Busch sweeps another race weekend
Kyle Busch enjoyed a record-breaking weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
Busch set a new track record in NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying on Friday, won the Nationwide Series race that night and came back on Saturday to make a clean sweep with the Sprint Cup win.
With his victory on Saturday night, Busch became the only competitor in NASCAR to win back-to-back Nationwide and Sprint Cup races on seven different occasions. He’s also the only driver to win in NASCAR’s top three series on the 1.5-mile track.
But even "Rowdy" acknowledged that without his pit crew — the men that have gone over the wall to support him on pit stops since 2008 — there was no way the No. 18 would have celebrated the feat.
On the seventh and final pit stop on Lap 315, Busch bested then-leader Martin Truex Jr. off pit road — much to the pleasure of Busch's crew chief Dave Rogers.
“Ooh, boys that’s the way you do it,” Rogers exclaimed. “Eleven-seven (second stop) on the watch.”
Truex Jr., who led 142 of 334 circuits before finishing second, watched his losing streak extend to a heart-wrenching 210 races. And Truex knows why.
“We got beat out of the pits there and we were leading the race,” Truex said. “We had a five-, six-second lead, everybody pitted, we came in first and went out second, and that was the race. So frustrating.”
In clean air at the front, Busch extended his advantage over Truex to 0.508-seconds by the final lap. Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Joey Logano rounded out the top five.
Busch moved into a tie for 23rd on the all-time Cup series’ win list with his 26th career win and second victory of the season, which came in his 300th start. He made it clear in his post-race celebration that “if it wasn’t for my pit crew, who is the most awesome crew ever” it could have been another name up in lights in victory lane instead of Busch.
“Hell yeah, boys,” Busch yelled over the radio. “Awesome job. You guys won this race. It’s all you, all you down there.”
At 27, Busch realizes that working as a team makes the difference between winning races and winning championships. Despite the tremendous success Busch has enjoyed over the last nine seasons, he’s only qualified for five Chase for the Sprint Cup title runs.
In 2012, Busch had one win entering the Chase and the team fell apart in the final race before it began at Richmond before the final 10 races. Now he’s third in the points standings and has two victories after the first seven races of the season with 18 additional opportunities to earn more.
“You have to be able to execute through the first 26 and get yourself a playoff spot and be able to go battle with the rest of the guys to be able to win a championship,” Busch said. “Right now, obviously, winning two races so far this year, you'd say that's a lock. But anything can happen. We've still got some work to do to get better at some of the tracks that we did struggle at last year, and we know that.
“But with last year's frustrations and everything and coming down to that race in Richmond, we didn't execute that as we needed to. But we learned from that one. We put that in the memory bank and we talked about it a lot. Through the last 10 weeks, I felt like we did a lot of things right, and there were probably a couple things we could have done even better yet.
“We learned from those things, and Dave and I talked a lot through those weeks and through the offseason ... What do we need to do to better execute the end of these races to put ourselves in a position to win and close them out like (Saturday night) and California, you know, being able to do that.”
If the No. 18 team can continue to work together as a unit, there’s no reason why Kyle Busch shouldn’t be a perennial Chase contender.
Belt it out
Carl Edwards came unraveled — at least his safety harness did.
Unfortunately for the driver of the No. 99 Ford, it happened in the middle of the race. On the lap 155 restart, Edwards’ belts became hooked on something inside the car and, as he worked to fix them, he dropped out of the top 20.
“I tightened my belts and I unhooked my whole seatbelt system coming to the green, so I haven’t had that happen since I was running my dirt car,” Edwards said. “I told them out there, ‘I don’t know what the state laws are or whatever,’ but I went ahead and hooked them back up. That was pretty crazy.”
Edwards made a solid recovery in the final 177 laps from 22nd to finish third.
5: Fords finished in the top 10 on Saturday.
8: Top-10 finishes for Martin Truex Jr. at Texas.
22: Years that Joe Gibbs Racing has enjoyed a relationship with sponsor Interstate Batteries on the No. 18 car.
After leading 142 laps before becoming a bridesmaid once again, Martin Truex Jr. extended his winless streak to 210 races. Truex Jr. concluded, “When they say second sucks — second sure sucked tonight.”