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In a Nutshell: Kyle Busch took the checkered flag 0.280 seconds ahead of James Buescher to win the RaceDayRaffleSeries.com 175 Saturday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Busch took the lead for the final time after driving across Buescher’s nose and held on despite a hard bounce off of the outside wall. Kevin Harvick, Matt Crafton and Austin Dillon rounded out the top five.
Who Should Have Won: Busch. If Busch is in the race, he’s almost always a threat to win, barring any major disasters on-track, and Saturday afternoon was no different. Busch started on the pole and swapped the lead with fellow owner/driver Harvick all afternoon. But though Harvick gave that No. 18 Toyota a run for its money, it was Busch who led 156 of 175 laps to ultimately score his fifth victory this season.
Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race
1. What was Kyle Busch thinking?
It seems like the same question pops up each time Busch is in the field. This time, it comes from the closing laps, when Busch drove across Buescher’s nose to take the lead, and ultimately, the win. Buescher took advantage of some decent contact between the two strong trucks of the day – Busch and Harvick – and passed by both of them to take the top spot on lap 166.
But a caution with six laps to go set up a two-lap dash to the finish, with Buescher leading the strong trucks of Busch and Harvick to the green. In what appeared to be one of his better restarts this season, Buescher got the nose of his No. 31 WolfPack Rentals Chevrolet out in front of Busch’s No. 18. However, Buescher wasn’t able to clear Busch, and the driver of the No. 18 drove up the track, across the front end of Buescher’s No. 31 and bounced hard off the outside wall.
Understandably, Buescher wasn’t pleased with the way Busch drove over him and wasn’t afraid to tell everyone how he felt about it.
“He just went to the fence,” Buescher said. “He wasn’t clear at all. He drove like he had no truck on his outside, and he hit my left front and ended up in the wall. He just drove us dirty and got the win, and we hung in for a second-place finish.”
Despite the clear irritation in Buescher’s voice, though, winner Busch didn’t seem to be the least bit remorseful when he was asked about the incident.
“I knew I had to clear him. Regardless of what was going to happen, I had to clear him, and I tried rubbing off of him and he was still there just a little bit and it turned me into the wall,” Busch said. “It was a hard hit. It knocked my helmet crooked.”
I have nothing against Busch putting his No. 18 in victory lane, especially since that should help him to gather sponsorship to keep the team afloat next season. But it gets old seeing him drive through others on the track on the way to the win. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Buescher – or one of the many drivers he’s run over this year – repay that favor somewhere down the line in the remaining six races this season.
2. Will Mike Hillman Jr. take it easy in the coming weeks?
Hillman Jr., crew chief for points leader Todd Bodine, was injured on pit road during Friday night’s K&N Pro Series East race at NHMS. Hillman Jr., who was serving as tire carrier, was knocked into the windshield of Zach Germain‘s car after the tire he was carrying was hit. Though the team attempted to help him to his feet, Hillman Jr. was unable to stand.
Despite the injuries, Hillman Jr. was quick to praise NASCAR’s safety features, as he attributed them to preventing more serious injuries.
“I really don’t remember a whole bunch about it,” Hillman Jr. said. “I banged my head a little bit and my leg. I give NASCAR a lot of credit [for] the firesuits and helmets and safety equipment [required] on pit road. They’ve worked really hard on the drivers to keep them safe, but the rules they have on pit road for the guys really helped me [Friday].”
It turns out Hillman Jr. suffered a dislocated right ankle, torn ligaments and tendons, and multiple broken bones in his lower leg and foot. According to Germain Racing general manager Mike Hillman, doctors wanted to operate to repair the damage on Friday. The injuries will be reevaluated by a doctor in North Carolina to determine whether he’ll need to undergo surgery.
Something tells me Hillman Jr. won’t be taking off next weekend in favor of getting his injuries taken care of, though. He just impresses me as a crew chief that will do everything he can to be at the track supporting his team in their race to the championship. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing given the timing of the injury.
Following next week’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Truck Series will take a month off before going into the final five-week stretch to championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. That month off will be the perfect opportunity for Hillman Jr. to get the necessary treatment and recovery in time for the last few races on the way to what looks to be a sure championship for the No. 30 team.
Truck Rookie Report
No. of Rookies in the Race: 7 (Add Peyton Sellers in the No. 164, John King in the No. 46, Eddie MacDonald in the No. 171 and Brian Weber in the No. 00)
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 1; Dillon, finished fifth
Rookie of the Race: Dillon
Dillon started fourth but quickly dropped outside the top five. Though he was never a real threat for the win, Dillon methodically worked through the entire 175 laps and was around at the end to score his sixth top-five finish this season.
Sellers made his second career start in the Camping World Truck Series Saturday afternoon. Behind the wheel of the No. 64 Skills USA Chevrolet fielded by Stacy Compton, Sellers ran outside the top 20 for much of the day and was involved in a spin on pit road after contact with King. Sellers went on to finish 21st, one lap down.
MacDonald made his Truck Series debut Saturday afternoon behind the wheel of the No. 71 Grimm Construction Ford with the first-ever spec engine used in the Truck Series under the hood. After qualifying 22nd, the goal for the No. 71 team was to simply stay out of trouble, gather information and move on in hopes of running at Martinsville next month. But it wasn’t meant to be. The driver of the No. 71 spun on his own – damaging Ron Hornaday Jr.‘s truck in the process – and backed into the outside wall. The damage to the truck was terminal, and MacDonald was left to settle for a 30th-place finish. MacDonald is a longtime fixture in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Series.
“The VisitPit.com Toyota Tundra, we kind of missed it today, missed it all weekend actually. It was a frustrating weekend but we still came out with a halfway decent finish – 11th wasn’t bad for us. Really, what our truck was all weekend, we’re pretty happy there. We’ll go back and do our homework for Martinsville and Phoenix, the other couple flat tracks we have coming up, and hopefully we can get a couple more top fives, top 10s before the season ends.” – Justin Lofton
Todd Bodine continues to lead the standings by 257 points over second-place Aric Almirola. Johnny Sauter remains in third, and Timothy Peters is 43 points behind in fourth. Matt Crafton gained two spots and rounds out the top 5.
Austin Dillon remains sixth in the standings while defending champion Ron Hornaday, Jr. dropped two spots to seventh, 484 points behind the leader. Mike Skinner continues to hold onto eighth, with former teammate David Starr behind him in ninth. Jason White rounds out the top 10 and holds a slim 17-point advantage over Ricky Carmichael in 11th.
“It was a close race. Myself and [Kevin] Harvick just battled it out all day long. I can’t thank these guys and this team enough. All they want to do is come out and win races, and that’s what we’re doing. I can’t thank Toyota enough and Traxxas, Flexco, NOS Energy Drink, Marquis Jets, Electric Sunglasses and Gillette — I have a lot of people that have been on this thing all year long, and it’s worth it for them. Hopefully, we can get somebody to come on for next year, even if we have to piece it together, it would be nice to come back and return and have someone drive this piece again and be able to race it with me. Thank Camping World and also the fans, it was cool today.” – Kyle Busch
“First of all, everybody on this WolfPack Rentals team did a hell of a job today. Had a fuel can get stuck in the gas filler and went to the back, came back up. We were up there to take advantage when the [No.] 2 (Kevin Harvick) and [No.] 18 (Kyle Busch) were neck and neck. We checked out, and then the caution came out. I got a pretty good restart, I thought, and almost had him (Busch) cleared getting into [turn] 1 and he beat me through the center, but I was hanging on the exit and he tried to squeeze me into the fence. I guess if that’s how he wants to win, then we’ll go try and win Vegas.” – James Buescher, finished second
“I saw the [No.] 31 (James Buescher) take off, and the [No.] 18 (Kyle Busch) got a run on the bottom, and it looked to me like the [No.] 18 just drove over the front of him – that’s what it looked like. I turned all the way to the left, because I thought they were going to be hung together – wrecked. But look, this is a short track, and everybody’s digging for everything they can get. It’s not anything that any of us wouldn’t do to the other 10 times over again.” – Kevin Harvick, finished third
“The pit crew did a good job. The first stop was flawless, we beat Kevin [Harvick] out of the pits pretty easily. The second stop, we knew we had to make our truck better and made the decision to make a track bar adjustment, and it probably hurt us a little bit on our pit stop. Kyle [Busch] behind the wheel got back in front on that restart, and it was an important part of our day.” – winning crew chief Eric Phillips
Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next Saturday night for the Smith’s Food & Drug Stores 350. Last season, Johnny Sauter fought through multiple pit-road mistakes to score his first career victory. Coverage begins at 9:00 p.m. ET on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.