Despite a snafu in the pits that cost him six positions–temporarily–Kyle Busch steamrolled the field in Saturday’s CNBC Prime The Profit 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Never mind that it took the maximum three attempts at green-white-checkered-flag finishes before the issue was decided, and never mind that the extra laps left the gas tanks of most competitors either empty or very close to dry at the conclusion.
Busch, the pole sitter, led 141 laps in collecting his seventh NASCAR Nationwide Series victory in 14 starts this season, his fourth at the Magic Mile and the 58th of his career, extending his own series record.
The driver of the No. 54 Toyota crossed the stripe at the end of the third green-white-checker, .466 seconds ahead of runner-up Brian Vickers, as Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Busch, Vickers and Matt Kenseth led all 213 laps of a race that went 13 laps beyond its scheduled distance.
Austin Dillon ran third and collected the $100,000 bonus as the highest-finishing series regular eligible for the Dash 4 Cash. Brian Scott came home fourth and Michael Annett fifth, as many contenders, including last week’s Dash 4 Cash winner Elliott Sadler, ran out of fuel in the overtime.
Amazingly, Busch, who last pitted on Lap 119 had enough fuel left to do a lengthy burnout” and then some.
“We pitted two laps after Brian, so I think that was part of it,” Busch said. “I think the other part of it, too, was Brian and the 3 (Dillon) were running really, really hard trying to beat each other, obviously, and race really hard there.
“(But) when I got out front with the two-second lead or whatever, I started rolling out of the gas early getting into the corners, not using a whole lot of brake and just kind of saving my tires, saving my brakes, saving the fuel and doing what I could to just be ready, like (crew chief) Adam (Stevens) kept saying on the radio, in case there was a green-white-checker, to have something left to go race at the end.
“I think that all just compounded. I bet you there’s still probably a couple gallons left.”
A slow pit stop on Lap 43, resulting from difficulties in changing the right front tire, shuffled Busch back to seventh for a restart on Lap 47. Vickers grabbed the lead on the restart lap and held it for 54 straight circuits, but Busch charged through the field and regained the top spot on Lap 107 with a dive to the inside in Turn 1.
Busch maintained his advantage until a spate of late-race cautions necessitated the three overtimes.
A crash involving Joey Logano, Parker Kligerman and Paul Menard, triggered when Trevor Bayne went to the apron to create a four-wide knot of potential trouble, slowed the field during the second green-white-checker. NASCAR then red-flagged the race for 2 minutes 46 seconds, and that proved the saving grace for Vickers, who ran out of fuel as he approached the finish line.
“We’ve got to thank NASCAR for giving us the red flag,” Vickers said. “Had they not given us the red flag, I’m sure a lot of guys would have (run out of gas). I know we would have. I think that was smart on their part knowing the circumstances…
“We weren’t sure we were going to make it to the end of the race, period, much less three green-white-checkers. The cautions helped, saving fuel helped, and just getting every ounce of fuel in .it we could.”
Sam Hornish Jr., who came to pit road for fuel under after the first green-white-checker attempt would have preferred the race to continue under yellow. But Hornish charged forward after each of the final two restarts and salvaged a seventh-place finish, trimming the advantage of eighth-place finisher and series leader Regan Smith to five points.
Notes: As the four series regulars with the highest finishes, Vickers, Dillon, Scott and Annett are eligible for the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus next Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway… Busch’s fourth win from the pole this year tied Sam Ard’s Nationwide Series record… Busch has led a series-best 1,114 laps this year and 12,085 laps in Nationwide competition, far and away a series record.
By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service