Busch finally breaks through
By Pete Iacobelli
DARLINGTON, S.C. — Kyle Busch finally broke through to win a Nationwide Series race at Darlington Raceway after near misses the past two years.
Busch moved past Elliott Sadler 23 laps from the end and stayed in front of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin to win the Royal Purple 200 on Friday night, his fifth Nationwide victory this season and 48th overall — one behind Mark Martin’s series record.
But for all the success Busch has had in the series, he had been snakebit by “The Lady in Black.”
He led for 143 laps in 2009 before cutting a tire and finishing 16th, then was edged out by Hamlin a year ago with what he thought was the faster car.
This time, Busch waited for his time as fellow Sprint Cup regulars Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards took their turns at the top before falling back.
“My car wasn’t the best on the short run, but it seemed to really come to life on the long runs. It was really good,” Busch said.
Sadler was third, series points leader Justin Allgaier fourth and Steve Wallace fifth.
Busch led 49 laps, taking the lead for the fourth and final time on lap 124. He was helped by his decision to take on four fresh tires late in the race that kept him ahead of Hamlin, last week’s Nationwide winner at Richmond International Raceway.
“Talking about running with the 18 and beating the 18 are two different things,” Sadler said. “We all know how good he is in a Nationwide car.”
Soon, Busch — the Sprint Cup winner last week in Richmond — might be the best ever. He’s won nearly a quarter of his starts — 48 of 211 — and the 26-year-old star is poised to pass Martin.
“We’ll see when it happens, if it happens,” Busch said about catching Martin. “Maybe some of you say it’s inevitable, but we just keeping working our guts out and making sure we bring good cars to the racetrack.”
Martin collected his 49 wins in 22 seasons in Nationwide. Busch has won 37 series races since 2008.
Busch plans to run Nationwide events at Dover and Charlotte later this month, “so those are two really good places for me,” he said.
The race was a quick one, lasting less than two hours and involving only five cautions.
The worst of the stoppages came on lap 95 with a multi-car accident that sent Brian Scott hard into the infield wall. The barrier had the SAFER walls to cushion Scott’s hit, something Richmond International Raceway did not when Jeff Gordon hit an inside wall in last week’s Sprint Cup race. Scott was not seriously hurt.
The wreck also collected up Sprint Cup regulars Edwards, Kahne, Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski. All but Bowyer began in the top 10 after qualifying was rained out earlier Friday. Bowyer was scheduled to start second but was sent to the back of the field after missing roll call at the pre-race drivers’ meeting.
“I tried my hardest to miss that,” said Edwards, who led 20 laps. “But there was nothing we could do. We got lucky it wasn’t torn up worse.”
Edwards, the Sprint Cup points leader, finished 20th.
Busch got away from the accident mostly unscathed and waited for his chance to pass Sadler.
Hamlin said his JGR teammate had the better car and fresher tires.
“We didn’t have enough for him,” Hamlin said.
James Hylton, 76, became the oldest driver to start a race in NASCAR’s top three series when he rolled out Friday night. However, Hylton, whose first Sprint Cup event came in 1964, lasted only two laps before heading to the garage.