Kyle Busch won the Meijer 300 NASCAR Busch Series race tonight before a standing-room-only crowd of over 70,000 fans at Kentucky Speedway after starting from the back of the field. Busch had qualified his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the ...
Kyle Busch won the Meijer 300 NASCAR Busch Series race tonight before a standing-room-only crowd of over 70,000 fans at Kentucky Speedway after starting from the back of the field. Busch had qualified his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the outside front row, but crashed his primary car in final "Happy Hour" practice and, per NASCAR rules, had to start from the rear of the field when his team determined that a switch to their backup car was needed.
Busch made steady progress through the field, cracking into the top 20 by lap 25 and the top 10 by lap 50. With 50 laps (of 200) remaining, Busch was in 5th place. He took the green in third place on the final restart on lap 187, immediately passed Jason Leffler for second, then tracked down leader Greg Biffle. Since he was on older tires, Biffle provided no resistance, and Busch won pulling away. The win was Busch's third of the season and puts him only 10 points behind Busch Series point leader Martin Truex, Jr.
Mike Bliss finished third tonight for Joe Gibbs Racing, another driver who had to come from the back after an engine change. Ron Hornaday, Jr. finished fourth in Richard Childress Racing's Chevrolet. Jason Keller was fifth with a steady but unspectacular drive. Truex and Leffler were just behind in sixth and seventh places.
At the start of the race, defending race winner Bobby Hamilton Jr. looked to have the car to beat. He drove around polesitter Truex on lap 2 and pulled out to a healthy lead.
The first restart was at the start of lap 20, after a long cleanup for Blake Feese's turn 2 spin and fiery crash (Feese hopped out - quickly - and luckily uninjured.) Truex, Jason Leffler, Biffle, and Robbie Gordon were in the top 5 behind Hamilton, but he soon built another big lead.
On the second restart (on lap 24, after 3 yellow flag laps for debris pickup) Gordon passed Hamilton for the lead, but NASCAR officials ruled that he had jumped the restart, and Gordon was nearly a lap down and out of the top 30 once he served a pit drive-through as a penalty.
Biffle made his first bid for the lead on lap 50, passed Hamilton two laps later and began pulling away.
On lap 61, the yellow lights came on for the third time for Casey Atwood's turn 4 spin. Fast pit work by Hamilton's Harold Holly-led Team Renzi got him out ahead of Biffle for the restart and he had the lead again a lap later when he blew by Leffler's Haas CNC Racing Chevrolet.
Another spectacular, flaming crash occurred on lap 71, when Buckshot Jones and Travis Geisler got together and hit the turn 4 wall. Jones was treated for minor smoke inhalation, but both drivers were otherwise uninjured.
After ten laps under yellow for Kentucky Speedway's staff to clean up that mess, Hamilton and Biffle sprinted off to continue their lead battle. Hornaday and his young RCR teammate, Clint Bowyer started to show their strength, each gaining several positions on the restart to move into top five positions.
On the next restart (number five, for those keeping track), after a cleanup for the oil that Clint Vahsholtz left behind when his engine expired, Biffle again took the lead from Hamilton. Truex was also looking quite racy at this stage and he soon passed Hamilton for second place.
Biffle, Truex and Hamilton looked most likely to settle things with one of the three drivers in Victory Lane, but on lap 181, Johnny Benson blew a tire in turn two and hit the wall hard. The crash ruined an excellent run for Benson who had been in the top ten all night. The caution came just after most of the leaders had just made green flag pit stops and many of those leaders hit trouble during this final caution period.
First, Hamilton went into the pits and was out of the race with a blown engine. Biffle was the next to hit trouble when he was slapped with a drive-through penalty for entering the pits with too much speed during his green flag pit stop just two laps prior. Biffle was able to recover from the penalty and maintain the lead by staying on the track under yellow while the other leaders pitted, but this left him with older tires that aided Busch's winning pass. Bowyer, who held the lead briefly before the caution, was penalized for stopping outside of his pit box on his final stop and fell to tenth. Truex had a bad stop that took him out of contention for the win.
The NASCAR Busch Series races next at the Milwaukee Mile in one week. Busch and Truex resume their points battle there, hoping to continue their dominance over the rest of the Busch Series contenders. David Green, (thirteenth place tonight) is third in points, but nearly 300 points behind the two leaders. Behind him in the standings are Biffle, Michael Waltrip, Hamilton, Keller, Leffler, Hornaday and Bliss.