Kyle Busch completes Texas two-step with win in NRA 500
FORT WORTH, Texas -- In one magnificent weekend, Kyle Busch changed his relationship with Texas Motor Speedway.
He is head-over-heels in love with the place now.
Busch completed a double on a track that has often brought him disappointment by charging to the front on a late restart to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup NRA 500 on Saturday night. Busch also handily won the Nationwide O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 on Friday night, giving him a record seven career weekend sweeps.
"This is cool" Busch said. "We're in Victory Lane in Texas, finally.
"I had some wild races here early in my career, and it wasn't one of my favorite places, for whatever reason. Things have gone well recently. ... I've learned how to drive it a little better, and I know what I need in my race car to make it easier."
This was Busch's first Cup win in 16 starts at TMS. He has won six of his last nine Nationwide starts and two of his last four Camping World Trucks starts at the track.
Hard to believe Busch has had tough times at TMS, most recently the infamous wrecking of Ron Hornaday in a trucks race in November 2011. After that tantrum, NASCAR gave Busch the heavy penalty of parking him for the remainder of the weekend.
Busch has been on his best behavior since that infamous evening. Dallas businessman Norm Miller gave Busch a shoulder to lean upon after the incident and stood by him. That Busch raced under the colors of Miller's Interstate Batteries made this victory special to him.
"It means so much to have a guy like that on your side," said Busch, dropping his tough-guy exterior to turn sentimental. "He's one of the best characters that we have around. It's a lot of fun to put him in victory lane here."
Busch and Martin Truex Jr. controlled the race, combing to lead 313 of the 333 laps. The final 44 laps turned into a two-restart showdown matching Busch, Truex and Jeff Gordon.
Truex controlled the first restart, and Gordon fell out when a puff of smoke came out of his car with 28 laps remaining. Truex was in control when NASCAR stopped the race because of debris on the third turn.
Pit-stall placement played an important role in the final restart.
The pole-winner picks his pit staff. Busch took the prime real estate of the last spot exiting the pits. Busch had strong pit stops all race. The last stop, which lasted a lightning-quick 11.7 seconds, enabled Busch to beat Truex by about three car lengths coming out of the pits and go into the restart with the lead.
"My boys stepped up to the plate on that last caution and hit a grand slam," Busch said of his crew. "Those guys won the race."
It was no contest from there. Busch built up a quick lead and held off Truex by more than half a second for the win.
This continued Truex's extraordinary run of near-misses. He has gone 210 races since his only Cup win, in June 2007. He has finished second six times since that win.
"It's pretty frustrating to run second again," Truex said. "I feel like we've been in this boat a bunch of times. I'm a little bit frustrated right now. It hurts when you give them away."
Truex' travails continued after the race. His car failed a postrace inspection because the front end was too low. NASCAR will review the infraction on Monday and could penalize Truex.
Busch controlled the opening half of the race, leading 129 of the first 167 laps. He had put 21 of the 43 cars that started the race off the lead lap.
Gordon chipped away at Busch's dominance. He was Busch's most relentless pursuer. Gordon kept Busch in sight and finally passed him on lap 185.
That did not deter Busch. He even survived an uncharacteristic mistake on Lap 218. His ride wiggled coming out of Turn 4, and Busch brushed with the wall. He continued, avoiding what could have been a disaster.
Instead, he found a way to win in Texas.