FORT WORTH, Texas – Was there really any doubt Kyle Busch would wind in Victory Lane following Friday night’s Nationwide Series at Texas Motor Speedway?
After all, Busch had dominated the series this year, winning three of the first five races. He’d also dominated the NNS series at TMS, winning five times.
Nothing changed Friday night either in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300.
Busch, who started second in the No. 18 Toyota, led a race high 91 laps and cruised to his third-consecutive victory in the series and fourth of the year. If it weren’t for an engine problem at Daytona and a near-miss at Las Vegas, Busch could be six for six this year in the series.
Instead he’ll have to settle for being the first driver to ever win six races in a series at the 1 ½-mile quadoval and the first driver to ever win four of the first six races in the history of the Nationwide Series. Those aren’t bad consolation prizes.
“I love running Texas,” Busch said. “Most importantly, I love winning here.”
Busch had to overcome a pair of long pit stops but all that did was ratchet up the degree of difficulty for Busch. He passed Brad Keselowski for the lead with 51 laps to go and wasn’t challenged after that, leading all but one lap from that point on. Keselowski finished second and Austin Dillon third.
Early in the race, Busch was concerned because point leader Sam Hornish Jr. and Keselowski seemed like they had the cars to beat. But by the midway point of the 200-lap race, the cautions had fallen where Busch needed him, putting all the cars on similar fuel and tire strategies. That was all Busch needed as he led 65 of the final 85 laps of the race.
“I thought we were going to have our hands full tonight,” said Busch, who will start Saturday’s Sprint Cup race from the pole. “(Crew chief) Adam (Stevens) made some phenomenal race calls there and got us a lot of adjustments in the race car that helped me out, gave me a lot of speed. It got us to where we were continuing to gain speed each and every run.”
The combination of Joe Gibbs Racing and Busch was too much for the rest of the field. The team won nine races with Joey Logano driving in the series last year.
“Kyle’s really strong,” said Keselowski, who like Busch led the race five times. “He’s a great driver for sure. You have to look at the cars they have at Gibbs. Joey won a bunch of races in that same car. It shows you the effort that Gibbs puts in the series.”
While Busch had the dominant car, the race did manage to set track records for the series in leaders (11) and lead changes (22).
The race also tightened up the championship battle. Sam Hornish Jr. got involved in an incident with Jeremy Clements that relegated him to a 34th-place finish. That cut his lead from 28 points to two over Regan Smith, who finished seventh.