A night that opened seemingly poised to have a dramatic impact on the 2011 Nationwide Series title chase ended up being more of the same: the Cup drivers stealing the show. Carl Edwards dominated early, but Kyle Busch in the end used strength on pit road to muscle out front late and take home the checkered flag. Together, those drivers led a combined 234 of 250 laps, with Busch holding off Edwards and an upset bid by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. early in the final run. Ryan Truex and a surprising Kenny Wallace rounded out the top-5 finishers.
Despite the best efforts of Kyle Busch to run him down, Carl Edwards topped a dominant evening with his 35th career Nationwide Series win Saturday night in front of a stellar crowd at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top 5.
Though Edwards led 101 of the 195 laps led en route to victory, side-by-side racing at the front of the field proved plentiful, with each of the drivers in the top 5 taking turns at the front. Goodyear seemed to get the tire situation under control after fielding rocks at Bristol a week ago, with the rubber proving to wear on the abrasive Atlanta service. Drivers throughout the field were seen visibly wrestling with loose race cars throughout the 300 miles.
Kyle Busch scored his 50th career Nationwide Series victory under the lights at Bristol on Friday night, winning by merely a foot or so after a spirited charge from teammate Joey Logano on the final lap. Logano got underneath Busch in turn 2 on the last circuit and the two battled side-by-side to the stripe, with the momentum on the upper side of the track proving to make the difference in what was an otherwise quiet race up front. Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 5.
Though much was made of Busch’s car not being the dominant force that it has been in the past at Bristol, the No. 18 still paced the field for 186 of the 250 laps run Friday night. Clint Bowyer was the fastest car in the field for much of the evening, but track position ended up meaning a lot as the tire compound being run provided little advantage for fresh rubber (Logano nearly stole the win on old tires). Tires proved to be the cause of most of the race’s yellow flags as well; three of the five cautions were caused by single car wrecks triggered by tire failures.
The Marcos Ambrose Redemption Tour carried on across the border into Montreal Saturday, with the Tazmanian exorcising his demons on the Circuit Gilles Villeneueve by recovering from an early-race run-in with Jacques Villeneuve to score his fourth career Nationwide Series win in his first start of 2011. Hometown IndyCar regular Alex Tagliani finished second, with Michael McDowell, Steve Wallace and JR Fitzpatrick rounding out the top 5.
With the sun shining as the green flag dropped, the first half of the Montreal road course event was among the quietest seen since NASCAR started racing on the renowned Formula One circuit; there was still battling for position, but minus the myriad of incidents accompanying it. That all changed when the sky darkened on the horizon, and the threat of rain forced the entire field into a frenzy, with four yellows taking up nearly 50% of the final 21 laps. The closing laps saw a myriad of road ringers, including Villeneuve, Robby Gordon and Boris Said all forced out of the event.
Kyle Busch was the only driver in the field that had anything for brother Kurt at Watkins Glen on Saturday, but Rowdy learned the hard way that one mistake on a road course is enough to cost a win. Racing for the lead less than halfway into Saturday’s event, Kyle got out of shape in the bus stop chicane and ended up with a grill full of grass. Forcing an earlier-than-scheduled pit stop, the No. 18 was a few laps short on fuel and forced to pit from the lead less a mere 10 miles from the checkered flag, leaving Kurt to drive away from the field on a green-white-checkered to score his second career NNS win at the Glen. Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards rounded out the top 5.
Roush Fenway Racing’s Mustangs had finished 1-2 four times this season prior to Saturday night’s race at Iowa, so Ricky Stenhouse Jr. beating Carl Edwards to the stripe wasn’t the most remarkable outcome statistically. But this finish was so much more. In a race that saw the two teammates trade paint and get hot under the collar for the second consecutive week, Stenhouse had nearly a second on Edwards heading into the final corner when his engine expired. Edwards, who had enough momentum to clear the No. 6 and steal the win, got caught up in the cloud of smoke and oil from the expired motor, slammed into the back of Stenhouse’s car, and in doing so secured the second career win for the current points leader. Edwards, polesitter Elliott Sadler, Josh Wise and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 5.
A night of complete dominance for Roush Fenway Racing that saw the team’s three cars lead 193 of the first 198 laps went up in smoke late at Lucas Oil Raceway on Saturday night. With Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Carl Edwards and Trevor Bayne all running one-two-three inside of 30 laps to go, each ran into trouble. Edwards was busted during a late-race cycle of pit stops for visibly speeding on pit road exit, Bayne had his engine expire on lap 188 and Stenhouse, who led a career-high 189 laps was pushed from the lead on lap 198 by Brad Keselowski. The defending series champion drove hard into turn 3 and forced the No. 6 Ford towards the fence, driving off to score his second win of 2011.
Despite a few late race yellows, the majority of Saturday’s race was the cleanest seen on the bullring in Clermont, Indiana in some time, with Stenhouse dominating for most of the evening. A slightly harder tire did keep failures to a minimum, without impacting the continual side-by-side racing that the Nationwide Series has enjoyed for years on the longtime venue’s racing surface.
They don’t call him Concrete Carl for nothing. Carl Edwards rebounded from a mid-race pit road speeding penalty to score his fifth win of the 2011 Nationwide Series season. Aside from the penalty, it was a flawless night for Edwards, who led 124 of the laps run and was largely unmolested up front after Brad Keselowski dropped a cylinder. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Friday night’s Truck winner Austin Dillon, Justin Allgaier and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 5.
Extreme hot temperatures in the Nashville area throughout the weekend led to a very slick concrete racing surface, causing loose conditions that dominated the field on Saturday evening. Still, despite the treacherous track environment, the event was clean; only three yellows slowed the 300 miles on Saturday, with Mikey Kile’s spin through the backstretch grass the only incident of the night.
It wasn’t in dominating form, but Kyle Busch was there when it counted. On a day that saw Kevin Harvick and his No. 33 team all but the class of the field, Busch still found a way after lurking most of Saturday afternoon to strike past Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (who was on older tires) and weather a rash of late-race yellows to score his 49th career Nationwide Series victory, tying Mark Martin for the all-time series lead. Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Stenhouse and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 5.
After a quiet first 100 miles that saw only two yellows for a single-car spin and debris, the rest of the afternoon’s race turned into a carnage fest, with three multi-car wrecks marring the last 20 laps alone. Of important note in the points race was the melee on the frontstretch on lap 190 that collected Reed Sorenson; after spinning, the No. 32 car was unable to refire, falling back to the end of the lead pack. Though the team rebounded to finish 15th, the incident cost them valuable ground they were set to make up on Elliott Sadler’s No. 2 team, which struggled to a mediocre 12th place result.
The latest fuel mileage chapter of NASCAR racing 2011 was written on Friday night, with Brad Keselowski emerging the victor of a cat-and-mouse duel between him and Kevin Harvick in the closing laps, running up to each other while saving gas over the final green flag run. It marked the first win of the season for the defending series champion, with Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne and polesitter Elliott Sadler rounding out the top 5.
In an event that was a departure from previous Kentucky races and full of green flag runs, Sadler managed to wrestle the points lead away from Reed Sorenson on a night that saw Turner Motorsports struggle both on track and in the pits. Coupled with an early spin for Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the former Cup regular scored his series’ regular leading ninth top-5 finish to take the point heading to Loudon.