Perfecting the Bristol Bow
Kyle Busch continued the process of perfecting his Bristol Motor Speedway bow after taking his second straight and third career NASCAR Nationwide Series victory at the legendary venue.
The Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) talent scored his fourth consecutive and 10th career NASCAR national series victory on the 0.533-mile oval will gun for his second consecutive Thunder Valley weekend sweep tomorrow after becoming the only driver in NASCAR history to capture the checkered flag for Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series events there last August. Busch started fifth and took the lead for the first of two times on the afternoon on Lap 31. He held the point for a race-best 268 laps and reached a career milestone on Lap 265 of 300 by leading his 10,000th career NASCAR Nationwide Series circuit.
Despite the sterling statistical performance, his strongest challenges came when his car's performance changed dramatically following a NASCAR-initiated, Lap 25 competition caution during which teams were required to change two right-side tires to combat wear issues and from a late push by Kasey Kahne in the No. 38 Turner Motorsports machine.
Busch's crew helped him overcome the car's performance issues and his skill helped him hold off the second-place Kahne by 0.524 of a second at line.
"It was all in the team. These guys gave me a great racecar. We unloaded yesterday and played around with a lot of different setups to see exactly what we wanted to put underneath this car to get it to Victory Lane. I know the feel I need, but it's just hard to get it sometimes. We got it yesterday and felt pretty good about it.
"The right side tires changed the dynamic of the car quite a bit and we got nervous. We had to compensate for that on our next pit stop by making changes and it worked out for us. It was a great effort by everybody," Busch said following his 45th career Nationwide Series victory and 89th overall in NASCAR's national series.
Kahne wheeled to his first top-five finish of the season in his first series start since the season-opening Daytona International Speedway event. He continued a personal NASCAR top-two hot streak that started last week with a Camping World Truck Series victory at Darlington Raceway.
"We were really fast for a long time and then really loose, but we made the right adjustments. The team did a really good job on pit road.
"I had fresher tires than Kyle so I could beat him a little in lapped traffic (near the end). It was exciting, we were catching him and I thought we had a shot to get there. (Dale Earnhardt) Junior and (Kevin) Harvick kind got together and that opened it up for me to get to second," Kahne said.
Earnhardt, Jr., finished third in his No. 5 JR Motorsports entry, Elliott Sadler snared fourth in the No. 2 Kevin Harvick, Inc. (KHI), car and three-time Kentucky Speedway Nationwide Series winner Joey Logano completed the top-five in the JGR No. 20. Harvick closed out the race sixth in the No. 33 KHI ride.
Turner Motorsports driver Jason Leffler moved from third to the lead in the series standings by taking a ninth-place finish that marked his second straight and third top-10 performance of the season.
Race pole award winner and Roush Fenway driver Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., kept hold of the second spot in the series standings. He snapped a three-race top-10 finish streak with a 14th-place Bristol showing and will enter the series March 26 event at Auto Club Speedway trailing Leffler by just two points.
The fifth Nationwide Series event of the season is set to take the green flag at 5:30 p.m., on ESPN. Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM 128 will begin prerace coverage at 5:00 p.m.
The series will race at Kentucky Speedway July 8 as part of an inaugural "Quaker State 400" NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tripleheader weekend. The action opens July 7 with a 225-mile Camping World Truck Series battle and culminates with the July 9 Sprint Cup Series track debut.
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Story by Mike Schmaltz with contribution from NASCAR