Busch Keeps Hopes Of Weekend Sweep Alive With Food City 300 Victory
A pattern has emerged with Kyle Busch this week at Bristol Motor Speedway.
In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Wednesday, Busch overcame a penalty for speeding on pit road to win. He did the same thing Friday in the Food City 300.
Busch charged back from a penalty for speeding in the same segment of pit road on his first pit stop to win his ninth career XFINITY Series race on the high-banked, half-mile track.
The victory - his fifth in nine XFINITY Series starts this season - keeps alive the possibility that he could complete the rare weekend sweep of three NASCAR national series races.
Only one driver has done it before, and it was Busch in 2010 at Bristol.
"There's a great opportunity for it," said Busch, who will start 18th in Saturday's Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. "You've got to win these races to have that opportunity. We did that Wednesday night and we did that tonight."
Contact between Jeb Burton and Brendan Gaughan with 15 laps remaining Friday injected a measure of doubt into what appeared a foregone conclusion.
Busch held a comfortable lead over Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suarez at the time of the caution and easily pulled ahead on the restart with eight laps remaining. He beat Suarez to the finish line by 1.181 seconds for his 91st career XFINITY Series victory.
Busch swept each stage and led 186 total laps, including the final 81, in the No. 18.
"I was able to drive back up through the field there and put on a show," Busch said. "Glad I didn't have to do it in the last stage because I'm not sure I would have got there. Daniel was pretty strong coming on there before the caution came out. I thought he was gaining on us. Then we got that last restart and I was able to drive away. But the car was sideways loose. I was really overdriving it, barely hanging on."
Suarez started seventh in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing machine¬†and ran in the top three most of the race. In the end, he said his tires were too worn to give Busch a serious challenge.
"I just didn't take care of my tires as well as Kyle did," Suarez said. "I didn't have a lot to fight with right there at the end.
"Overall, it was a solid day. I'm very proud of the 20 team. I haven't got to race with the 20 team a lot. I have done it twice this year and we finished third and second."
XFINITY Series points leader Elliott Sadler remains winless this season but his third place finish Friday clinched him a spot in the series' playoff field.
Sadler started eighth in the No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet and led 15 laps in the final segment.
"We had a really good car all weekend," he said. "I made a mistake and hit the wall with about 50 to go and it kind of tightened my car up a little too much. (Otherwise) I think I might have had something for those guys on the last restart."
Suarez and Sadler both enjoyed the ability to run the bottom groove in Turns 1 and 2 and the upper groove in Turns 3 and 4. Bristol Motor Speedway applied resin to the bottom groove before the races this week. It's again provided drivers some flexibility.
"It was so much fun to run here at Bristol anyway," said Sadler, a native of Emporia, Virginia. "To be able to race up front all night and make some passes, thank you to Bristol Motor Speedway for putting the (resin) on the bottom to create some opportunity to pass. It was really fun to run the bottom in (Turns) 1 and 2 and the top in (Turns) 3 and 4. I think all in all it was a great night. The track put on a show."
The closing laps of the second segment illustrated Sadler's assertion and he was a part of the action that involved teammate Justin Allgaier, Busch and Suarez.
Allgaier and Suarez swapped the lead, taking turns utilizing the upper and bottom grooves. Their racing allowed Sadler and Busch to catch up.
Busch passed Suarez for the lead on Lap 157, completing a comeback from a pit road penalty before the start of the second stage. Busch started from the pole and won the opening stage.
The penalty dropped him back to 19th position at the outset of the second stage on Lap 95. In a matter of 40 laps, he had moved back into the top five.
"I was just trying to keep him patient and (telling) him to take care of your race car," crew chief Eric Phillips said. "Luckily it was early enough in the race after that first stage, you've got a ways to go. I knew we had a fast car. Just try not to make anymore mistakes and get back through there. You can always get caught up in somebody else's mess here, so that's the hardest thing."
Allgaier had a strong car from the outset. The driver of the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet passed Busch for the lead on Lap 17 and held it for 16 laps in the first segment. He led 59 more in the second segment and finished fifth behind Ty Dillon.
Joey Logano, like Busch, was flagged for speeding on pit road after his first pit stop. He then pitted for a flat tire and went two laps down. Logano was able to get back onto the lead lap and had moved up to 10th by the time the eighth and final caution came out on Lap 285.
Logano took the caution as an opportunity to gamble, so he visited pit road for a four-tire change and restarted 10th. He finished ninth.
Qualifying was shortened to a single, 20-minute round. Busch won the pole - his fifth in the XFINITY Series at Bristol and 63rd overall in the series - with a lap of 127.157 mph. Logano qualified second.
Busch is determined not to get caught speeding on pit road Saturday.
This will be the third time that he's had an opportunity to sweep the weekend at Bristol. In addition to 2010, he also won the Truck Series and XFINITY Series races in 2013. He finished 11th in the Cup Series race after starting 43rd.
"Now it's up to Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and myself to figure it all out and make it happen," Busch said. "I feel like our car was really good in race trim. There's a great opportunity for it.
"Every time I've won here or have run real well here, I've always qualified poorly. So, we've got that going for us already. We're ready to rock and roll."