Kyle Busch, hot on the heels of last year's NASCAR domination, proved once again Saturday he is NASCAR's best driver by a wide margin
Then, following a period of frequent controversial comments that were often very funny, the same observers started addressing him as "Rowdy." But after watching his amazing performance last Saturday at the Auto Club Speedway maybe it's time we all start calling him "sir."
Busch led 143 of the 150 laps en route to winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Stater Brothers 300. His Joe Gibbs Racing/Z Line Designs Toyota completely dominated this event. This win came a matter of short hours after Busch ran away from the competition and won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race making him the first NASCAR driver to win two races, in two different series, on the same day. Oh by the way, in between these two events, he also ran his Sprint Cup Toyota during the final practice session, AKA Happy Hour, where he kept the car in the top ten on the speed charts.
In the Stater Brothers 300 Busch lined up on the outside of the front row beside pole position winner Carl Edwards. At the drop of the initial green flag it was apparent that Busch was going to be every bit as strong as he was during the truck race. He set a blistering pace and led a 40 lap green flag run before it was time for the field to come down pit road for tires and fuel.
That's when something unbelievably bizarre happened on pit road. The kind of incident that you may never witness again. Michael Waltrip's Toyota was in the process of pulling into his pit stall at the same time Brandon Whitt's Ford was leaving his pit area. Whitt hit Waltrip's car hard and sent the Toyota sliding around. One Waltrip crew member actually fell backwards over the pit wall while trying to avoid being run over by his boss. Waltrip's car came to a stop within the white lines of his pit stall although it was sitting completely backwards on pit road. A now completely rattled pit crew stood motionless at first until they heard Waltrip's very angry voice on the radio saying "I've got it parked within the white lines pit it." The team collected themselves and performed a four tire stop on their car that was still facing backwards. When the pit service was completed a still angry Waltrip did half a donut turn in the middle of pit road and headed off in the right direction.
After the round of pit stops Busch very kindly allowed Brad Keselowski's Chevrolet to lead one lap before he charged right back to the front and started leaving the field behind. However this particular run ended on lap 51 when a frightening fiery accident occurred involving Michael McDowell's Toyota. The car apparently blew an engine and erupted into flames. It was later determined that a broken piston rod shot through the engine block and ruptured the oil lines. That in turn sprayed hot oil on exhaust pipes that were even hotter. Kudos goes out to the Auto Club Speedway's fire safety crew who actually arrived at the scene before McDowell's car came to a complete stop. The true shame of this incident was the fact that McDowell set third fastest time during qualifying and was really stoked about his chances of having a great race. McDowell also admitted that two weeks ago the team wasn't sure if they could secure the available finances to even make the trip to California.
Following yellow flag pit stops Busch once again led the field under the green restart flag and once again started running away with the race. Another long green flag run took the race all the way to lap 90 before the second caution flag came out. This one was triggered by Greg Biffle whose Ford got into the rear of Brad Keselowski's Chevrolet. Keselowski spun out and hit the turn four wall hard. Jason Leffler’s Toyota also caught a piece of this wreck as well.
Following another round of yellow flag pit stops, Busch once again led the field for the restart and once again showed everyone how strong his Toyota was. At this point of the race the field seemed to be a little strung out while trying to figure out what it was going to take to race with Busch. Many will tell you that a strung out field is very typical at this track.
Wait a minute. This is the Auto Club Speedway. The track where mid race mediocrity often turns into a dramatic ending. As the laps were clicking down there was a lot of in car radio chatter about the possibility of having to make a green flag gas and go stop. The front runner's last visit to pit road was on lap 91. There was no way they were going to make it to the race ending 150th lap without another pit stop.
The solution came on lap 128 when Greg Biffle spun out and slammed hard into the turn two wall which brought out the race's final caution flag. Why the accident was just another reason why Biffle was having such a terrible night in this race, it was also a major sigh of relief for the front runners and their crew chiefs.
A seemingly mundane race, as well as another Kyle Busch runaway win, had now became the height of drama. The race was now in the process of becoming a shoot out. Busch led the field down pit road for what would become the most important stop of the race. Carl Edwards' team rose to the occasion in a very big way and got their driver out of the pits first. But it was an extremely close pit road drag race that Edwards won by a mere matter of inches.
The green flag, to launch the final shootout of the race, waved in the air on lap 134. Edwards restarted the field with Busch literally glued to his rear bumper. As the field was heading into turn three Busch used the old bump and run which caused Edward's car to get loose. When the field came back around to complete lap 135 Busch was back into the lead and Edward's was now in sixth with time and laps running out. Busch ran out the final 15 laps of the race with Kevin Harvick behind him. Joey Logano, Edwards and David Ragan completed the top five.
After taking the checkered flag for his history making two wins, in two different series, on the same day Busch jumped out of his Toyota to start celebrating with his team. For someone who had just driven in two races, with a one hour Sprint Cup practice between them, Busch seemed incredibly energized. "It's such a phenomenal opportunity to be here and associated with all these guys along with Toyota, Z Line Designs, Nos Energy Drink and Nationwide" the history making race winner said. " I just want to thank these fans for coming out here and supporting us for two races. This is really a blast and I just want to be able to put on a good show for them, he added.
Commenting on the final laps of the race Busch said "that last restart got a little nerve wracking there but it was also fun and that's what racing is all about it's what the fans come to see. Those guys, (in the top five), all made their cars better and they really came on at the end. During that battle with Harvick he really gave me a break getting down into turn one. I kind of went down on him a little bit and he let me in and that was cool. My car got tight behind Carl until I got up behind him and made him a little bit loose. Fortunately we were able to get through that and make it down the backstretch with Kevin. It was a phenomenal race."
All Kevin Harvick has wanted, since forming his own Nationwide Series team two years ago, is to win a series race while driving is own car. That special moment will have to wait for another weekend. Commenting on his second place finish the Bakersfield-California driver said "We got a good restart and I was able to sneak underneath Carl and Kyle. It looked like they got together from my vantage point. I thought if I could clear them going into turn three I might have something for them. I had a lot of trouble getting the car going following the restarts tonight because my car was really loose."
Joey Logano seemed particularly pleased with his third place finish because his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was plagued with handling problems throughout the race. "The Game Stop Toyota went through a lot today," he said adding " we got a hole punched through the nose about halfway through the race and that had to be fixed. The car was never the same after that. But we just kept working on it and on the last pit stop we got it fairly close. Obviously it wasn't good enough to win the race. Perhaps one more full pit stop would have made it even better. The guys did a really great job today by overcoming the problems and I'm proud of them."
Despite being deprived of an opportunity to win the race, Carl Edwards still managed to smile after finishing fourth. Commenting on the final restart of the race Edwards said "I was doing the best I could to hold them off but it was the last run to the checkered flag and we were racing hard. I ended up getting touched a little bit from behind, got a little loose and finally made it back to fourth. I want to thank all of my guys for getting me out of the pits first on that final fuel stop. I think if we could have raced a little longer I could have gotten by Logano or even Harvick but I don't think I could of had anything for Kyle he was really fast today."
Commenting on his top five finish David Ragan said "we'll take it. Anytime you can finish one of these Nationwide Series races in the top five, and get some points for our Discount Tire team, is a good thing. We had a good run but we all want to win and certainly want to beat all those other guys in front of us. I felt like we had the car to do the job but I also think that we may have been just one little adjustment off during that last full pit stop. These races are tough to win. When you have that good of a car that's just a little bit off when it matters the most It's a little disappointing but I'm sure we'll get over it and it will be just a little bit more motivation for Las Vegas next week." by Dave Grayson
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