|Kyle Busch celebrates with his family|
In a race that saw action all over the track on Saturday, perhaps the most impressive pass came with four laps remaining in the Great Clips 250 Benefiting Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Kyle Busch chased down Chase Elliott with less than 10 laps remaining to put pressure on the 2014 Series Champion. Busch passed Elliott with four laps remaining and held on for the victory.
It marked Busch’s 71st victory in the NASCAR XFINITY Series
Busch called it a very emotional win on his first trip back in the XFINITY series this year.
“You never know when it’s your last, obviously that’s for sure after Daytona and what happened," he added. “It is certainly really good to be back in Victory Lane and I can’t say enough about my wife and my family, everyone that pushed me so hard to get me back in the race cars and doing what I love to do."
Busch had to fight off a number of attacks from a bunch of very competitive cohorts, especially late in the race when he got around Chase Elliott with four laps remaining to win by just under one half second. Kyle Larson ended up third, followed by current series points leader Chris Buescher, Elliott Sadler, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano, both of whom appeared on the verge of winning late in the race before coming in contact with each other with seven laps remaining.
Harvick had cut down under Logano, then moved up rather unexpectedly, with both drivers brushing the wall and falling to sixth and seventh, respectively, where they would finish. That gave the lead to Elliott, but not for long. Four laps later Busch made a bold move, passing four cars with help from a push by Harvick.
“Our car was really fast and I felt like if we could just get to clean air then we could probably hold everyone off," Busch explained, “but it was going to be hard to pass that 22 (Logano). Fortunately, Harvick took care of that for us."
Harvick took full responsibility for the scrape with Logano. “It was totally my fault," he said.
Logano, who led a race high 54 laps, unhappily agreed with Harvick.
“We were racing for a win here and it just seems like he (Harvick) drove in there pretty hard in trying to slide me," Logano added. “I drove up in there too and he got loose underneath me and got into my left rear and up we both went into the wall. I was racing hard and he just drove over his head a little bit."
Kyle Bush Finishing Position: 1st
How special is it to win your first XFINITY race back from your accident?
“This is only a preliminary to what we have to do for Sunday. This is a start – you have to start somewhere right? Can’t say enough about this team and everyone with Monster Energy, Toyota, TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and Chris Gayle (crew chief) did an awesome job today with this race car. We messed up a little bit on a pit call, but we made up for it. Hard racing there today. It was crazy – the side-by-side action and everything that we got here finally. The track is kind of widening out and gives us some cool action for the fans and for everyone in this XFINITY Series watching at home on TV. It was a fun race for me anyway. Just proud of the team, proud to be back in victory lane and can’t say enough to thank my wife and all my family, all my friends and everybody that pushed me hard and got me back here so it was pretty cool."
Did you believe you had a winning car today?
“I wasn’t too surprised that we’re standing here, no. I knew we had a good piece, I just didn’t think we had a winning piece. This place here with restarts and we saw it with restarts all day long how they were kind of back and forth. A guy who was on the inside leading could be fifth by the time he came off turn two. Anything can happen in those moments. I fought hard and this team fought hard and had some good pushes there towards the end and then (Kevin) Harvick and Joey (Logano) there getting at it a little bit in the corner obviously helped our day. I don’t know if we could have passed the 22 (Logano), but we were really, really, really close to the 22 today. It was kind of all depending on who got out front first."
What happened in the closing laps of the race?
“I got a good push from (Kevin) Harvick there on the frontstretch and into turn one and I knew I needed to kind of get up towards the middle. I didn’t know if he was going to go high or go low on me and he ended up going high, but I didn’t block him quick enough and he got a run on the outside and that just forced me back to fifth – it just sucked me back so fast. As we ran along there with laps I thought I would have an opportunity to get back up there. Our car was really fast and I felt like if we could just get to clean air then we could probably hold everybody off, but it was going to be hard to pass that 22 (Logano) car and fortunately Harvick took care of that for me. They got together a little bit. This place was so fast today and such hard racing was going on. I hope it was a good show for the fans because I enjoyed it. I thought it was fun and this XFINITY Series and these cars put on a good race today. The track is finally starting to widen out where you can really get some action going on. I can’t wait for the next five years down the road where you actually see that third lane and fourth lane start to come in."
Was the pit strategy in your favor early in the race?
“It wasn’t in our favor and it didn’t play out in our favor, we just had a fast car to get back to the front. I can only say thanks to Chris Gayle (crew chief) for giving me a fast race car today and letting me do what I needed to do behind the wheel. Our pit strategy didn’t quite work out the way we had anticipated or hoped that it would, but that’s part of racing sometimes. You get green flag runs, you get cautions or whatever it might be. Our car was really good today and it was a fun race for us. The Monster Energy Camry is back in victory lane and nothing better than that with this team, everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota, TRD – I can’t say enough about everybody there. Again, XFINITY Series, we appreciate them coming on board this year and helping us enjoy our Saturdays."
Is this an emotional win for you?
“It certainly is, it’s an emotional day and any win is. You never know when it’s your last, obviously that’s for sure after Daytona and what happened. It is certainly really good to be back in victory lane here today and obviously I can’t say enough about my wife and my family and my friends, everybody that pushed me so hard to get me back to here and get me back in the race cars and doing what I love to do. Thankful that Brexton is here today, he’s hanging out with us and sleeping right through it. He’ll see the pictures of it when he’s a little older, but I’m not so sure he’ll remember today."
How much fun was this race for you?
“It was a really fun day, from my seat anyway. I thought the race was a really good race and a competitive one at that. Kind of trading back and forth a little bit with the 22 (Joey Logano), the 88 (Kevin Harvick), the 33 (Paul Menard) was up there too. Really fun and enjoyable from my seat. All in all, I guess we kind of got off a little bit on that pit strategy deal, which was just different from everybody else. When we did that, it kind of had to bring us back down with that caution with about 30 (laps) to go and we ended up just putting tires on it and making sure we were good to go to the end and then knowing we had a fast race car – just trying to pick and choose our battles and how to get back to the front and using the outside and then plenty of restarts after that too. That final one was really good for us to get a push from Harvick to get up to the lead and clear the 22 before getting into turn one and I was like, ‘Alright, just don’t screw it up.’ As soon as I got to one and I screwed it up and Harvick got to my outside and then I got freight-trained there to the back about fifth or sixth I think before entering turn three. Had to just get back going and rebuild my momentum and get back rolling and then the 88 and the 22 kind of got into it a little bit there and washed up the race track where it gave me a hole to get through. Then soldiered on with no caution to chase down the 9 (Chase Elliott) and ultimately get to him. Wasn’t sure how I would be able to pass him, I just knew to try to put him in a bad spot that I could get myself in a better spot so he’d have to roll out or lift to not take a chance. That all ended up happening through three and four and led the last few laps. Real good opportunity for us to be back in victory lane. I appreciate Chris (Gayle, crew chief) and these guys – they did a great job this weekend for me and putting together a good piece on the race track."
Is the fact you chose this race to come back and then won an indication that you are close to 100 percent?
“Choose is a relative term, but we came back for this race let’s put it at that and did a great job. I had a lot of help in doing that. I would say that yeah, I’m getting better each and every day. I think every day is a step in the right direction. Obviously the first step was being able to stand up, the next step was being able to walk – all those things. Then getting in the Cup car and being able to race in that and try to knock off some good finishes. Unfortunately, we haven’t been knocking off the finishes in which we’ve been running – Charlotte we ran top-five and Dover we ran top-five and last week we probably finished where we should have last week, but I was a little disappointed in the finish just where we were late in the going. We were kind of up in third or fourth or something like that. This is a race that I wasn’t slated to do post injury. We were actually going to try to come back at Kentucky I think. It wasn’t really that big of a deal. Just trying to make sure that I continue through the right healing and doing all those things the best I can."
Did you have any reservations about returning to NXS this weekend?
“No, no reservations to come back to XFINITY here. I’ve run it for so long, so many years and yeah I got hurt in it, but could have been hurt in any other race too on the Cup side. That’s not what we worry about as drivers. You worry about trying to go out there and do what we did today, just have fun and work hard and try to prepare ourselves to get ready for tomorrow and learn some things out there. I felt like I learned some things today that could be beneficial and useful for tomorrow in the Cup race and that’s kind of why I’ve always run these races is just that tooling factor to get myself prepared a little bit better. It’s all been good. Whether it was this weekend or Kentucky that I returned, it really didn’t make that much of a difference. I was just trying to get myself through the off week and past Daytona so you could just make sure we had a few more weeks. No harm, no foul here this weekend, it’s all been pretty good."
When did you expect to get back to victory lane?
“I never really put much thought into any time during the recovery as to when I needed to be back into victory lane. Just knew that I’m good enough, Joe Gibbs Racing is good enough, Chris Gayle (crew chief) is, Adam Stevens (NSCS crew chief) is, whether it was the Cup side or the XFINITY side, I certainly knew that we would win some races this year. This doesn’t surprise me. I think that we’ve just got to make sure that we’re able to have this sort of success on Sunday. No added pressure, but I’ve always known it’s been there. We’ve been running strong the last couple of weeks, we just need to find that little bit more on Sundays to put ourselves in the bracket of those guys that are running up front each and every week like the 4 (Kevin Harvick), the 41 (Kurt Busch) and the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) ran good last week and the last few weeks this year – he has four wins, geez. That group of guys, we just have to be able to run with them and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to. We just have to get a little bit better."
What do you expect from the potential new Sprint Cup package?
“I have no idea what to expect really, I’ve never driven them. They had a test here last year or the year before that they kind of tested those rules or that configuration let’s call it and a lot of the drivers were very receptive to it, they liked it. Less grip, more off throttle time and just more ability to maneuver the car around and put more in the driver’s hands instead of just this aero game – literally we’re racing 3400 pound Indy cars every week, it’s crazy just how these things feel now and how glued to the race track they are. We have to get the stock car back into it and have it slide around a little bit. That’s what we all grew up wanting to be was stock car drivers, not Indy car drivers. I hope that they continue on down that path, I think it’s good for all of us. Whether it relates to closer racing, more side-by-side racing, closer finishes or the 43rd car being closer to the leader, I don’t know any of that. I didn’t drive any of it. I’m optimistic for the package and being able to put more in the driver’s hands."
What are your thoughts on Christopher Bell and his first NCWTS start scheduled for Iowa next week?
“The kid is fast. He’s done a wonderful job in our Super Late Model program. We know our Super Late Model program is good – I go to some shows during the year and I win it, Erik Jones has won in it and we’ve had some others that have come and sat in our seats and they don’t win in it, they don’t run very well and sometimes they tear up stuff. Chris (Bell), I think his worst finish is second or third and shouldn’t have even been second or third in some of those, he just had either a bad restart, which he’s learning or the winner may have taken a tire because they had a flat tire in the middle of the race in these races that you don’t get tires. That’s obviously an advantage. Chris going to Iowa in the Truck Series, he ran that K&N race out there and first lap on the track in practice he hauls off into the corner and turns the steering wheel and it don’t turn so then it all of the sudden bites and he gases it up and he spins it out and backs it in I guess, minimal damage, but he learned right then and there, ‘Alright, well you don’t do that again.’ We wanted to get him that experience to get him slated for the truck and Toyota has really been behind him, even since his sprint car and midget days and all that stuff – appreciate their support and helping him to the truck level. We’ll see what we can do, get him some experience at Iowa. Expectations, I don’t know. Just try to run all the laps, stay on the lead lap I guess. Really should be able to do top-15, not that challenging and then from there we’ll see what other races we can work on to try to get him in some truck races this year or maybe just wait until next year and fill him in."
CHRIS GAYLE, crew chief, No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How challenging has this season been with different drivers in the No. 54 Camry?
“I think it definitely was a challenging season. We started off with expectations of having Kyle (Busch) in the car the whole time except for the non-companions and really kind of picking up where the 54 left off the last couple years. Obviously when he gets hurt, you go through the different rotation of drivers not exactly knowing who you’re going to have week to week. You know you want to put good cars out, but you’re getting some experience guys and Erik’s (Jones) done a great job, but he just hasn’t been to some of the race tracks. At the same time, we hadn’t worked together as a team and it’s a little bit different than what we had last year with the 11 car team. It was challenging working through some of that and we’ve kind of gotten better over the last few weeks. I think you saw a second at Charlotte, Dover we contended to win and I think we’ve just done a little better with that each week. I think Kyle coming back will give us the consistency that really brings it to the next level. This is a great win this weekend."
STEVE DESOUZA, Executive Vice President NASCAR XFINITY/Development, Joe Gibbs Racing
How important is this win to Joe Gibbs Racing?
“Obviously for Joe Gibbs Racing, it’s huge. Great to have Kyle (Busch) back. As Chris (Gayle, crew chief) had said, starting in Daytona that was a big setback for us and for Kyle and it was a great relief for us to have him back today and to take him right to winner’s circle. That was big for the company, for Chris and for Kyle and I think for Chris and his team and for all our teams really, we’ve shuffled all three of them a little this year so we’ve been in kind of a rebuilding mode. The crew chiefs on all three teams have done a real good job and coming together, putting their heads together and formulating programs, improving our cars and I think obviously when we have somebody like Kyle in there to help us benchmark and tell us where we are, that’s helpful – same with Denny (Hamlin), Matt (Kenseth) and the Cup guys that are in there. We’re looking forward to continuing this year. We’re hoping this will be the turn of the corner for us and that we can get our stuff going back toward the front every week. Just appreciate all the effort and the work these guys put behind it."