WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — It looked as though Kyle Busch and the No. 18 NOS Energy Toyota Camry were going to easily cruise away to victory in the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on Saturday afternoon.
And after he charged ahead of polesitter Joey Logano in the opening turns of the race and took off to a large early lead, that thought appeared to be very justified.
But the game changed twice during the 200-mile event: once when Busch wheel-hopped entering Turn 1 on lap 17 and spun out of the lead, and again with six laps remaining when Casey Mears’ No. 98 ran out of gas exiting Turn 5.
At the latter point, Busch had put together a furious rally to get back to the top spot, and he held off pre-race favorites Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano on a final restart with three laps remaining to grab his record-extending 90th-career NASCAR XFINITY Series win.
While Busch pulled away, Logano and Keselowski battled hard for second place, which sealed the deal for Busch.
Brennan Poole made contact with outside wall exiting Turn 7 as Busch took the white flag, but Poole re-fired and pulled away and the field stayed under green.
It was a fitting cap to a wild race, one in which Busch refused to be denied in the face of adversity as he finally scored his first-ever Watkins Glen win in the XFINITY Series after many years of trying.
“Finally to be able to win here at Watkins Glen in the XFINITY Series is one of the boxes we’ve been meaning to check off for a long, long time,” Busch said on the frontstretch after climbing from his car. “This feels good. It feels good in front of this crowd; the crowd’s been awesome here at Watkins Glen.”
“This is such an awesome car,” added Busch, who led a race-high 43 of 82 laps. “What more can I say about Eric Phillips and all my guys? They did a great job giving me everything I needed to go out there. I tried to screw it up a couple of times, but thankfully I brought it back and we were able to get back up front and had that pit strategy work to our advantage.”
The pit strategy Busch referred to was staying out five laps longer than either Keselowski or Logano before his final pit stop with 28 laps to go, allowing him to make up more than a second of on-track time as he took advantage of a light fuel load and top speed in his No. 18 Toyota.
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