In a Nutshell: There were two races going on during the O’Reilly Challenge. The primary race, which was won by Kevin Harvick (who practically owns the Busch Series when he decides to run), and Carl Edwards‘s race to finally finish off the series championship. Edwards had to finish 36th or better to seal the deal and, thanks to some attrition, Edwards sealed the championship before the end of the race.
Harvick was strong for most of the day, but didn’t assert himself until the last quarter of the race and might not have been able to do that had Tony Stewart not had damage to his car from a slight bump with a lap car. Harvick assumed the race lead on lap 166, and was never really challenged again. Edwards was not a strong car during the day, but he was strong enough to stay out of the back of the pack and away from trouble. Edwards ultimately finished 11th and was crowned the 2007 Busch Series champion.
After last weekend’s complete debacle, this weekend’s race was much more enjoyable. There were only four caution flags for 20 laps, leaving 180 of exciting green-flag racing. The top five were all Buschwhackers, with Harvick being followed to the line by Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth. The highest-finishing Busch regular was Brad Keselowski, who turned in another impressive run in the JR Motorsports entry to come in sixth. The rest of the top 10 included: Stewart, Jeff Burton, Tony Raines and Stephen Leicht.
Who Should Have Won: Stewart. Stewart was probably the strongest car on the track today, but unfortunately bumped into Kyle Krisiloff with 89 laps to go in the race and received damage to the right-front corner of his car. His team made repairs with 200-mph tape, but Stewart was never quite that same after that incident. Stewart led 90 laps during the race which was the most of anyone.
Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race This Weekend
1) Who will be the favorite for the Busch Series championship next year if NASCAR changes the points system?
NASCAR is discussing changing the Busch Series points system next year so that drivers who are in the top 35 in Cup points will not be awarded points towards the Busch (Nationwide Series) championship. If that change is implemented, it will be interesting to see who will emerge from the field of Busch regulars to assume the lead. At this point, Jason Leffler and Keselowski would certainly seem like two drivers that will have a very good shot at taking the title.
2) How good is Edwards?
Edwards now has a NASCAR title under his belt and has contended in the Chase at the Cup level. With the resources of Roush Fenway Racing behind him, and the chemistry that he has with his team, Edwards is certainly a force to be reckoned with. While Edwards has done well at the Cup and Busch level, he also won the Prelude to the Dream at Eldora earlier this year. Edwards is establishing himself as a multi-talented driver who can get it done in all forms of motorsports.
3) Is Busch getting short timers disease?
The first pit stop of the race was not a good one for Busch. His team did not seem prepared for the stop and it turns out they were working on his Cup car to repair some damage Busch incurred during Cup practice. The radio banter between Busch and his crew chief Alan Gustafson was a bit strained and might indicate that Busch is getting antsy about leaving at the end of the year. It can’t be good when there are only three races left and you are a lame-duck driver.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle
Edwards was finally able to end his season-long odyssey and clinched the 2007 Busch Series championship. Edwards has not been nearly as strong in the second half of the season as he was in the first, but the cushion that he built up early in the year was so prohibitive that he could not be headed from his ultimate destiny.
Burton brought the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team entry home with another solid top-10 finish, ending up in eighth place. While the team did lose some points to the No. 20 Joe Gibbs team, they are still 113 points ahead with two races to go in the season.
Keselowski continued to reaffirm Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s confidence in him by bringing home the No. 88 car in a career-high sixth place. Keselowski had to start at the rear of the field because of an unapproved modification to the lugnuts on his car.
Buschwhackers in the race: 16
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 584 of 1,412
Buschwhackers finishing in the top 10: 8
Buschwhackers finishing in the top 10 YTD: 237 of 330
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 30 of 33
Buschwhackers ranked in the top 10 in Busch Series points standings: 5
“Just to be up there with Jack Ingram and Mark Martin and all the guys who made this series, that’s pretty special, It’s been a lot of fun to drive this Richard Childress Chevrolet over the last few years. And this place has been really good to us.” – Kevin Harvick on moving into second place on the all-time wins list in the Busch Series
“Yeah, this is pretty cool. Hopefully, it’s one of many but we’re going to try and do it again next year and try to do even better. We’ve had a lot of really great fortune this season and we’ve had a lot of bad fortune this season. This took a little bit longer than we thought. I’m just very, very grateful for all the people who have given me opportunities and I’m so glad to be here.” – Carl Edwards on winning the 2007 Busch Series championship
“It’s been a ride I have really enjoyed. Carl is a fantastic racecar driver. I am just glad to be a part of this whole deal.” – Pierre Kuettel on working with Carl Edwards
Next Up: The penultimate round of the 2007 Busch Series will take place at Phoenix International Raceway on November 10th at 4:00 p.m. The race will be televised on ESPN2 and broadcast on MRN radio.