Kyle Busch makes no bones about the fact that Charlotte Motor Speedway is his favorite racetrack. While never winning in a Cup car, he has been virtually dominant driving anything else, making a mockery out of races in both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. Perhaps it’s in Nationwide, though, where the younger Busch has done the most damage, earning a top-10 finish at Charlotte every time out there since 2006. Coming into Saturday’s event, he was looking to pair that seven-year streak with another lucky seven; seven wins at CMS, which would break a Nationwide record held by Mark Martin at this facility.
Busch dominated the race on Saturday, breaking the tie and making it an even dozen victories in his career at CMS across all series. Taking over the lead of the race on lap 2, he went on to lead 186 of 200 circuits and looked downright untouchable at times. The total laps led was the second most in series history at Charlotte, behind Dale Earnhardt’s 194 en route to a win at the track in 1986. No question, with six wins in ten starts this season there’s no doubt the Cup full-timer is in another time zone on Saturday afternoon.
Chasing Busch to the finish line, to no avail was Kasey Kahne, who did not lead a lap all day. Joey Logano crossed the line third ahead of Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick.
This weekend marked Busch’s 57th career victory in the series, along with his seventh in 20 Nationwide races at the track. Busch now has run nine Nationwide races this season and has won six of them, winning at an astounding 67% clip. Meanwhile, Kyle Larson was the top finishing Nationwide driver and also the Rookie of the Race. Regan Smith continues to lead the point standings, finishing 10th, two slots ahead of Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish led the race, while Smith did not, allowing Smith to gain one point on his adversary. Justin Allgaier rode a sixth-place finish to third place in the points, gaining one spot on Elliott Sadler, who struggled all day and came home 13th. Brian Vickers maintained fifth, while Parker Kligerman jumped over Austin Dillon to take over sixth spot. Brian Scott ended up eighth in points thanks to his great run, while Kyle Larson is now ninth and Alex Bowman rounds out the top 10.
Love him or hate him, leading 186 laps and winning the race is damn good. Kyle Busch continues to dominate the series and extend his career victory record in the process.
Kyle Larson is seeing most of these race tracks for the first time in his career. In fact, 2013 marks just his second year he’s driven full size stock cars. Coming off a sixth-place finish at Darlington, Larson put in another very clean performance to come home with a fourth-place finish. If not for his two DNFs, Larson could very well be in the top three in points.
Hal Martin, former track champion from Mobile International Speedway drives for Tri-Star. He’s one of the nicer guys you’ll meet in the garage and you have no idea who he is. Well, maybe you will one day soon. Martin qualified 36th, a mediocre effort but soldiered his way to a 23rd-place finish by staying out of trouble and learning the ropes. 23rd might not sound all that great, but for an underfunded team struggling to compete with the big boys, it was a great race.
Austin Dillon won the pole for Saturday’s race and led the first lap. From there, things went downhill. Dillon slid back into the pack and settled in around ninth. Through adjustments he clawed his way back to the top five but had trouble late in the race that resulted in a 14th0place finish. While most teams would be pleased with a 14th, it is below the standards of RCR in the Nationwide series.
Dillon wasn’t the only RCR car to end up poorly. Brian Scott looked like he was going to be battling for the victory by the end of the night, but it didn’t happen. Scott raced as high as third in the first 30 laps before slowly, gradually, almost painfully, sliding back in the pack to a 15th-place finish.
Alex Bowman has been a darling of the series this season, running well and impressing the pundits. Saturday he was on the other side of the ledger. Bowman qualified well, starting in the eighth position. He slipped to 11th by lap 10 and didn’t see single digits until late in the race, only to stumble again and wind up with a 20th-place run.
Travis Pastrana was working his way forward slowly from a poor starting position, a result of his own actions during qualifying. He got up near the top 10 and then the wheels came off, almost literally. He was attempting to pass Nelson Piquet out of turn two and, in his own words, ran out of talent. He slid down to the inside wall of the racetrack, nose first and dramatically shortened his No. 60 car. The result was a 33rd-place finish, along with a tattered Joe Nemechek car that nicked Pastrana’s on the way by and killed the right side of his car.
Chris Buescher started the race in 12th. He pitted for an issue before lap 10 and by the time the checkered flag fell, he was 66 laps down and finished 38th. Some days you’re the bug and some days you’re the windshield. Saturday, Buescher was definitely a bug.
Underdog Performer of the Race
Steve Wallace started the race in 40th, behind his uncle Mike. He finished there but not for a lack of trying. Wallace chased his uncle for most of the race but ended up slightly behind him, coming home with a 25th place finish.
There were no start and park cars in the race on Saturday. Robert Richardson was wrecked out early in an incident with Johanna Long while Jason White and his No. 24 crew tried very hard to keep his ride going before succumbing to a suspension failure. Everyone else completed at least 134 laps.
There were five Cup regulars who infiltrated the event to wrangle $169,500 of ill-gotten booty from the innocent full-time participants in the Nationwide series. This is also the eighth race out of 10 contested this season that a Cup regular has won.
The Final Word
The new car, car of tomorrow, giant box on wheels, whatever you call the design of the car in the Nationwide series was supposed to punch a bigger hole in the air that would lead to more passing and the return of the slingshot maneuver of days gone by. While that move is alive and well in open wheel racing,, it is still as elusive as the proverbial Holy Grail in stock car competition. With the front of the cars sealed off to the ground, they are just too aero dependent to suck up and pass whoever’s in front of them. Just like last Saturday, when the leaders were never passed during the All-Star race, the leaders of the Nationwide event were almost never passed on track. For two or three laps after a restart, there was some mixing it up at the front, but once the cars got single file, it was over. Until they get the nose of these cars off the ground, it is going to continue to be that way. Unfortunately, that does not bode well for the 600.
As for the results of the race, Kyle Busch is the best Nationwide driver in history. There will be people shouting from the mountain tops that they don’t want to see it because it takes wins away from development drivers or it makes the race boring. The bottom line is, and Kyle Busch said it himself in the press conference afterwards, until there are no Cup drivers in Nationwide, he’ll keep showing up and racing in the series. Interestingly, Busch was second in laps led in a Nationwide race to Dale Earnhardt in a race in 1986. In that race, there were 17 drivers who were Cup drivers. While they may not have all been full-timers when that race was run, most of them were. So it isn’t any different back in the day, as we saw compared to now. When people bring up Mark Martin, his supporters claim he didn’t run as many races per year as Busch. That is true; he only raced the races that had the biggest purses. So when he came and beat up on the little guys, it was only when he could take the maximum money from them.
The Nationwide series has the potential to be a great racing series. It needs a couple of things to make that happen; unfortunately, they are probably never going to happen. The cars need to get off of the ground so they are less aero dependent, and the series needs to run two-thirds of its schedule in conjunction with Truck races, away from the Cup series, or as stand alone events. Sadly, neither of those things are going to happen, so get used to what you saw Saturday — there will be much more of that to come.
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