After an uncharacteristic two poor XFINITY Series races in a row, Kyle Busch obviously was fed up.
So he returned to his usual series-dominating self Friday night at Richmond International Raceway, taking the lead from Austin Dillon on Lap 52 after the first round of pit stops and never relinquishing it.
Busch led all but two of the remaining laps, giving up the lead only briefly to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones after another round of pit stops. Busch led the race-high total of 197 laps in all.
Dillon led the first 51, and Jones two. But like the rest of the field, neither was ever really much of a serious threat to Busch as he went on to secure the 14th series win of the season for JGR.
Busch seemed to surprise even himself after qualifying seventh earlier in the day, when he doubted he had the car that would be able to dominate as it turned out it did later in the evening.
"Man, I don’t know. I was down to begin with. Never give up, I guess. Just keep working and keep doing what we can do," Busch said. "It obviously was an awesome job by my crew chief, Chris Gayle."
While Gayle obviously made all the right adjustments to get the car faster after the first run in the race, Busch’s pit crew got him out first after the race’s first pit stop with a 12.1-second stop. Austin Dillon went in as the leader but came out fifth after his No. 2 Richard Childress Racing crew encountered problems changing the right-front tire and had a slow stop timed in 14.8 seconds.
Jones ended up finishing second after running there, right behind Busch, for most of the rest of the race.
Jones said his No. 20 JGR Toyota could have gotten to Victory Lane — against anybody else but the No. 18 that was driven by Busch. He said experience at 0.75-mile RIR proved to be the difference.
"It shows," Jones said. "It’s unfortunate. We want to win and we thought we had the car that could do it — just not against Kyle and the 18."
Brad Keselowski, Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively. Austin Dillon faded to seventh by the end, one spot behind his younger brother and Richard Childress Racing teammate, Ty Dillon.
But nobody could touch Kyle Busch. Not even close.
Busch, a Sprint Cup regular who races only part-time in XFINITY, now has eight series wins in just 14 starts this season. This also was the eight race this season in which he has led 119 or more laps.
But after winning three NXS races in a row at Kentucky, New Hampshire and Indianapolis, Busch stumbled in the two prior to Richmond. He crashed out at both Watkins Glen, where he finished 37th, and Bristol, where he finished 24th.
When he struggled in practice Friday and then qualified poorly (for him), he thought he might be in for another long night. That hardly turned out to be the case.
"I just doubted our car today. It just wasn’t right. We just kind of missed it all through practice, and it wasn’t good there," Busch said. "Man, it was a handful in qualifying and we didn’t qualify very well. Seventh. That’s not very well for my expectations.
"But we just worked on it there at the beginning of the race. We were really out of control and loose. We got up to fourth and that’s kind of where I thought we were going to be. But I got that awesome pit stop. They got me out front and Chris Gayle made some really smart adjustments to it there on that first time on pit road."
That was, as they say, all she wrote.
"After that, it was lights out," Busch said. "It was on a rail from there."