SPARTA, Ky. – It was déjà vu at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday afternoon, as Kyle Busch won the NASCAR XFINITY Series Alsco 300 from the pole for the second-straight year.
The race was postponed from Friday night to the heat of the day on Saturday due to strong storms that rolled in just prior to the scheduled start of the race.
Busch led 70 of the 200 laps under the Kentucky sun en route to his second win in five starts this year, his third at Kentucky and the record-extending 88th of his XFINITY career.
“(Having track position at the end) was pretty big,” Busch said on the frontstretch after climbing from his car. “The four tires certainly meant a lot for us there for when we were coming back through and trying to catch those guys.”
“It gave us the opportunity to stay out there on that caution when those guys came in and pitted. I can’t say enough about Eric Phillips and all these guys on this NOS Energy Drink Camry. Having the Rowdy scheme on the car is pretty cool and I appreciate NOS letting us do that and appreciate all the fans coming out here this morning. … It’s fun to come out here and race in the XFINITY Series. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed it, but it’s all about tonight.”
With the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing later in the evening, Busch looks to become the first driver in NASCAR history to win in both the XFINITY and Cup races on the same day.
Busch was out front for the first five laps on Saturday, but struggled to stay at the head of the pack for the first two stages of the race, missing out on stage wins to teammate Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney as he battled the handling on his No. 18 NOS ‘Rowdy Edition’ Toyota.
But the kickoff to the final stage saw Busch’s car come to life. He powered to the lead on the restart at lap 100, using a three-wide move to the inside to pass both Jones and Blaney.
Busch held the point until a caution with 72 to go, after Joey Gase lost a motor exiting Turn 2.
All the leaders came down pit road with 68 laps remaining, just outside their fuel window, and Jones jumped up to the lead after Busch took four tires on his stop and dropped to seventh.
Jones led Blaney off the resumption with 64 to go, while Busch slowly started climbing his way forward. It took him seven laps to move into the top four, when he passed William Byron off the exit of Turn 4, and he found the third spot four laps later with a similar move around Joey Logano.
But the battle for the lead was where the intensity was highest. Blaney caught Jones with 40 to go and dogged the No. 20 Toyota for nearly 10 straight circuits, before the caution flew with 34 laps remaining for a spin by Ray Black Jr.
That put any concerns about fuel out the window, drawing most of the leaders down pit road but allowing Busch to stay out after his four-tire call on the previous pit stop.
The move to stay on-track ultimately paid off with the trophy for the 2015 Cup champion, while the final round of pit stops set up both an exciting run to the finish but arguably cost Blaney the win.
Drawing a penalty for an outside tire violation, Blaney had to drop to 21st for the final restart, charging back up through the field to take second on the final lap but missing out on the win by 1.097 seconds.
“I didn’t really have a lot of fun (running through the field), but it was nice to have a good race car that we could do that with,” Blaney admitted. “We got it really good at the end. We were good all day. I thought we were the best car all day, personally.”
“Before that last caution. I thought we were going to get by the 20 and set sail. The caution came out and we were debating on whether to pit or not. It is easy to look back on it now and say that we should have stayed out and seen what happened. I thought the right call was to pit and we just had a violation. That stings. It almost stings worse running all the way up there and finishing second than if we would have finished 10th or something. … Not where we wanted to be, but hopefully we learned some stuff for tonight.”
Jones hung on to take the bottom step of the podium in third, followed by Kevin Harvick, Ty Dillon and Logano in a race where Cup regulars swept the top six spots.
William Byron’s bid for a third-straight win ended in a seventh-place finish, with Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric and Tyler Reddick completing the top 10.
The NASCAR XFINITY Series returns to action on July 15 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Full race results can be viewed on the next page…