Kyle Busch proved he’s still the man to beat on the Nationwide Series — particularly when it comes to Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch raced to his 11th Nationwide victory of the year Friday night, giving him a season sweep on the 1-mile track.
Busch edged Nationwide title contenders Austin Dillon and Sam Hornish Jr. to win for the eighth time in the series at his favorite track. Coupled with his five Truck Series wins at track, he broke the track victory record with 13.
"I feel like I’ve really taken to this place over the years," Busch said. "I have it figured out in Camping Truck and Nationwide but I seem to have a little bit of a struggle on the Cup side. We’ll see if we can’t change that around on Saturday. I’d like to score my first Cup Series win here."
Busch and wife Samantha donated the winnings from the race to the Pretty in Pink Foundation that provides financial assistance and support to underinsured and uninsured North Carolinians with breast cancer.
The victory pushed Busch’s series record to 62. He has 19 victories this year in NASCAR’s three national series, also winning four times each in Cup and Truck. Overall, he has 124 victories in the three series, winning 28 times in Cup and 34 in the Truck circuit.
The win wasn’t quite as easy as his Nationwide victory at the track in May when he led 186 of the 200 laps. Busch, who started from the pole, only led 36 laps this time after struggling during the first half of the race.
He took the lead from Hornish with eight laps to go and pulled away.
"It’s very frustrating to be leading with 10 laps to go and to get blown away by the 54 car," Hornish said.
Busch said he stole a page from Kyle Larson, who ran well at the top of the track for most of the night before nicking the wall late and finishing 13th.
"It’s good to be young and dumb," Busch said with a laugh. "He taught us old wily veterans something. He drove past me and I said, `I better try that.’"
The night ended the same way it began in the points standings– with Dillon holding an eight-point lead over Hornish. Hornish finished a spot behind Dillon in third, but received bonus points for leading the most laps essentially making Friday night’s race a push.
The final three races will determine who’ll win the championship but both drivers said there’s a mutual respect and they expect clean racing moving forward.
"I feel like we’re going to run hard for the championship and we’re going to race each other with respect and see how the points stack up at the end," Hornish said.
Dillon is hoping for more races like this one, calling it the best race he’s been a part of this year.
"We had three guys fighting it out until the end and it was a heck of a race," Dillon said.
With the victory, Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 54 Toyota took the lead in the owners’ standings, four points ahead of Penske Racing’s No. 22. Joey Logano was seventh in the Penske ride. The No. 22 has 11 victories this year, five by Brad Keselowski, three by Logano, two by AJ Allmendinger and one by Ryan Blaney.
Busch started on the pole but dropped back to sixth in the first half of the race. His crew made adjustments around lap 115 and he started climbing back toward the front.
It was a tough night for Gibbs teammates Brian Vickers and Elliott Sadler, who crashed on lap 52.
The incident began when Reed Sorenson got into the grass causing him to slide up the track into the wall on the front stretch. As Sorenson slid back down the track Vickers tried to avoid him and slammed into Sadler, who was coming off pit row, taking out both JGR cars.
The crash knocked Vickers and Sorenson out of the race. Sadler returned to the track after getting some done, but that temporary fix only lasted only a dozen laps before he crashed and was forced to join the others behind the wall.
Sadler said it was a frustrating night with a lot of "weird luck."
"We had a rocket tonight and we were coming up through the pack," Sadler said. "My spotter was telling me to `Go, go,’ I had no idea they were going to hit me."
Sorenson said he was looking to make a pass when his left front tire hit the grass.
"When I hit the grass my car went right, so I don’t really have an explanation for it," Sorenson said.