NASCAR: Busch wins race
By Stephen Hawkins
FORT WORTH, Texas ó After all the laps Kyle Busch has led in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this season, he finally led the only one that ever really matters.
Busch won at Texas Motor Speedway in dominating fashion Saturday, leading 126 of the 200 laps and finishing more than a second ahead of Jeff Burton. With an average speed of 151.708 mph, it was fastest Nationwide race at the 11/2-mile high-banked track.
“I never won here, and I proved that, I don’t know where Victory Lane is,” Busch said. “I got lost getting here.”
The caution flag came out with 10 laps left after Kyle Krisiloff crashed on the backstretch. Instead of pitting for new tires, Busch kept his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota on the track.
On the restart with seven laps to go, Busch stayed out front and stretched his gap ahead of Burton’s Chevrolet. Clint Bowyer, the series points leader, had two fresh tires and gained two spots in the closing laps to finish third in another Chevrolet.
“He was just rolling,” Burton said of Busch. “The best car won today.”
Burton was heard on the radio during the closing laps expressing regret about not pitting for new tires. But after he admitted afterward that it wouldn’t have mattered.
Busch started 31st and worked through the field to lead four times, including the final 43 laps after an earlier stretch of 60 straight laps interrupted only by the last series of green-flag stops.
“When we finally ended up taking the lead, I thought in my head, this is too good to be true,” Busch said.
His skeptism was certainly warranted, since he had led almost one-third of the 1,066 laps (345) in the first six races this season without being there at the end. There had been some hard-luck finishes.
In the last race at Nashville, Busch led 125 laps before spinning out with 62 laps left after he grazed Bowyer in an incident he blamed on himself. Busch led 153 of the first 170 laps last month in Atlanta before he blew a tire, like he did after being in the lead for 18 laps in Las Vegas.
It was the 12th Nationwide victory for Busch, and first at Texas, where he was the runner-up to Kevin Harvick last fall and also finished second in his first try in 2004.
Less than two months into the 2008 NASCAR season, the 22-year-old Busch already has victories in all three major series. He has a Sprint Cup victory, and is fifth in that series, and is the Craftsman Truck Series points leader with two wins.
Bowyer extended his 11-point Nationwide lead to 57 points over Carl Edwards, who finished 13th.
The record pace came with only four cautions, two for debris and both of the others for incidents involving Krisiloff, who had an earlier spin.
A day after the 10th anniversary of his first NASCAR victory, a Nationwide race at Texas in 1998, Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished seventh. This is the first time Earnhardt is doing double-duty at Texas since 1999. His first Sprint Cup victory also came at the track, in 2000.
Earnhardt and Busch are among 15 drivers who will also drive in the Samsung 500 on Sunday. Nine of them finished in the top 10. Dario Franchitti, another Cup regular who didn’t qualify for Sunday’s race, was 11th.
Texas native Terry Labonte finished fourth, followed by Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers, Earnhardt, David Ragan and Jason Leffler, the highest-finishing non-Cup regular. Tony Stewart was 10th after overcoming an early tire problem.
Harvick, who started on the pole based on owner points after qualifying was canceled Thursday because of rain, led the first 53 laps. But his bid to become the first five-time winner at Texas ended early because of a broken left rear axle during the first pit stop, and he was 21 laps down by time the problem was fixed and he got back on the track.
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