In a Nutshell: The Busch Series was once again the playground of the Buschwhackers. Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards dueled at the front of the pack for much of the first two-thirds of the race. Biffle took the lead at the beginning of the race as Edwards was working his way up through the front of the pack from his fifth-place starting position. Kasey Kahne briefly took the lead and then lost it to Biffle who continued to lead until lap 59. At that point Edwards took the point and battled back and forth with Biffle until lap 129 when Clint Bowyer assumed the point. Biffle led one more lap on lap 139, but lost it to Jeff Burton, who led the remainder of the race to capture his 26th career Busch Series victory.
The race was slowed by 10 cautions, with the majority of them falling during the 50-lap stretch from lap 100 through lap 150, as five cautions flew during that period. Two of those cautions eliminated the initial front runners as Edwards was taken out in a multi-car wreck on the backstretch on lap 134, and Biffle was eliminated almost immediately after that in a backstretch melee that included five cars.
Burton was challenged aggressively on the restart on lap 145 by Dale Earnhardt Jr., who ran next to Burton for most of that lap until he nearly lost control coming out of turn 4. Earnhardt didn’t mount a challenge on the next restart at lap 150 and Burton pulled out to almost a two-second lead. However, after 15 laps, Earnhardt began turning faster lap times and reeled Burton back in. By lap 182, the lead was three-tenths of a second and Earnhardt was just about to make his move when the final yellow flag of the race fell. Burton was able to cool his tires during that caution period and was never challenged again after the restart.
Following Burton to the checkered flag were Kyle Busch, Earnhardt, Aric Almirola and Denny Hamlin. In a continued show of force by the Buschwhackers, the rest of the top 10 included David Ragan, Robby Gordon, Bowyer, Kelly Bires (the only non-Cup driver in the top 10) and Kevin Harvick.
Who Should Have Won: Edwards or Biffle. Either one could have won this race very easily. Edwards led 60 laps and Biffle led 53, all before lap 140 when Biffle was eliminated from the competition. Biffle and Edwards were both dominant in the early portion of the race and would have walked away with the win if it weren’t for being caught up in someone else’s mess as they both drove into wrecks on the backstretch.
Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race This Weekend
1) Is the Busch Series going to see less domination by the Buschwhackers next season?
With the Cup Series going to the CoT full time next season, the benefits of running in Busch races during race weekends will be greatly reduced for Cup drivers. Yet, to a man, they all say that they run the Busch Series because it is so much fun and they will still spend time in the series. However, most of the drivers have said the number of races they run next year will probably be reduced compared to what they currently run.
2) Is Charlotte finally starting to get some age on it that will lead to better racing?
The track surface at Charlotte has a year of age on it, and the seasoning has already appeared to help the racing. There were definitely multiple grooves of racing on the track and passes were made throughout the field on both the high and low side of the track. As the surface continues to age, and Goodyear continues to change the tire they are bringing to the track, the racing should continue to get better.
3) Are fly-overs at night really worthwhile?
Humpy Wheeler always has fly-overs for his races, no matter what time they start, but it seems a bit silly to do them at night when the fans cannot see the planes. However, seeing the huge flames coming out of the back of the planes as they kick in their afterburners as they buzz over the field is one of the coolest things you get to see at the track.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle
Edwards took ANOTHER hit in the points championship with a 34th-place finish after crashing out of the race in a multi-car wreck on the backstretch on lap 134. David Reutimann was able to bring his ride home 12th after fading slightly at the end of the race, but that allowed Reutimann to close the points chase to 638 points with five races to go on the schedule. In the owner points championship, Burton’s victory expanded the lead of the No. 29 team to 116 points over the No. 20 team from Joe Gibbs Racing. Amazingly, Edwards’s No. 60 team is now third in the owners’ championship because of their continued struggles over the last few weeks.
Bires had an outstanding run in his 15th career Busch Series start, coming home ninth for his second-best career finish. Bires had only had two top-15 finishes this season before the Charlotte race but showed some of the potential he is known to have. He kept his car clean and out of trouble all night long.
Jason Keller made the race and, with the drop of the green flag, set the all-time series start record with his 418th start. Keller has been a stalwart in the Busch Series over the years and, aside from two starts in the Cup series, has been focused completely on his Busch career for his entire professional racing career.
The top five in points looks like this: Edwards, Reutimann, Harvick, Jason Leffler and Ragan.
Buschwhackers in the race: 21
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 563 of 1,326
Buschwhackers finishing in the top 10: 9
Buschwhackers finishing in the top 10 YTD: 226 of 310
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 28 of 31
Buschwhackers ranked in the top 10 in Busch Series points standings: 6
“Junior was definitely coming and I was getting ready to try and block him when that caution came out. It took so long to clean up the mess that my tires cooled off and we were able to pull away at the end. If it hadn’t been for that caution I would not have been able to hold him off.” – Jeff Burton
“This is the first time I have ever had a car that I was sure was going to win the race and I didn’t do it” – Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“We were doing the best we could to get that car to Victory Lane, we did what we could to win the race. We had the fastest car.” – Carl Edwards
Next Up: In two weeks, the series heads to Memphis for the final weekend of the year where they are not racing in conjunction with the Cup Series. The Sam’s Town 250 will take place on October 27th at 3 p.m. It will be available on ESPN2 and MRN.