Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage may need a broom as well as a pair of six-guns in Victory Lane on Sunday, after Kyle Busch completed the second leg of a possible sweep by winning Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge.
In winning his seventh NASCAR Nationwide Series race of the season, his seventh in 18 starts at Texas, the 70th of his career and the 100th NNS event for Joe Gibbs Racing, Busch led 116 of 200 laps in completing the second leg of a possible weekend sweep at the 1.5-mile speedway.
On Friday night, Busch took the checkered flag in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and on Sunday he’ll try to record the second weekend trifecta of his career in the AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race (3 p.m. ET on ESPN), the second event in the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Busch beat polesitter Joey Logano to the finish line by 1.561 seconds in the 300-mile event. Logano could keep up with Busch in the short runs but began to lose ground as each fuel run progressed.
The combination of Busch’s long-run car and his migration to the high line at the high-banked speedway was too much for Logano to overcome. Busch saw his own Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Darrell Wallace Jr. run the top successfully in the Truck race on Friday and took the lesson to heart.
“That was just something we found today—actually (Friday) night a little, to be honest with you,” Busch said. “Bubba Wallace went up there and he was really fast as well, too, up there. I took a little bit from that and also what I learned in that race as well.
“I never got as high as Bubba did, but I got somewhat up there. Just put that to today and was able to use it to our advantage. It felt really good to run up there and be fast like that and have good speed. Hopefully, some of that comes in (on Sunday).”
Busch will be trying to duplicate the feat he accomplished in August 2010 at Bristol, where he won races in Trucks, Nationwide and Cup.
“The opportunity for that tomorrow would be something special,” Busch said. “I’d cherish it as much as the first one… You don’t’ get very many opportunities to capitalize on all three.”
Ryan Blaney, Logano’s Team Penske teammate, finished third, followed by series leader Chase Elliott, who extended his margin in the standings to 48 points over 11th-place finisher Regan Smith. If he maintains that advantage after next Saturday’s race at Phoenix, Elliott will clinch the series championship in the next-to-last race of his rookie season.
Matt Kenseth came home fifth, with Brian Scott, Austin Dillon and Kevin Harvick behind him. Elliott Sadler got credit for a ninth-place finish after turning his No. 11 Toyota over to relief driver Clint Bowyer under caution on Lap 9.
Bowyer had qualified the car, but Sadler started the race despite suffering from a severe bout of intestinal flu and accompanying nausea that had sidelined him for time trials.
With all the back-and-forth between Busch’s No. 54 Toyota and Logano’s No. 22 Ford, Logano was hoping for a late-race caution to set up a short run, but the race stayed green for the final 63 laps.
“Kyle and I had a heck of a race, that’s for sure,” Logano said. “We were able to catch up to him and pass him, but then after about 20 laps or so, it was like a light switch.
“The car would just switch to loose, and he would go by me and drive away. That’s what ultimately beat us, having a long run like that at the end.”
Hard luck continued to haunt Trevor Bayne, who had passed Logano for the lead on Lap 34, only to slam the Turn 2 wall 15 laps later.
As Bayne was rolling through the center of Turns 1 and 2, he cut to the inside to pass a lapped car. At that instant, the car apparently hit a piece of debris on the track, deflating the right front tire and sending Bayne’s No. 6 Ford rocketing into the outside wall.
The car burst into flames and continued through Turn 2 trailing a plume of fire behind it. Bayne escaped the inferno unhurt, but the car—one of his best of the year—was destroyed.
“It is never good to pop a right front tire, or whatever we did there,” Bayne said after leaving the infield care center. “Whether it was a line or tire—I think it was a tire—it’s never a good time, but especially not when you have the best car you have ever had in your career. That thing was on a rail. I have never had a car so dominant, especially at the Nationwide level.
“It was easy today for the time we were on the race track. The first couple laps I was really loose and needed a small adjustment, but, man, I think we had a great shot to win this race today. My guys have worked so hard all season long and they deserve a win and some cowboy hats here. I don’t even know what to say about it. It just blows your mind that something like that can happen on such a great day.”
*NASCAR Wire Service