In a Nutshell: Joey Logano made a strong bid early, but Kyle Busch again dominated the Nationwide Series field, leading 137 laps to score a relatively easy win in Friday’s Dollar General 300 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Busch was briefly challenged in the race’s final laps by Jeff Burton, who, unlike the other leaders, opted for four tires on his final pit stop. Burton, however, was unable to make up enough ground on the high side to clear Busch’s No. 18.
Busch’s win did not come without controversy. On several restarts, he appeared to stack up the field, leading to two major wrecks that eliminated half a dozen cars and caused a warning from NASCAR about picking up his speed coming to the green. The second crash, involving Mike Bliss and John Wes Townley, led members of Burton’s No. 29 crew to besiege NASCAR officials to black flag Busch’s No. 18. But Busch refused to take responsibility for any of the wrecks, insisting that he maintained a steady speed and that, as the leader, it was his discretion as to where to restart the race. Burton and third-place Brian Vickers both also suggested that the No. 18 brake-checked on late restarts.
The race was an eventful one, as two red flags for rain slowed the event, which did not finish until well after midnight. The caution flag flew 13 times, including four for multi-car crashes, including a notable one that saw Steve Wallace send the rear end of Jeff Green’s machine airborne, also collecting Justin Allgaier on the frontstretch.
Clint Bowyer was strong all night and finished fourth, maintaining a 196-point lead over current second-place driver Carl Edwards, who finished fifth. With four races to go in the season, both Edwards and Brad Keselowski, who is in third, 286 points back, seem very unlikely to challenge Bowyer for the Nationwide title.
Who Should Have Won: Busch. He was in the No. 18 Toyota on an intermediate track. End of story.
JTG Daugherty Racing put together a very solid performance on Friday night. Marcos Ambrose, after taking advantage of cloudy conditions during his qualifying run to start seventh, ran in the top 10 for much of the evening before settling for a 15th-place finish in the final rundown. More notable was Kelly Bires, who also scored a top-10 qualifying effort. This weekend, carrying the colors of the Samaritan’s Feet charity, Bires started in the top 10 and, with the exception of some pit cycling, never left. Bires mixed it up with Cup regulars all night and came home seventh, his second consecutive top-10 finish and fourth consecutive top 15 on an intermediate track. While it was good to see a charity on the hood of the No. 47 Friday night, it’d be better to see a sponsor with some vision give Bires some stability as he continues to develop.
While Mike Wallace made headlines early in the race for making contact with David Stremme that sent the No. 64 Chevrolet into the wall, it was his position at the finish that should be making them. After seeing teammate Justin Marks hit on something during practice, Wallace enjoyed one of the strongest performances of the season with his No. 7 team, running as a fixture in the top 10 and finishing there. Wallace perhaps summed up his run best over the radio when he told his crew “Don’t worry about building a new car for Texas, let’s just use this one.”
Better Luck Next Time
Allgaier had been waiting for Friday night for years. The ARCA Re/Max Series veteran made his debut with Penske Racing, and was showing early in the running why he’s been tabbed as the Captain’s latest development project. Allgaier’s evasive move to avoid a spinning Chase Miller on the backstretch was quite impressive. However, a good finish wasn’t in the cards, as Allgaier found himself collected in a wreck between Green and Steve Wallace. Allgaier endured the hardest hit of any driver all night, and left his first big-time start with a wrecked car and a disappointing 34th-place finish. Nonetheless, the upside of this signing by Penske Racing was evident Friday night.
Bliss and team were highly optimistic heading into Friday night, the evening of owner James Finch’s 500th start. With a good-handling car and a sharp commemorative paint scheme, Bliss and team were for much of the race the only car that was able to keep Busch in striking distance. Late in the going though, the team’s pit strategy mired them in traffic, and disaster struck on a late race restart when the No. 1 car was punted following a stack-up. Bliss’s car was heavily damaged in the rear after he was slammed by Townley, and the team struggled home to a 19th-place run, a huge disappointment after leading laps and running top five for much of the evening.
Listening to the effort put forward by Danny O’Quinn and his No. 35 team during practice was engaging. The team worked very hard, especially in Happy Hour, to squeeze every bit of speed they could out of their car, knowing that they were near the bubble of qualifying for the show or going home. The work paid off, as O’Quinn timed in 23rd and made the field. Unfortunately, his return to Lowe’s in a Nationwide car did not last long, as his unsponsored Ford succumbed to electrical problems after only 22 laps. Still, it was good to see O’Quinn, the 2006 series Rookie of the Year, back on track.
Underdog Performer of the Race: Kenny Wallace. Sure, it took more than a few Lucky Dogs and a lot of wrecked cars in front of him, but Kenny Wallace’s 16th-place run equaled his best of the season with Jay Robinson Racing. It marked the first top 20 of the season for the team on an intermediate oval. And it was Wallace’s eighth top-20 finish on the season for the No. 28 team. Considering that that team had only three top 20s in all of 2007, Friday night was just another example of how far Kenny Wallace has brought Jay Robinson Racing.
JGR vs. The Field
Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas have won 18 of 31 Nationwide Series races this season.
Joe Gibbs Racing Cup drivers have won 17 of 31 Nationwide Series races this season.
Since the oh-so-harsh suspension of crew chiefs Wally Rogers and Jason Ratcliffe from NASCAR for cheating at Michigan, the No. 18 and No. 20 teams have posted four wins and an average finish of 6.7 in 10 starts. That’ll teach ‘em.
“You know, you’re not supposed to leave any room behind you, or in front of you I should say on [Jeff] Burton’s part. He was back there about a car length, a car length and a half, or so. And I could see him carrying up to my rear bumper and he had the momentum and I wasn’t going to let him have the momentum on the restarts [be]cause he’d pull low and pass me getting into [turn] 1.” – Kyle Busch on his restart strategy in winning the Dollar General 300
“He [Mike Wallace] drives over his head like normal, and we got the bad end of it.” – David Stremme after contact with Mike Wallace
“Steve [Wallace], I love him to death, but he has to slow down to go faster. He tears his car up too much.” – Jeff Green after being spun by Wallace’s No. 66
“We just need to go to work.” – Race runner-up Jeff Burton on how to catch the JGR Toyotas
Up Next: The Nationwide Series heads to Memphis Motorsports Park in two weeks. Coverage of the Kroger On the Track for the Cure 250 begins at 3 p.m. on ESPN Classic and SPEED, with MRN picking up coverage at 3:30 p.m.