Kansas Kyle: Busch runs away with another Nationwide race
Kyle Busch may not have had the best car all throughout Saturday's Kansas Lottery 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Kansas Speedway, but he certainly had the best when it mattered most.
While JR Motorsports' Kevin Harvick was the class of the field for much of the 200 laps, Busch's No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota came on late in the race and was able to overtake the No. 5 Chevrolet driven by Harvick with 20 laps to go.
Driving away as they worked through traffic, Busch was able to earn his sixth Nationwide Series victory of the season, second in a row and the second of his career at Kansas Speedway, where he also won the NNS race in 2007. Saturday's win also marked the first time Busch has won at a 1.5-mile track this year.
One of his worst tracks on the Sprint Cup side, Busch also won the Camping World Truck Series race at Kansas last spring. So this is the third time overall Busch has won at Kansas, which gives him confidence heading into Sunday's opening race of the Contender Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
"We did really good here in the spring with our Toyota Care Tundra and won (the Truck Series race)," Busch said in Victory Lane. "Here now today, to win in the Monster Energy Camry means a lot in the Nationwide Series. You learn enough here (for Sunday). There was a bit of moving around here, trying to run the bottom, trying to run the top, seeing where the different lines were in traffic. I feel like our Cup car is OK, and if we can get out of here with a top-10 day tomorrow that would be pretty good.
"Great effort by (crew chief) Adam Stevens, all the guys on this 54 car," he said. "It was really awesome again today. We should have won at Chicago just like we did here today. Missed out there, but if you keep doing things right you'll end up in Victory Lane. You just have to have it all match up for you."
Leading 47 of the 200 laps, Harvick looked to be on his way to his way to his fifth victory of the season, but a loose car in the closing laps allowed Busch to gain the advantage.
When the eighth caution of the day flew on Lap 143, Harvick was the only car that had yet to pit under green. As the caution flew, Harvick was the only car on the lead laps, forcing the rest of the leaders to take the wave-around to get back on the lead lap.
By taking the wave-around, those teams could not come back in to top off for service, but since Busch was the first car one lap down, he received the free pass and was able to hit pit road.
Their battle was far from over, as the two raced hard for the lead with less than 25 laps to go as Busch tried to chase down Harvick. As Harvick's car moved to the loose side, Busch's No. 54 Toyota came to life and was the best it had been all day. With 20 laps to go, Busch made the move under Harvick off Turn 4 to take the top spot.
In the end, Harvick did not have enough to hold off the hard-charging Busch and finished the day second.
Ryan Blaney, Paul Menard, Ty Dillon, Matt Kenseth, Elliott Sadler, Trevor Bayne, Brian Scott and Chase Elliott rounded out the top 10.
VIDEO: Kyle Larson plows into Chris Buescher
Saturday's race saw a string of caution of flags throughout the first half of the race, with the yellow flag flying seven times before the halfway mark at Lap 100.
The most significant of those incidents came on Lap 91, when the No. 42 of Kyle Larson got loose, chased his car up the track and spun down the banking in Turn 2. With nowhere to go, Chris Buescher drove right into Larson's car and caused heavy damage to both cars.
In all, Saturday's race featured nine cautions and was slowed for a total of 42 laps.
Saturday was anything but kind to JR Motorsports' Regan Smith. Entering the day 26 behinds his teammate Chase Elliott in the standings, Smith wrecked his primary car in qualifying, had to pull out the backup and start the race at the rear of the field.
The team was able to get through NASCAR technical inspection and push the car to the grid as the pre-race ceremonies were going on, but it would be an uphill battle from there.
Making multiple pit stops to try and adjust on the car, the team's day would go south just before the eighth caution of the day on Lap 143. Running just ahead of race leader Kyle Busch, the right front sway bar arm broke off the car and flew out from under the car.
The team went to work making repairs on pit road, but Smith would fall multiple laps down and finish the day 22nd, eight laps down to the race leader.
With Chase Elliott finishing the day 10th, Smith fell 38 points behind his teammate with four races left before the end of the season.
"It started this morning. It really started (Friday), we didn't have the speed we wanted so we changed a lot of stuff for qualifying," Smith said of his struggles. "First (qualifying) session the car was really loose, the second session I backed it into the wall. Anytime you do that and have to roll out a backup car two hours before the race you can't expect anything to happen.
"My guys did a great job just getting the car ready and getting it to the grid, much less being competitive there in the opening stages of the race. We fought with it, it was kind of what we anticipated for the day, and disappointing. Obviously, it's disappointing, but it's a long year."
Despite making gains on his teammate, Elliott was not pleased with his team's outing Saturday in Kansas.
"We really struggled, and there's no excuse for that," said Elliott. "We just had a bad day today. Regardless of what the points situation looks like, this was not the performance we were hoping for today. I'm bummed about it. We may have gained, but I'm certainly bummed. We have some work to do before coming back here next year. Hopefully we can rebound next week at Charlotte and have a better run there."
With only four races left in the season, the NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway next week, followed by races at Texas Motor Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway and the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
VIDEO: Close call for Chase Elliott at Kansas