Just another Friday night Nationwide Series race in 2009… or so it seemed. Kyle Busch took the lead early, ran away from the field, and stunk up the show at Darlington, leading all but 10 of the laps run in the 200-miler. But despite his best efforts, the 24-year-old did not take one step closer …
It was business as usual at Richmond Friday night, as Kyle Busch in his No. 18 ran up front all night, led the most laps and won the race. Busch, who led four times for 115 laps, had little trouble holding off Carl Edwards following a late restart in notching his third victory of the …
It’s often been said that on a late restart, the last place a driver wants to be is leading a restrictor-plate race. Ryan Newman found that out the hard way on Saturday. Despite playing the ride in the back strategy to perfection all day long after winning the pole Friday and leading at the white-flag lap, the Rocket found himself unable to hold off the hard chargers behind him at the finish.
With Kyle Busch forced to pit under green midway through the race with a cut tire and Carl Edwards experiencing engine trouble, ESPN had to actually cover another race for the final 100 miles. Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Jason Leffler and Joey Logano all battled furiously for the race lead until a caution with 20 to go jumbled the field. Biffle and Leffler both chose to stay out on old tires, then benefited from a rash of late-race cautions that kept the drivers with fresher tires from catching them. Leffler had shots at Biffle on each of the final two restarts, but Biffle’s ability on both occasions to throw Leffler off allowed him to pull away and score his second Nationwide win of the season – which also doubled as the 100th in the history of Roush Fenway Racing.
Overcoming early problems with lugnut glue on pit road, JGR teammates Kyle Busch and Joey Logano managed to conquer Concrete Carl, changing the lead multiple times at the front over the last 100 laps before Logano took control for good on lap 216, en route to scoring to his second career Nationwide Series victory. Carl Edwards, who led 45 laps, surrendered the lead on lap 135 after his tire changer reported that he had failed to tighten enough lugnuts on the previous pit stop. The mistake mired Edwards back in 25th, a gap he never recovered from.
On paper, this one wasn’t even close. And for over 250 miles on Saturday, it wasn’t. In the end, though, Kyle Busch led 178 of the 200 laps run to score his third win of the 2009 season. But he came very close to losing it. Brad Keselowski, who started 42nd in a backup car after a qualifying wreck, sliced and diced through the field and with less than 20 laps to go was running down Busch’s No. 18. Once the caution flag flew on lap 189, the stage was set for Rowdy to be toppled. Turns out the drama was all for naught, though. Keselowski spun his tires on the final restart, allowing Busch to pull away from the field. The only driver who got close to Busch on the final run was Tony Stewart, who had an extra set of tires saved and moved from seventh to second in the final seven laps with fresh rubber.
Just as my beloved Wake Forest Demon Deacons got reminded of this truth the hard way in getting routed by Cleveland State, the weekend’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway gave Kyle Busch a refresher that racing is a team sport, as well. Because even though Busch drove like a “wild thing” all day long and led 156 laps, in the end his pit crew had a tire escape their pit box during the race’s final cycle of stops. The resulting penalty left Busch mired deep in traffic with less than 30 laps to go and unable to challenge for his second win of the year. Instead, it was the teamwork of Kevin Harvick Incorporated that shone through. Kevin Harvick, whose oft-berated No. 33 pit crew got him out first during the critical money stops, drove away from the field on the final restart after crew chief Ernie Cope opted not to add fuel to the car; in the end, his lead proved too much for Carl Edwards to overcome.
The race featured 17 lead changes as each leader tried to outdo each other and lose this race. In the end, it was Greg Biffle who overcame running himself out of gas under green to hold off a hard-charging Carl Edwards to score his first Nationwide Series win since 2006, a stretch of 76 races. Biffle nearly lost the lead coming to the white flag as Edwards got a run under his Ford in turn 3, but Biffle pinned Edwards on the low side of the track and maintained his lead. Brian Vickers, Jason Leffler and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five in the finishing order.
As if following up Daytona with Fontana wasn’t enough of a letdown, Kyle Busch made sure that there would be no last lap fireworks this time around. Leading over 140 of the 150 laps run Saturday night, Busch followed up his Truck win earlier in the day with a dominant performance that saw the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 team lay waste to the Nationwide Series field. The win was the first for the No. 18 team with Jason Ratcliffe on the pit box since his suspension at Michigan last August for tampering with a NASCAR chassis dyno. Busch also became the first driver in NASCAR history to win two national touring division races on the same day.
It only took three races for Tony Stewart to put a Chevrolet back in victory lane. After posting runner-up finishes in both the Budweiser Shootout and Gatorade Duels, Stewart’s first ride with Hendrick Motorsports landed Smoke back in the winner’s circle, collecting the eighth Nationwide Series victory of his career and his fourth in the last five years at Daytona. Unlike last year, though, which saw Stewart’s No. 20 Toyota all but untouchable, this one was far from a sure-fire thing. Though Stewart was a mainstay in the top 10 all day, it was not until late in the running that he got his No. 80 up front.