It might be time for Kyle Busch to retire the “Rowdy” moniker, because he continues to reinforce his true nickname as “The Show.”
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He proved it again at Kentucky Speedway this weekend.
Despite starting at the tail end of the field in Thursday night’s Camping World Truck Series event, Busch won his 98th NASCAR race. On Friday, with a solid car and a bit of fine-tuning from his crew, he topped the Sprint Cup speed chart in practice. When qualifying was rained out later that afternoon, he earned the top position for Saturday’s inaugural Quaker State 400.
Then on Saturday night, Busch led 125 of 267 laps to pick up his 22nd Sprint Cup victory, his 99th NASCAR win and the points lead for the first time since Phoenix — the second race of the season.
“It feels awesome to be able to come out here and run the way we did, to unload the way we did off the hauler,” Busch said. “Dave (crew chief Rogers) and all the guys, all the engineers back in the shop did a phenomenal job with our racecar and be fast right out of the gates.
“It was definitely a special event here this weekend. We felt the energy. We saw the people. It was certainly a fun night for us. Couldn’t be happier to be here in Victory Lane.
“This one ranks right up there with the best of them. I haven’t won any of the big races, unfortunately, yet. But, you know, it ranks right up there with Las Vegas being another of my prestigious wins that I feel like I’ve accomplished so far.”
Although Busch last pitted for tires on Lap 239, he was able to hold off charges from Matt Kenseth on the Lap 260 restart and inevitably from David Reutimann and Jimmie Johnson on the final restart after Clint Bowyer spun in Turn 2 on Lap 262.
Johnson, who finished third behind Reutimann, acknowledged later that he never saw the white flag fly. The five-time champion thought there was another lap to go.
“I thought we had one more,” Johnson said. “The No. 00 was coming and got by me so I was hoping I had a shot just to fight for second. I felt like the win was kind of gone at that point, but didn’t see the white and I came around when everybody let off and I was still on the gas and going like ‘wow, I guess it’s over’.”
Busch could not hold back his excitement following the win. He yelped, “Whoooo, whoooo,” over the radio and proceeded to ignite a cloud of smoke on the frontstretch as he spun his tires from one end of the track to the other, stopping only to bow to the crowd and collect the checkered flag.
At 26, Busch considers his 99 NASCAR wins “certainly cool” but No. 100 will be a special milestone.
“It’s definitely one of my goals,” Busch said. “Whether it’s an important one or not, you know, to me it’s something that I want to do, it’s something that Dave is passionate about in helping me do, Joe Gibbs, all of Joe Gibbs Racing as well.
“We’re working as hard as we can to get as many as we can, whether it’s Sprint Cup, Nationwide, or Camping World Trucks. It feels a lot better when they’re Sprint Cup wins.”
With three wins, Busch is tied with Kevin Harvick for most victories in the Sprint Cup Series this season. He’s also led 1,060 laps — more than twice as many as Johnson (473), who is second on the list.
And while Busch takes great pride in winning, as he tames his “Rowdy” nature and evolves into “The Show,” his next big prize could be the Sprint Cup championship.
Looking for redemption
If ever there was a driver that could be type-cast for A.A. Milne’s Eeyore character, it would be David Reutimann.
Considering that Reutimann hasn’t cracked the top 20 in the point standings all season, it’s understandable why the driver from the Michael Waltrip Racing stable has resided in that “gloomy place” for a while.
His second-place finish on Saturday night, however, was his best finish of the season and just his second top-10 finish. Reutimann, 41, whose team brought a new car to Kentucky this weekend, spoke of the engineering staff‘s recent advances.
“We seem to have been behind on things,” Reutimann said. “We knew we were behind. But you just don’t make changes overnight. Between the help of Toyota and their engineering staff, Toyota Racing Development, all the guys at Michael Waltrip Racing, guys being in the wind tunnel, working their guts out, finally got us a car, at least this weekend, we’re closer to what we needed.
“Not that we’ve had bad cars in the past but the guys that you’re running against — their cars are constantly evolving, changing things. We’re trying to catch up sometimes. Everyone at MWR is doing a really good job."
Reutimann’s finish allowed him to gain two positions in the standings to 24th. Additionally, he earned a “Way to go Reutimann,” from Kyle Busch on his victory lap. Busch acknowledged that he’s settled his differences with Reutimann from earlier dust-ups on the track. He credited Reutimann’s move on Johnson with helping him to win the race.
“He did help hold up Jimmie a little bit there through the last turn in order to just kind of solidify our win a little bit more, but also to get himself a good finish,” Busch said. “Those guys deserve it. They’ve been working hard. Maybe haven’t been running as well as they would have liked to this year.
“Dave works really, really well with their crew chief (Rodney Childers). Reutimann and I have squared everything away. We’re all good there. Talk quite a bit. So that was really good for those guys.”
The Dodge boys had a solid showing at Kentucky Speedway.
Kurt Busch dominated the first 30 laps of the race — until the tower threw a competition caution on Lap 30. As night fell, Busch told his crew the car was better in the daylight and despite several adjustments he was never able to get his groove back.
Nevertheless, Busch led a total of 41 laps and finished ninth. He maintained fourth place in the point standings and remains the only Cup driver who has been in the top 10 in points for all 18 races.
Brad Keselowski continued to show his proficiency on intermediate tracks. Keselowski, who picked up his second career Sprint Cup race last month at Kansas, won the Nationwide Series race Friday night, then led three times for a total on 79 laps in the Sprint Cup event and finished seventh.
Keselowski gained just one position in the standings, but now trails 20th-place Joey Logano by just three points. With his win, Keselowski could be eligible for a Chase wild-card spot if he can break into the top 20 in points.
Keselowski says he’s reached his breakthrough with help from his teammate.
“Everyone at Penske Racing has a lot to be proud of.” Keselowski said. “I would have liked to have gotten a better finish from where we ended up. I really want to thank my teammate Kurt Busch. He’s helped me out a lot over the last few weeks and made me a better racer and has allowed me to go out and race hard. I want to thank him for that.”