Busch wins Nationwide Series race at Charlotte
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Kyle Busch would like to keep driving in the Nationwide Series — and for good reason.
The defending series champ has won two consecutive races, four of the last eight events and has moved within a point of leader Brad Keselowski.
But he has a bigger goal to chase this year: a Sprint Cup championship.
Busch overcame some early troubles to win the Nationwide race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday. It was his final race in the second-tier series for three weeks. He’s planning to step away to focus solely on the Cup series. It’s a tough call, especially now.
“I thought we had a great year last year in winning the championship, setting a lot of records and doing what we did then,” Busch said. “There’s no question we couldn’t do it again. I’d like to do it, but it’s time … you’ve got to win a Cup championship.
“For us, I feel like we’re in the best position we can be this year. I’m real excited about the summer months. I’m going to miss running in the Nationwide car, but yet I’m pretty pumped about what we can have in the Cup car.”
Busch is second in the Cup points standings, and he and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin have combined for five victories in the last seven races.
Busch has been just as good in the Nationwide ranks.
Even when he fell two laps down Saturday, he stayed calm and told his crew they could do something they’ve never done before.
“Let’s do it,” Busch said.
Then he did. Busch battled back for his fifth win of the season, holding off Keselowski and others in three late restarts that included a green-white-checkered finish. Keselowski was second, followed by Joey Logano, Justin Allgaier, Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick.
“It was all about the restart and he just beat us,” said Keselowski, who was hoping to get team owner Roger Penske’s big weekend off to a strong start.
Busch went a lap down after an unscheduled pit stop early and dropped another lap when he got penalized for speeding on pit road. Showing plenty of poise, Busch got back on the lead lap, moved to the front with a speedy pit stop late and then held on over the final 64 laps.
The pit stop was so fast that it vaulted Busch from fourth to first.
“That was a pivotal stop there,” Busch said.
It was so quick that crew chief Jason Ratcliff wasn’t even sure crew members got enough gas into the car to make it the rest of the way.
“I think Jason and Kyle create things to make it more interesting,” said team president J.D. Gibbs.
Ratcliff called for Busch to stay on the track when others pitted with about 15 laps to go. But none of those cars had anything for the leader.
Keselowski also stayed out and had one last chance on the final restart, but Busch held him off thanks to some blocking help from teammate Logano.
“Not enough again,” Logano said. “I wish we could have turned it up just a little bit and would have at least something for him. Just not fast enough. We had a third-place car and we finished third. We can’t be disappointed about it, but I just really want to win. We’ve come close over and over. I just want to win one of these things.”
Keselowski remained the series points leader and might be able to pull away as Busch steps away.
“I’m really going to miss him,” Keselowski said. “We bring out the best and worse in each other.”
Busch called walking away a “bummer,” but said it was something he needed to do to avoid the strain that would come with trying to drive both series at different tracks over the next month.
“I would love to race them all,” he said. “But we’ve got bigger and better things on Sundays. We’re going after that championship over there. We’ve got a good start to the season. We just need to finish it off.”