Kyle Busch becomes first Nationwide driver to lead 10,000 laps
Another race at Bristol Motor Speedway meant another dominating performance by Kyle Busch. Busch drove his No. 18 car to the front fairly early and led the most laps en route to his win of the Scotts EZ Seed 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Bristol on Saturday.
The race was the fourth-straight NASCAR win at Bristol for Busch. He swept the last NASCAR weekend at the track, in Aug. 2010, with three wins -- Camping World Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup. With Saturday’s dominating performance, he also became the first driver in Nationwide Series history to hit the 10,000 laps led mark. He surpassed that milestone on lap 265 of the 300-lap event.
“It’s big,” Busch said of leading more than 10,000 laps. “It’s cool. I enjoy it.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. started on the pole and led several laps early before being taken over by Busch about 28 laps into the race. Once Busch got past him for the lead, Stenhouse Jr. looked to be Busch’s toughest competition, running closely behind in the second position much of the first half of the race.
Stenhouse Jr.’s race fell apart, though, soon after a cycle of green flag pit stops that began around lap 167. While much of the field, Stenhouse Jr. included, pitted under green, Busch continued to stay out and got a caution at lap 183. The caution caught most of the cars in the race a lap down, and Busch proceeded to make his stop under the yellow flag.
It’s big, it’s cool. I enjoy it.
After making his stop, Busch restarted in the lead. Meanwhile, Stenhouse lined up for the restart among the lead lap cars, despite being a lap down. As a result, he was penalized by NASCAR, putting him two laps down. Stenhouse Jr. finished the race two laps down, but still finished 14th.
“I didn’t know where we were supposed to start,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “They told me we were behind the 34, so it was just a bad day all around.”
When Michael Annett brought out the sixth caution of the race after being tapped by Trevor Bayne in the last 100 laps of the race, Busch and several of the other front-runners stayed out, but Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had just gotten back on the lead lap, and Kasey Kahne opted to pit for four fresh tires.
“We were watching him (Busch),” Kahne said. “I thought we had a shot.”
The fresh tires did paid off for both Kahne and Earnhardt Jr., as they were able to gain several positions in the closing laps to make their way toward the front, but it wasn‘t enough to catch Busch. Earnhardt Jr. made his way up all the way to a battle with Kevin Harvick for the second position, but as Harvick and Earnhardt Jr. duked it out for the spot, Kahne took advantage and got by both of them to finish second. Earnhardt Jr. finished third as Harvick slid back to sixth.
Instead, it was Harvick’s teammate, Elliott Sadler, who finished in fourth behind Earnhardt Jr. Joey Logano rounded out the top-five.
“I was just praying there wasn’t a caution,” Busch’s crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, said after the race, referring to Earnhardt Jr and Kahne coming on fresher tires.
One more caution did come out late in the race, a result of Danica Patrick and Ryan Truex making contact, but it still didn’t give Earnhardt Jr. and Kahne enough extra ground to take the win from Busch.