DOVER, Del. – By Seth Livingstone, NASCAR Wire Service — Drew Hallowell/NASCAR via Getty Images photo — Much to the dismay of Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter, Ryan Blaney and others, Kyle Busch has been unstoppable in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and untouchable at Dover International Speedway.
Busch, won for the fourth time in as many 2014 starts and posted his third victory in his last three NCWTS attempts at Dover, leading 150 of 200 laps to capture Friday’s Lucas Oil 200.
As a regular in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Busch is not eligible for the Camping World Truck Series title. But he’s driving like a champion. In addition to his 39th victory, he recorded the eighth perfect driver rating of his CWTS career in Friday’s race.
“We all know, the 51 was lights out, OK?” summed up Sauter. “Hopefully we’ll be able to learn what they’re doing in the 51 camp and run with them, week in, week out.”
It all begs the question: Might Busch be able to finish unbeaten in the truck races he drives this season?
“It’s not unimaginable,” Busch said. “But a lot of circumstances have to go your way. It’s certainly feasible, maybe.”
Turning the duties over to rookie Erik Jones for five of the next six races, Busch isn’t slated to drive another CWTS race until June 26 at Kentucky.
“It’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed being able to run up front, lead laps and such,” Busch said. Busch has now won five consecutive starts dating back to last season, the second time in his career he has accomplished the feat.
Crafton provided Busch’s stiffest competition until his right front tire gave out, leading to a hard crash on Lap 157.
That left it to Blaney and Sauter to pursue Busch after a restart with 20 laps to go. But once Busch pulled away, neither could close to within 1.3 seconds of the leader.
“Our Tundra was awesome on the long runs,” said Busch’s crew chief Eric Phillips.
Blaney lost ground on a pit stop late in the race, but knew that was not the deciding factor.
“With 50 or 60 to go we had a loose left rear wheel,” said Blaney, happy to be contending after 22nd-place finishes in his previous two races. “Luckily we caught it before it went back green. But I don’t think it mattered. I don’t think anyone was going to catch (Busch’s) 51. He was something else.”
Crafton, who entered the race as the series points leader, said he had “no warning” his right front tire was about to go down.
“It’s a shame,” said Crafton, who led 46 laps. Relegated to a 23rd-place finish by his crash, Crafton dropped into a second-place tie with Sauter, one point behind Timothy Peters. With his victory at Martinsville Speedway, Crafton remains the only driver other than Busch to win a CWTS race this season.
Peters emerged with the series lead despite losing power and finishing 10th, two laps down. His Red Horse Racing teammate German Quiroga Jr., lost a late-race duel with Tyler Reddick for eighth place, but remained the only driver to finish in the top 10 of each race this season.
After leading the first 73 laps, Busch did have to overcome a bad break. He was already on pit road for a green flag stop when Brennan Newberry crashed into the inside retaining wall. Busch continued back onto the track without pitting but fell to eighth place on the restart.
That handed the lead to Crafton and helped Blaney, Tyler Reddick, Sauter and John Hunter Nemechek advance within the top five.
Busch wasted no time in charging to third. He passed Blaney during a lengthy green flag run and closed to Crafton’s rear bumper. On Lap 120 Busch rode the high line to regain the lead.
Brandon Jones raced with the leaders all night and posted a career-best fourth-place finish. Joey Coulter was fifth, his best finish of the season. Ben Kennedy finished behind Nemechek in seventh-place.
Busch, who qualified on the front row for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, has a chance to complete a rare triple this weekend. He had the fifth-fastest lap time in final practice for Saturday’s Buckle Up 200 presented by Click It or Ticket Nationwide event.