|Kyle Busch, driver of the #51 Cessna Toyota, poses with the trophy after winning the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Vankor 350|
|Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images|
Kyle Busch continued his winning ways out west.
Busch held off Stewart Friesen by 1.269-seconds for his fourth-consecutive NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series victory of the season and his fourth-career win at Texas Motor Speedway.
Busch led a race-high 97 laps in the Vankor 350 en route to his 55th career series win and his 202nd among NASCAR’s top three national series.
“Those guys were able to keep up with us just way too much throughout the night," Busch said. “You know, it’s a better race that way when they’re able to keep up. That means we need to go to work and work harder in order to get ourselves faster."
Johnny Sauter, Grant Enfinger, Matt Crafton, Tyler Ankrum, Ross Chastain, Tyler Dippel, Brennan Poole and Ben Rhodes rounded out the top 10 finishers. The race was slowed by 10 cautions—tying the series track record.
Enfinger led the field to green. Stage 1 was slowed by four cautions the first involving Todd Gilliland, Chastain and Brennan Poole coming out of Turn 4 on Lap 3. Gilliland slid through the front stretch grass but continued on.
Harrison Burton, who started 10th, spun into the Turn 1 wall on Lap 11.
“I got loose on corner entry and just lost it," said Burton, who finished 31st. “Happy I’m ok. Happy I’ve got a good team behind me.
Angela Ruch and Gus Dean triggered the third caution in Turn 2 on Lap 18. Dean’s damage was too much to overcome. He wrecked again on Lap 26 and called it a night.
Enfinger won his first stage of the season. He beat ThorSport Racing teammate Ben Rhodes to the line by .034-seconds. However, a pit road penalty mired Enfinger in the back of the pack and he spent the next two stages working his way forward.
“This was our first normal race of the season," Enfinger told the No. 98 ThorSport team following his third top-five finish of the season. “Let’s keep doing this and the wins will come."
Busch inherited the lead to start Stage 2 on Lap 42. Six laps later, Anthony Alfredo, who restarted sixth, lost control of his truck following contact with Stewart Friesen entering Turn 1. The No. 54 truck hit the wall and erupted into flames. NASCAR red-flagged the race for 15:51. Busch remained on the point with Crafton, Chastain, Bubba Wallace and Brett Moffitt in tow for the Lap 57 restart. Busch held on for his sixth stage win in 2019.
With a fuel-only pit stop, Sauter took the lead out of the pits on Lap 75. He quickly faded allowing Busch to regain the lead followed by Moffitt. Moffitt barreled past Busch on the outside exiting Turn 2 on Lap 99 with Rhodes, Friesen and Enfinger in pursuit. Four laps later, Korbin Forrister spun in Turn 2 to ignite the ninth caution.
Busch held the lead through the 10th and final caution on Lap 116. Friesen, who started from the rear after an engine change, battled Busch on the final restart. Although it took Friesen 10 laps to lead one circuit, his time at the point was short-lived. He would settle for second—the fifth runner-up result of his career.
“The last couple of laps were just mad," Friesen said after his best finish of the year. “We were just tight. I just got loose underneath him. He gave me some room. Originally, I thought he was right there on my quarter. But he was doing what he had to do. After that, I was just tight. Proud of my guys. Proud of Halmar. Man, just a bummer. I thought we could have got him if we had got cleared."
With 21 laps to go, Moffitt made contact with Rhodes battling for fourth, causing his left rear tire to go flat. Although Moffitt kept the No. 24 Chevrolet off the wall, he was forced to pit for tires and dropped to 19th, two laps off the pace.
“The No. 24 (Moffitt) was who I was really worried about and then something happened to him and then (Friesen) was really fast and on our tailgate the whole finish of that race until about the last five laps," Busch said.
“I don’t know if he just got heated up or what back there. He put up a good fight and about got to me a couple times there and fortunately I was able to hold out and keep this truck up front. We just lacked a little bit of overall speed tonight and we didn’t have exactly what we wanted."
Busch returned to the lead with 20 laps to go and held the point to the finish. Friesen leads the Gander Outdoors Truck Series standings by six points over Grant Enfinger.
KYLE BUSCH, No. 51 Cessna Toyota Tundra, Kyle Busch Motorsports
Finishing Position: 1st
How does it feel to get another win tonight?
“It was a pretty good night for us. Obviously, the Cessna Beechcraft Tundra was fast. I wish it was faster. I thought we were pretty good. Not as good as we wanted to be once we stacked up next to the field. The 24 (Brett Moffitt) was really fast and the 52 (Stewart Friesen) was really fast. They made me work for it. They certainly got my money’s worth tonight. I want to say thanks to TRD (Toyota Racing Development), Rowdy Manufacturing and all of the fans – the Truck Series fans are the thoroughbreds of our sport. It’s coming out here on a Friday night, supporting the truck guys is what makes all this go round. So, appreciate them. And, of course, Gander Outdoors, Black Clover, DVX Sunglasses, Adidas and Incredible Bank. It takes a lot of us to get all of this to go, so it’s fun."
How much did the caution help you in the final run of the race?
“I don’t know. We were a little bit loose the run before that and so that’s why we took two (tires), just to try to get the balance back better. We did that. The truck was pretty good, it just lacked that overall grip. Just could never really get what I wanted to, especially out of the top. The 24 (Brett Moffitt) was ripping the top. I say the top – he was ripping the second lane through (turns) 1 and 2, where I just couldn’t do that. I tried to go out there a couple times and I'd just get so tight that I couldn’t hang. So, thankfully we had just enough – we had that track position, we were out front, and we could hang on for the win."
Were you worried about Stewart Friesen closing in on you at the end of the race?
“The 24 (Brett Moffitt) was who I was really worried about…and then something happened with him, and then the 52 (Stewart Friesen) was really fast and right there on our tailgate the whole finish of that race, until about the last five laps. I don’t know if he just got heated up or what back there. He put up a good fight and about got to me a couple of times there, and fortunately I was just able to hold out and keep the Cessna Tundra upfront and keep it out front. I don’t know, we just lacked a little bit of overall speed tonight. We just didn’t quite have exactly what we wanted. Kind of worked on it all in practice. I thought we were pretty good, but just not enough. Those guys were just able to keep up with us way too much throughout the night, I thought. It’s a better race that way when they’re able to keep up, so that means we’ve got to go to work and work harder in order to get ourselves a little faster. Thanks to Incredible Bank, Monster Energy, Rowdy Manufacturing, the fans – I appreciate all of the fans that come out here. They’re the thoroughbreds of our sport, especially the truck ones. They’re here supporting us on Friday night’s – the Gander Outdoor Truck Series. Thanks, DVX Sunglasses, Black Clover and Adidas."
Did you learn anything you can use for the other two races this weekend, and were you able to use the VHT on the track?
“The 24 (Brett Moffitt) was able to use it really well. I tried to go up there a couple times and I don’t know that the VHT was as beneficial for my truck as it was for maybe the 24. Maybe he was a tick better than us, I don’t know. Overall, I learned some things about our truck and what to do, and things that we can do to make our team better and our equipment better. But as far as for the rest of the weekend, my Xfinity car drives pretty good. Not worried about that. My Cup car is the problem right now, so we have a lot of focus on that one."
How much impact did the VHT have on the race tonight, and did you use it to block in the closing laps?
“I was blocking. He (Stewart Friesen) would get such a good run through three and four and down the front straightaway that you just had to use any means possible to just stay in front of him. There were a couple times there where he was really arcing out his entry into one and being in the VHT, and then he would chop down through that and get to the bottom…and I’d enter low, I’d enter high, I’d enter all over the place, and it just seemed that I always ended up in the same spot on center exit. It didn’t much matter for me. When I was in the VHT, I couldn’t really feel a whole lot of effect from the VHT. It just felt like still the rest of the race track.
Was this a normal reaction for the VHT on a race track?
“It’s not very normal, no. Bristol is the best place we’ve got it. Past that, when we had it at Charlotte, it was like ice for a long, long time until it wears in and gets heat. When you have cautions, as many cautions as we had and as cold as it’s going to be here the rest of the weekend, I don’t know if it’s going to activate. It takes heat to activate it. It’s a very complicated scenario with that stuff."
What are the challenges to continue improving your truck program once you’re done racing?
“For us, we aren’t a Cup team and so we move a lot slower than the Cup teams do. You all talked about how when everybody got done with the West Coast Swing, the first time people would have updates to their cars would be Texas. I don’t think we would see an update to our stuff for two months. It just takes a bit longer to kind of get all that instilled into our stuff. If you look at me running the front side of the season and running as much as I do right now, we’ve been building some notes, and we’ve been building some things that we can work on and get better and do a little bit differently, so when we get to say July, August – that's when you’ll start seeing some stuff coming out. That will be the brunt of the season kind of closing in for the Playoffs and then the Playoff push. I’d like to run more or maybe I’d like to run a little bit later, but I just don’t know that the races fall, especially with me – like going to Iowa, I’ve never been to Iowa. Gateway, those places, I don’t need to go to those places, so it doesn’t make any sense for me to go to those places. We have to rely on Rudy (Fugle, crew chief) and the other crew chiefs and drivers to make our stuff better when they go to those places."