NASCAR: Busch wins again
FONTANA, Calif. ó It’s Kyle Busch ó again.
The 23-year-old NASCAR star was dominant on the 2-mile oval at Auto Club Speedway Saturday night, leading 144 of the 150 laps to race off with his seventh Nationwide Series victory of the season.
Busch easily held off Sprint Cup rival Carl Edwards on a pair of late-race restarts, piling up his record 18th NASCAR victory of the season, including eight in the Cup and three in the Craftsman Truck Series.
This one was one of the easiest of the season as Busch gave Joe Gibbs Racing its 15th Nationwide win of the year, including a victory in the February race here by teammate Tony Stewart, who led 136 of 150 laps. It was also the first win for the Gibbs Nationwide team since it was hit with seven suspensions, big fines and the loss of championship points for cheating on a chassis dyno engines test following the Nationwide race at Michigan.
“These guys got a bad rap a few weeks ago for what happened, but they don’t deserve it,” said Busch, who started from the pole. “This one means a lot. These guys have had a lot of adversity on them the past few weeks.”
Busch said his No. 18 Toyota was “flawless, really amazing.
“I think the biggest challenge was just being good on the restarts and getting away,” he added. “It just fun to run like this.”
Edwards, the defending Nationwide champion who is locked in a three-way points battle this season with leader Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski, finished second, followed by Brian Vickers, Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray, rookie Joey Logano and Bowyer.
Keselowski had a long stop for repairs after his engine quit and wound up 33rd. That left him in second, 204 points behind Bowyer and 18 ahead of Edwards.
“It was a great points night for us,” Edwards said. “Nobody was going to touch that (No.) 18. Those guys were scary fast. It was a lot of fun, but he was in a different zip code.”
Busch and Edwards are 1-2 in the Cup points and have been the two hottest drivers in NASCAR’s top series over the last few weeks, with Edwards winning three of the last four races and Busch finishing second to Edwards the last two weeks after winning the previous race.
Edwards bumped a dominating Busch out of the lead 30 laps from the end last week in the Cup race at Bristol, and the two then bumped each other on pit road, with NASCAR later putting both on probation for six races for the postrace incident.
Edwards gave Busch’s car a small bump on the rear as they drove slowly to pit road after the race.
“Oh yeah,” Edwards said. “I was just messing around with him. I couldn’t get to him to hit him all day. Even if I wanted to wreck him, I couldn’t because he was so fast. “He can have tonight,” Edwards added. “Tomorrow will be ours. We’ve won two in a row and I believe our car will be real good.”
Busch made his last pit stop under the green flag on lap 125. He came out of the pits behind the cars of Bowyer and Kelly Bires, who had not yet made their final stop. He was back in the lead three laps later and stayed there the rest of the way.
A crash by Chase Miller on lap 132 wiped out Busch’s 2.2-second lead and gave Edwards a shot at the leader on the restart on lap 136. But the Toyota easily pulled away from Edward’s Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
Debris brought out another caution on lap 139, this time erasing Busch’s 1.2-second margin. But, again, he pulled away steadily after the green flag waved for the final time on lap 143 and was a solid 2 seconds ahead before the race ended under caution after a crash by Josh Wise on the final lap.