BUSCH BESTS HAMLIN IN Z-LINE DESIGNS BATTLE Busch Third, Hamlin 17th in Richmond Nationwide Series Race Kyle Busch piloted the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) to a third-place finish and out-dueled teammate ...
BUSCH BESTS HAMLIN IN Z-LINE DESIGNS BATTLE
Busch Third, Hamlin 17th in Richmond Nationwide Series Race
Kyle Busch piloted the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) to a third-place finish and out-dueled teammate Denny Hamlin in the No. 20 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for bragging rights and a sizeable donation to charity in Friday night's Virginia 529 College Savings 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
Busch's third-place effort is his 19th top-five and 23rd top-10 of the 2009 season, maintaining his lead in the Nationwide Series point standings. Hamlin finished 17th after making an unscheduled pit stop under green late in the event after contact with Kevin Harvick's car in turn four caused Hamlin to have a tire rub.
"It was a good night, but unfortunately not good enough where we were competitive enough to win," Busch said. "I felt like we were always going to be a third or fourth-place car tonight. The 20 (Hamlin) was really good, the 33 (Harvick), the 60 (Carl Edwards) and the 88 (Brad Keselowski) were good too. We almost fell to fifth. Unfortunately, the 20 (Hamlin) had some problems there and had to come down pit road. That gained us a spot sort of. Third-place was alright. We'll take it. We've got to battle the points, too."
And thanks to a friendly wager between Z-Line Designs founder and CEO Jim Sexton and his wife Monica Sexton, Busch's third-place finish means that Racing for Kids, a charity founded in Detroit in 1989 that uses the popularity of motorsports to focus public attention and funding on the health care needs of children, will receive a $20,000 donation.
"It was a great competition between two terrific drivers," said Jim Sexton, who sat atop the No. 18 pit box. "Both guys have won here before, but it was a great thing for the charities since they got some tremendous exposure. That's what it's all about. It really wasn't about winning and losing, but highlighting the charities and getting their message out there and it worked out well tonight."
Although Hamlin didn't win the battle of the Z-Line Designs cars, the charity featured on his car -- Operation Helmet, a 100 percent volunteer, non-partisan charitable organization headquartered in Montgomery, Texas, that provides helmet upgrade kits free of charge to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan -- will also get a $10,000 donation.
"Everyone won tonight. We had great exposure for two wonderful causes," said Monica Sexton, who cheered on the No. 20 team. "Everyone had a great time trying to win. We had a team that worked really hard that ran into some bad luck. But we had a good time and that's the most important thing, and two causes that needed attention certainly got that."
Hamlin, who grew up in nearby Chesterfield, Va., took the early lead in the Z-Line Designs grudge match at Richmond as the No. 20 Toyota Camry started on the pole, while Busch's No. 18 Camry started alongside him in the second spot. It was Hamlin's first Nationwide Series pole this season and the 13th of his career. Hamlin maintained his top spot for the first 42 laps, but he lost the lead following a lug nut issue on the night's first pit stop.
Busch moved ahead of Hamlin following the first round of pit stops, but by lap 125 Hamlin was chasing down his teammate on the racetrack and looking to reclaim the lead. The teammates circled the track in their identically painted Z-Line Designs Camrys door-to-door for several laps before Hamlin was finally able to overtake Busch at lap 143.
Back in the top spot, Hamlin looked to not only have the stronger of the Z-Line Designs Camrys, but also the better shot at a second Nationwide Series victory at Richmond, as Hamlin's first Nationwide Series win at Richmond came in May 2008 with Z-Line Designs livery. However, during a battle for the lead in turn four with Harvick at lap 205, Hamlin's car got too loose. He made contact with Harvick's No. 33 car, resulting in heavy damage to the left front of his No. 20 machine that resulted in a massive tire rub. The contact turned the lead over to Harvick and forced Hamlin to pit road for an unscheduled stop for fresh tires, fuel and to repair the damage to the car, taking him out of contention for the victory.
"I was doing everything I could just to hold him off," Hamlin said. "I think there was about 50 (laps) to go or something like that. I was just trying to hold him off and paid the price. I just got loose and I needed the whole racetrack to save it, but unfortunately Kevin (Harvick) was there. I'm glad it didn't ruin his night and I'm sure he didn't need that caution at the end. It was a good day for the Z-Line Designs Toyota, but I just got a little loose."
With Hamlin no longer a factor, Busch tried to push his way to the front of the field, but with only a handful of laps remaining, the championship point leader didn't have enough steam to catch the cars in front of him.
Busch now holds a 201-point advantage over second-place Carl Edwards in the championship standings with only eight races remaining on the 35-race schedule.
Edwards cut 20 points from Busch's still substantial point lead by winning the Virginia 529 College Savings 250. It was his 24th career Nationwide Series victory, his fourth of the season and his third at Richmond.
Finishing 1.170 seconds behind Edwards was Harvick. Busch crossed the stripe in third, while Keselowski and David Reutimann rounded out the top-five. Martin Truex Jr., Trevor Bayne, Justin Allgaier, Steven Wallace and Scott Speed comprised the remainder of the top-10.
The race featured five caution periods for 25 laps, with 11 drivers failing to finish the 250-lap race.
The Nationwide Series takes a rare weekend off before racing resumes with the Sept. 26 Dover 200 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.