Kyle Busch survives for wild win
Kyle Busch won under a yellow flag in a wild finish Saturday, taking the Nationwide race at Talladega Superspeedway when the last of 10 crashes sent Mike Wallace's car flipping upside down.
Busch captured his fourth win in seven Nationwide races - and 47th of his career - on a day when tandem racing produced a series-record 56 lead changes, 11 cautions and two red flags to clean up all the debris.
Even Busch got caught up in the mayhem. He spun out in the biggest crash of the day, a 21-car melee just 28 laps from the scheduled finish of the Aaron's 312.
Busch drove his battered Toyota onto pit road and figured he was done for the day. Instead, his crew patched up the damage, yanked off the pieces they couldn't fix and sent him back onto the track without losing a lap.
He hooked with Joey Logano in a powerful duo, somehow finding a narrow gap to get past leader Trevor Bayne and his pusher, Carl Edwards, on the second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish.
Bayne and Edwards didn't have a chance at payback. When Wallace's car got clipped on the last lap going down the backstretch, spinning onto its roof, the yellow came out and Busch was assured of the win. Wallace's car wound up back on its wheels and he actually drove it to the finish line of a race that lasted seven laps beyond its scheduled 117.
Busch's No. 18 car looked better than Wallace's.
Not by much, though.
''I got hit a couple of times. My steering wheel got knocked out of my hands,'' Busch said. ''I thought the thing was killed. Things were dragging and smoking. The sparks were flying.''
After his big wreck, Busch actually planned to drive straight behind the wall. Fortunately for him, his pit box came up before the entrance to the garage, giving his crew a chance to assess the damage and reassure him that he could make it to the finish.
Winning was another matter.
''Who would've thought we could finish first?'' Busch marveled.
But in this new style of restrictor-plate racing, where cars go much faster when they pair off rather than drafting in a big pack, it's essential to have a good partner.
For Busch, that was Logano.
''I wish we could've gotten to the checkered flag,'' the runner-up said. ''Maybe we could've done something with Kyle. But we were committed to push him. It's a bummer that a caution came out there at the end. All I know is I saw a car go upside down in my mirror.''
Logano's car was all beat up, too, looking as though it had just been through a short-track brawl at Martinsville instead of a race on the longest oval in the Sprint Cup series.
''I got hit in the door. My bumpers are falling off,'' he said. ''It was crazy out there.''
Joe Nemechek, who paired with Wallace to contend with the better-funded teams, wound up third. Brad Keselowki was fourth, pole-sitter Elliott Sadler took fifth and Bayne, who led a race-high 23 laps, slid all the way to sixth.
After the race, Bayne asked Busch how he was able to get through such a small gap for the decisive pass, actually sliding between two pairs of cars.
''I didn't think it was wide enough, but I guess I made it wide enough,'' Busch said. ''I closed my eyes, held my foot on the floor and prayed for the best.''
It worked out fine, and now Busch is just two wins away from tying Mark Martin's record of 49 Nationwide victories. The way things are going, that mark is likely to fall in the next month or two.
Busch is running away from everyone else in the series.
''I've definitely got a good opportunity here to win three more races before June,'' he said. ''If everything goes right, maybe I can do that. If it comes this year, great. If not, we'll see if we can do it next year.''