordon. “(Crew chief) Steve Letarte just did an awesome job, he has these guys in the pits on their game, getting us out (of the pits) and gaining us spots all night long. All I did was keep it off the wall.”
Gordon seemed to be able to keep up with Busch through the later stages of the race, but in the end Busch proved to have the strongest car in the field.
“I can tell you one thing, it wasn’t because of aerodynamics tonight because Kyle hit the wall I can’t tell you how many times,” said Gordon. “His right side was destroyed.”
Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Travis Kvapil, Dave Blaney and Jeff Burton rounded out the top ten.
Kyle Busch continues to lead the series point’s standings, followed by Burton, Earnhardt, Jr., Hamlin and Clint Bowyer.
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