By: Amanda Vincent, NASCAR Correspondent
- Kyle Busch dominated in Kentucky
- 1st race for Cup drivers at the Speedway
- Reutimann 2nd, Johnson ends 3rd
- Toyota celebrates home race win
Kyle Busch, Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing celebrate inaugural NSCS win in Kentucky
Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was the fastest car at Kentucky Speedway during practice on Friday for the Quaker State 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. He continued to have the fastest car in the race on Saturday, leading nearly half the event en route to the checkered flag and the win in the Cup series inaugural race in the Bluegrass state.
“We had a fast Toyota Camry all weekend,” Busch said. “Nobody else will ever be the inaugural race winner at Kentucky Speedway.”
David Reutimann in the No. 00 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota finished second to give the Camry, built in nearby Georgetown, Ky., a one-two race finish. Jimmie Johnson finished third in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
Busch started on the pole but lost the lead on the first lap to his brother, Kurt Busch, in the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge. Kurt Busch then proceeded to lead his brother around the track until Kyle Busch retook the lead on pit road during a competition caution that came out on lap 30.
The Busch brothers combined to lead much of the first half of the race, usually running first and second, with the exception of a period of time when the field cycled through green flag pit stops. But Brad Keselowski, with his No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge, broke up the Busch family party when he and Tony Stewart stayed out during a caution that came out for debris on lap 141 to restart the race in the first and second positions.
While Stewart eventually lost a few positions, Keselowski stayed up front to lead a total of 79 laps by the end of the 267-lap race. Throughout much of the remainder of the event, Keselowski, Kurt and Kyle Busch, Johnson, and Stewart occupied the top-five of the running order.
“We had a very solid race car,” Johnson said. “We drove up through the field a couple of times.”
The running order got an overhaul late in the going, though, when a tire issue for Dale Earnhardt Jr. with 15 laps to go brought out the caution for the fifth time in the race after several of the front runners had already cycled through green flag stops but before others had made their final stops.
Those who hadn’t yet pitted received the luxury of pitting under green, and some of the previous leaders were caught a lap down, needing to take a wave around to get back on the lead lap. A few drivers who had already pitted, including Kurt Busch and Keselowski, opted to pit again. Having not yet pitted for the final time, Reutimann was able to make his final stop under the yellow.
The race restarted with eight laps to go with Kyle Busch up front and Johnson starting alongside him on the front row. Kurt Busch and Reutimann occupied the second row on the restart.
The yellow flag waved again -- for the sixth time in the race -- with six laps to go when Clint Bowyer hit the wall with his No. 33 Richard Chilress Racing Chevrolet, setting up a two lap dash to the finish. In the frantic melee to the checkered flag, Reutimann got by Johnson for the second spot and was reeling Kyle Busch in on the final lap but ran out of time when the checkered flag waved to end the race.
“We were just a little short at the end,” Reutimann said.
Ryan Newman finished in the fourth position in the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, and Edwards rounded out the top-five.
“There were cars everywhere,” Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, said. “That was a pretty wild last couple of laps there.”
With the win, Kyle Busch climbed into the top spot in the championship points standings, leading second-place Edwards by four points. Kevin Harvick, who came into the race with the lead, fell to third as a result of a 16th-place race finish.