In a Nutshell: Restrictor-plate racing in the Busch Series is usually about as old school as it gets nowadays. The aero package that the vehicles run, with the wicker bill on top of the roof, results in intense racing where passing for the lead occurs for almost the entire event.
But with every rule, there’s always an exception.
Kyle Busch made a mockery of the Winn-Dixie 250, leading most of the way after the competition caution on lap 20 (65 out of 102 laps total) to score his first Busch Series win of the season. The No. 5 Chevrolet beat the No. 21 driven by Kevin Harvick to the line; Harvick tried a last-lap challenge on the outside line, but came up a few car lengths short in what was the first green-white-checkered finish of the season. Still, it was a valiant effort for a team that led early until both alternator and handling problems left him back in the pack and ultimately too far behind to score the win. Dave Blaney, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five finishers.
Unfortunately, an exception to the rule wasn’t just a metaphor for how the race unfolded. Late-breaking news from the track had Busch’s Delphi-sponsored car failing post-race inspection; the front springs were confiscated from the vehicle amid claims it had exceeded allowable spring rates on both the left and right front of the car. Fines and penalties are expected to be announced this week.
Who Should Have Won: Busch. There was no questioning the dominance of the No. 5 car on this day. Once Busch got out front, he was never really challenged, especially during the race’s second half. After a long list of victory lane near-misses earlier this season, the final laps at a plate track offered every opportunity for Kyle to give the race away; but he held on, maintaining both speed and composure to take the win. Harvick and Bowyer were also strong, but neither one could get the help they needed nor team up at the end of the race to make a push to the front.
Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race Weekend
1) Why can’t the Cup cars run the same aerodynamic package as the Busch Series?
The aero package that the Busch cars run at restrictor-plate tracks affords so much air disturbance that drivers can actually pull up and pass by themselves. With Nextel Cup supposedly showcasing the best of that driver talent, they should also be able to handle a package like that and put on a better show for the fans. But for whatever reason, after Dale Earnhardt‘s death, NASCAR pulled the package from Cup and has not put it back since. With the Cup rules more restrictive, a new aero package would be a welcome change to the parades that we have seen of late at the Cup races at Daytona.
2) Should NASCAR really do green-white-checkered finishes on a plate track?
Restrictor-plate engines cause the cars at Daytona and Talladega to take more than a full lap to get up to speed. With that amount of time necessary, the restart turns into a complete scramble, a recipe for disaster that mixes together all too often. NASCAR would probably be better served to run two green-flag laps, then throw the white and then the checkered. That would give people a little chance to settle in and hopefully reduce the insanity of that final restart.
3) Shouldn’t the second-biggest series in NASCAR pay at least $100,000 to win a race?
Busch brought home just over $87,000 for winning on Saturday. In comparison, Kevin Van Dam won $100,000 for winning the fishing tournament that was shown on ESPN2 after the race. And this is supposed to be one of the bigger races on the Busch schedule? NASCAR should be ashamed that they don’t have larger purses for their second-largest series in their lineup.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle
David Ragan had a strong run cut short by a last-lap spin on the backstretch; while NASCAR raced the rest of the way under green, Ragan limped home with a disappointing 34th-place finish.
As far as points go, Harvick’s runner-up result allowed him to claw his way back into second in the points standings, actually cutting Carl Edwards‘s lead to under 800. At this pace, Edwards’s points lead could conceivably fall below 600 points by the end of the year; only problem is, Harvick won’t be running every race, giving Edwards plenty of leeway to expand his margin once again.
While the Cup drivers get busy battling it out up top, Jason Leffler and Bobby Hamilton Jr. are having their own competition for the best Busch regular in the points standings. After Daytona, they are separated by just 50 points and continue to run neck-and-neck for their own unofficial championship. While they are both over 900 points behind Edwards, they should be commended for putting forth an outstanding effort to keep up with the Cup guys within the top 10 in points. Leffler also snagged the only top 10 for the Busch regulars, too, slipping in the middle of the Cup crowd to finish ninth.
Buschwhackers in the race: 21
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 348 of 770
Buschwhackers finishing in the Top 10: 9
Buschwhackers finishing in the Top 10 YTD: 142 of 190
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 17 of 19
Buschwhackers ranked in the Top 10 in Busch Series points standings: 6
“I just needed to have a car right behind me. I got up next to Busch on the last lap, but the No. 10 went to the inside and Kyle [Busch] was able to keep it wide open and I couldn’t get to him.” – Kevin Harvick on the last-lap effort to pass Kyle Busch
“This win means a lot to the whole team. I needed it to prove to people that I don’t give up.” – Kyle Busch
“We were too tight early in the race and then got too loose and we couldn’t get it back from there. At the end when we needed to go, we were a little too wiggly and just couldn’t get it done.” – Tony Stewart
Next Up: The Busch Series travels north to the Windy City for the USG Durock 300 next Saturday. The race is scheduled for Saturday, July 14th at 2:30 ET, and will be available on ABC and MRN.
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