He’s back. Make that four victories in nine races for Kyle Busch in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season.
The Joe Gibbs Racing tandem of Busch and Matt Kenseth dominated the Furious 7 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. Leading a combined 186 of the 200 laps, the two had virtually no competition on the evening. With 23 laps to go, Busch recaptured the lead from his Toyota counterpart, securing yet another triumph to his resume. Busch’s win marks his 74th win in the division and JGR’s 110th victory.
Using pit strategy to his advantage, Darrell Wallace Jr. piloted his No. 6 Ford into the third position late in the going. After taking two tires on the final pit stop, he was able to earn his third top five of the year. He was able to get around Road America winner Paul Menard with a handful of laps remaining in the race, giving him his career-best finish.
Chris Buescher extended his lead to 25 points ahead of Ty Dillon following the race. He takes over the second position from Chase Elliott (-28), followed by Regan Smith (-51), Elliott Sadler (-106), Wallace (-107), Daniel Suarez (-115), Brian Scott (-120), Brendan Gaughan (-147) and Ryan Reed (-229).
Just like its Cup program, JGR’s NXS team has been outstanding as of late. Suarez’s impressive run proved once again that he might just be the real deal. Though he has yet to visit Victory Lane, the Mexico native now has 12 top 10s on the season with six top fives.
The JR Motorsports duo of Elliott and Kasey Kahne struggled on Saturday evening. Kahne’s No. 88 car never entered the top 10 throughout the race, and Elliott had a top-10 run going until approximately 60 to go, when he dropped outside of the top 15. He finished 14th, passing two cars in the last five laps. A week after an outstanding performance by the entire organization, a poor run was not what the doctor ordered for the reigning NXS champion and a Cup driver that missed the Chase.
Ryan Blaney was running third early in the race when his left-rear tire went flat. The No. 22 car was poised for an amazing run, but finished 35th after being lapped before the halfway mark. Just after the halfway point, he got into the wall, beating up his car even more. He missed the Cup race due to qualifying being rained out on Friday, and Saturday’s blown tire was just another hit to his bad luck in 2015.
Underdog Performer of the Race
John Wes Townley led his first lap of 2015 on Saturday evening. The Georgia native stayed out of pit road long enough during a green-flag cycle to take his No. 25 car to the front. It marked the first time since Kansas last October that he has led an NXS event. Townley finished 13th, his first top 20 since Daytona in July.
Double Duty Interlopers
Eight drivers in the Furious 7 300 are scheduled to race in the Cup race on Sunday afternoon. Among those performing double duty are Kyle Larson, Kenseth, Kahne, Landon Cassill, Busch, Paul Menard, Scott and JJ Yeley. Larson is doing the triple this weekend after running the Truck Series race on Saturday morning.
The Final Word
The championship battle is getting juicier in the NXS. Buescher’s advantage of 25 points is not that solid after how he started out the summer months. Elliott’s team, as predicted in my column two days prior to the race at Richmond, is heating up and shrinking the gap.
A pit-road penalty hurt Buescher’s cause on Saturday, resulting in a finish of eighth. Though he ran inside the top 10 throughout the night, his team did not show the capability to contend for a win, which is something he did during the first half of the season.
More importantly, the future is still not secure for Buescher, which is a problem when it should be. The team has stated numerous times that it wants to run him in the Cup Series, but how many races and whether it is for the organization or another one have yet to be determined. As he hits the homestretch, it will be increasingly important for the No. 60 team to showcase consistency.