KANSAS CITY, Kan. – By Jim Pedley NASCAR Wire Service – Photo by Getty Images/NASCAR – As a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver, Kyle Busch has been a disaster at Kansas Speedway. As a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver, he has become a winner.
Busch led a race-best 104 laps at the 1.5-mile tri-oval in winning Friday night’s SFP 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.
The victory was the second of the season in a truck for Busch. It was his 37th in the series and it came by 3.021 seconds over second-place Matt Crafton. And it helped ease the pain of horrible luck in the Sprint Cup Series that has resulted in four DNFs and an average finish of 23rd over the years at Kansas.
“Kansas? I’m a winner at Kansas?” Busch said in mock shock in Victory Lane.
Yes, it’s true.
Thanks, he said, to a terrific Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra and an Eric Phillips-led team that were flawless – his Driver Rating of 150 for the race was perfect – all night long.
“Just real proud of Eric and all my guys,” Busch said of Phillips, who by winning his 79th race as a truck series crew chief became the series’ winningest crew chief. “It was really good once we unloaded and we just made some slight changes to it, playing around with some things trying to make it better in practice.”
Busch said that his crew and truck kept him up front and out of harm’s way in a race that was marred by caution after caution.
“Last year we got caught up in the attrition,” Busch said. “Certainly a better night for us and having a fast truck and being up front helped.”
Matt Crafton finished second a year after winning at Kansas, and Joey Logano, Busch’s former Sprint Cup teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, finished third.
Crafton said despite his second-place finish, he had nothing for Busch.
“He had a very, very fast truck,” Crafton said.
“We were just a little bit scared – we wanted to make a maybe a track bar change – but we were tight center-off all night. We made one adjustment and made it quite a bit better. But then I got a little bit free and tight-off but I was afraid to make any more adjustments to help my off because I knew it was going to hurt my entry.”
Austin Dillon was fourth and Tayler Malsam fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 were Jeb Burton, German Quiroga, Ron Hornaday Jr., Joe Nemechek and Mason Mingus.
Busch started the race from the pole. Alongside him was 20-year-old Ryan Blaney.
The race wasn’t even a lap old when a big wreck occurred. Involved was points leader Timothy Peters, who had to take his truck to the garage as a result. When he came out, he was seven laps off the pace.
It started when Hornaday was clipped from behind by Brennan Newberry. Hornaday spun and behind him the trucks of Peters, German Guiroga, and Spencer Gallagher were caught up.
Seven laps later, separate wrecks in two different locations brought out another caution. Involved in one wreck was Brian Ickler. In the other was Todd Shafer.
On Lap 16, Logan moved to the lead on the low side of Busch as they went door-to-door down the frontstretch.
Three laps later, back to the front went Busch. He sat at there until Lap 33 when Shafer spun to bring out the third caution of the night. The field pitted under the caution. Busch, who took two tires, was first out of the pits was P1 when the race restarted on Lap 38.
Logano stuck with Busch after the restart and the two quickly moved out to a one-plus-second lead over the third-place truck of Blaney.
Busch and Logano continued to build on their lead and just before the fourth caution flag waved for Jimmy Weller III’s spin on Lap 49, they had a 2.5-second lead.
Busch stayed out but Logano pitted and took fuel and four tires and restarted on Lap 54 in 13th place.
A lap later, the fifth caution was signaled when John Wes Townley, who was running in the top 10, spun into the wall. Also caught up were Ben Kennedy and Hornaday. The race restarted on Lap 60 with Busch leading. He surrendered it to Blaney just after the restart, but quickly got it back.
On Lap 68, the sixth yellow flag of the night waved after Newberry swiped the wall and blew a tire. That brought the field into the pits. Out first and restarting with the lead was Logano. Dillon also moved past Busch in the pits, who was slowed by taking four tires.
The green flag on the Lap 74 restart produced a battle at the front of the field. Busch, who restarted third, briefly moved to the lead once again, but was re-passed shortly afterward by Logano.
Two laps later, out came the yellow – once again, it was for Newberry as he clipped the wall.
On Lap 84, two laps after the restart, Blaney and Logano were running next to each other for the lead when Blaney put a left tire on the apron between Turns 1 and 2. His truck went into a slow spin. That slow spin turned violent when he was rammed hard from behind by Johnny Sauter.
“We were three wide.” Sauter said, “and I think another truck ran into me in the back and sent me from the bottom of the race track to the top. When I got there, Ryan was sideways and stopped and there just wasn’t enough room between him and the wall.”
The result was a promising run by Blaney ruined and an eighth caution.
“We were racing hard with Joey and I took it to the fence and they got kind of bottle up there behind me and destroyed our truck,” Blaney, who started the race fourth in points, said.
“Just hard racing. He (Logano) was just too (close) on my door and it just sent me around, that’s how we got on the apron. Just unfortunate, we had a good truck.”
The race restarted on Lap 95 with Logano leading and Busch second. When Busch and Matt Crafton started fighting for second place, Logano was able to get a bit of separation.
Logano, Busch and Crafton began to pull away from the field and with 60 laps to go in the scheduled 167-lap race, they were 2.2 seconds ahead of fourth-place Joey Coulter.
Five laps later, Busch moved past Logano on the frontstretch and back into the lead.
With 45 laps to go, Logano pitted under green. The stop was a slow one as his crew had trouble getting one of the tires off. Crafton moved into second.
With 42 laps, Bryan Silas spun and another caution flag waved and into the pits came the leaders.
Dillon, who took two tires emerged from the pits first with Busch and four new tires second.
Just after the restart with 35 laps to go, Crafton moved past Busch and into second place.
With 27 laps to go, Busch used the frontstretch apron to move past Crafton and into second place. Once past, he began moving in on Dillon and the lead.
With 21 laps to go, Busch again went low on the apron and blew past Dillon for the lead.
Once out front, Busch began to pull away. With 15 laps to go, his lead was 1.6 seconds over Crafton and 2.7 over third-place Logano, who had battled back from being in 11th place on the restart with 35 laps to go.
With 10 laps to go, Busch had powered to a 2.3-second lead over Crafton and it was evident that only a 10th caution could keep him from visiting Victory Lane at Kansas.
That caution never came and Busch had the truck series win at the track that has frustrated him in Sprint Cup.