Kyle Busch nips Ryan Blaney for XFINTY win

With a relentless charge that forced Ryan Blaney into a mistake on the final lap, Kyle Busch grabbed the lead with a half-lap left at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and took the checkered flag in Saturday’s Lilly Diabetes 250 NASCAR XFINITY Series race.

Blaney missed his mark in Turn 2 as Busch closed in, and with his momentum broken, the driver of the No. 22 Ford couldn’t stave off Busch’s winning pass on the backstretch. The No. 54 pulled away to win by .421 seconds, as Busch continued his white-hot run with his second XFINITY victory of the season, his second at The Brickyard and the record 72nd of his career.

Since returning to competition in May after an injury absence, Busch has won three times in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and twice on the XFINITY circuit.

Blaney led by more than .6 seconds when he crossed the stripe to complete Lap 97 of 100. But the lapped car of Derrike Cope slowed his progress on the following circuit, and Busch cut the advantage in half.

Busch had closed the gap to .279 seconds when he took the white flag, and constant pressure from the No. 54 Toyota finally forced Blaney into a mistake.

"I just got close enough to make him mess up and made him get tight off (Turn) 2, and then I was able to capitalize underneath him with him losing his momentum off of 2 and being able to get under him," Busch said. "It was the class of the field. We should have won this thing going away, but I guess we had to make it exciting."

With the XFINITY Series running a higher-drag package this weekend, Busch tried in vain — until the final circuit-to get around Blaney in the closing laps.

"I was trying to back up so I could get some clean air and keep my tires as fresh as possible, but I got too far back and got out of the draft and then I couldn’t make up any ground anymore, so I was kind of stuck back there about eight or 10 car lengths and not really going anywhere," he explained.

"Fortunately, a couple of lapped cars messed up his momentum and didn’t mess up mine as much, and I was able to get through there. Once I got back close enough to him, I pushed him into a mistake and that was all that it took."

A despondent Blaney took the blame for the loss.

"It’s my fault, obviously," Blaney said. "You saw it. I screwed up. This team doesn’t deserve that. I dropped the ball for them today, and I take full responsibility. It’s all my fault…I got tight and I got too deep and didn’t get off the long corner.

"It’s a pretty bad feeling to throw one away here at the Brickyard. There was no pressure for 24 laps, and the last one I just made a mistake."

Blaney had taken the lead from Busch on a restart on Lap 76, after Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Erik Jones, hit the wall on lap 70, and NASCAR called a caution because of fluid on the track.

Rookie Daniel Suarez ran third in his first visit to The Brickyard, collecting his third straight top-five of the season. Paul Menard finished fourth, followed by Elliott Sadler, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson.

Regan Smith came home eighth and claimed his second straight $100,000 bonus in the XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash program, keeping his hopes alive for a $1-million payday. If Smith is the highest-finishing eligible driver at Bristol (Aug. 21) and Darlington (Sept. 5), he’ll earn a total of $1 million.

KYLE BUSCH, No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

Finishing Position: 1st

How were you able to make the last lap pass on Ryan Blaney?

“I just got close enough to make him (Ryan Blaney) mess up and made him get tight off (turn) two and then I was able to capitalize underneath him with him losing his momentum off of two and being able to get under him. Can’t say enough about Chris Gayle (crew chief) and all these guys on this Monster Energy Camry. It was the class of the field, we should have won this thing going away, but I guess we had to make it exciting. Kyle Busch cautions will always save the XFINITY race. Can’t say enough about Toyota, TRD (Toyota Racing Development), XFINITY and hopefully that was exciting down to the last lap for the fans."

Have you been this hot during a race recently?

“No and it’s going to be a long recoup tonight. Certainly this is just hot. This drag package all we’re doing is trying to get all the drag built out of the cars now and we have no driver cooling or anything like that. It’s hot."

How good does it feel to be a two-time winner at the Brickyard in XFINITY competition?

“I appreciate it – it doesn’t feel good for me right now, but it feels good to be in victory lane. Just a great race car. This Monster Energy Camry was awesome today. The guys gave me a great piece – Chris Gayle (crew chief) and everybody did a really good job for me. Can’t say enough about Toyota, Monster Energy, TRD and the fans, Joe Gibbs Racing engines and XFINITY. It was certainly not the kind of end to the race that I was expecting to have, but them Kyle Busch cautions will make that. It certainly I guess put on a better show, I don’t know. It seemed like the best car all day. Really, really had a hard time passing the guy that was leading the race and that’s just not right. I just got tight there that last run and fortunately I was able to get close enough to (Ryan) Blaney to push him a little bit harder to make him into a mistake and he did that off of two and I was able to get by him. Hopefully that was a good race. It was frustrating from my seat, that’s for sure."

Were you trying to save your equipment towards the end of the race by backing up from Blaney?

“I was trying to back up so I could get some clean air and keep my tires as fresh as possible, but I got too far back and got out of the draft and then I couldn’t make up any ground anymore so I was kind of stuck back there about eight or 10 car lengths and not really going anywhere. Fortunately, a couple lapped cars messed up his (Ryan Blaney) momentum and didn’t mess up mine as much and I was able to get through there. Once I got back close enough to him, I pushed him into a mistake and that was all that it took."

What does it mean to have your son here to kiss the bricks in Indianapolis?

“He’s (Brexton Busch) either a good luck charm or he just really likes going to victory lane because he’s certainly been to a lot of them in the last few weeks so really pumped about that. Just a great effort by our team and our whole organization, but to have the family there with my wife, Samantha and my son was really cool. I’m not so sure he knows exactly what kissing the bricks is all about, but he was certainly out there and taking it all in for what it’s worth today."

How exciting is it to win a race with a last lap pass?

“It’s cool and it’s great and all, it made for an exciting last lap. We never should have been in that position to begin with, that’s what’s frustrating for me. You just have to race these things out and let these things play out like they do sometimes whether it goes green or you have those cautions. We just did our best today at being able to maximize what we had at every given point. If it wasn’t for a mistake by the car in front of us we would have lost today. That would have just been defeating for Chris (Gayle, crew chief) and these guys. We knew how good our car was."

What was much of your frustration from on the radio?

“I was frustrated just from the yellow or from the onset of that yellow, I never saw anything on the race track. As we kept going this package that was supposed to promote drafting and everything, it just wasn’t working right. It was kind of frustrating in that regard and then when you got to the corner the wake was bigger than what we all had anticipated. I felt like last year it was a little easier to maintain to the car in front of you. What happened down the straightaways was probably okay, but it just wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to make a difference. We powered through what this package was and the guys at the shop and the guys here did a really good job preparing for it. Besides that, it was hot out there and these cars are so hot because with the high drag, now we’re doing everything we can to cut drag. We put solid windows in on the right side, we had no openings. The only opening we had was we suck a little air behind the headrest out through the driver’s net and that’s the only air that was coming inside the car for the cool box and for the seat and everything. I just got melted. Just really, really hot and that’s about it."

How are you feeling and are you recovering at all yet?

“It’s certainly going to take some time to get better yet. I’m still warm, I’m not even cool in here (media center) yet and I’m soaking wet. I just have to get dry and get some fluids in me tonight and take it easy and get ready for tomorrow."

How will you adjust the cooling in the car for tomorrow’s race?

“I don’t know, I know tomorrow I think we have a couple nacas (duct) open already. Unfortunately, we’re just going to have to worry about driver cooling and take a penalty probably on speed if some of those other cars aren’t going to take that penalty and have openings in their windows. We’ll see what happens, but there’s going to be some things that we’re going to want to do for traffic also that we can help and try to not make the car so sensitive in traffic. We’ll be utilizing those tools also."

CHRIS GAYLE, crew chief, No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

What did you need to adjust on the car to get it this strong?

“Actually we’ve had a good car all weekend. We really changed nothing from yesterday, but we did do a lot of work the previous two weeks. Indy is a big race for us so there was a lot of work knowing that this new package was coming about and we spent time devoted to trying to make it better. Just reduce drag, pickup downforce – all the things that NASCAR kind of was trying to not do with this package so we just tried to optimize that and unloaded a little too tight. Worked on it for probably three or four runs and then we were pretty close. We kind of just tweaked on it from there and we actually stopped practice early, which doesn’t happen often because Kyle (Busch) was just happy with the balance of the car.

Is there anything that can be done to help the air flow into the car with this package?

“NASCAR needs to mandate some way that they can take air from the outside for the AC units and things like that so it’s even for everybody – that would help a little."

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