Kyle Busch dominant in Xfinity race at Indy
No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)
By AMANDA VINCENT
Kyle Busch put on a dominant performance at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday on his way to claiming the race win in the Lilly Diabetes 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race. It was his second-straight win in the series’ yearly visit to IMS and his third of the event in the last four years. The other was a second-place showing in 2014.
“I think experience, certainly, has given me the opportunity to just become better and better, here, each and every year,” Busch said.
With Saturday’s race being the fourth and final race of the Xfinity Dash 4 Cash program, the 250-mile/100-lap distance was split into two 20-lap heat races and a 60-lap main event. Busch led all 20 laps of the first heat and went on to lead all but one lap of the main that was extended by three laps because of a late-race wreck involving Ray Black Jr. and Harrison Rhodes.
The one other lap of the main was led by Brendan Gaughan, who stayed out a lap longer to lead a lap during a green-flag cycle of pit stops just before the halfway point.
Kevin Harvick finished second, Paul Menard was third, Kyle Larson was fourth, and Justin Allgaier rounded out the top-five. With his top-five finish, Allgaier claimed the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus for his No. 7 JR Motorsports team as the highest finisher among the four drivers who made themselves eligible for the bonus through the two heat races.
Other drivers eligible for the bonus at Indy were Allgaier’s JRM teammate Elliott Sadler and Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez by virtue of being the highest two finishers among Xfinity championship-eligible drivers in one of the two heat races.
Busch and Jones combined to lead all but one lap across the two heats and feature, Jones took over where Busch left off in the heat races, starting on the pole for heat two and leading all 20 laps.
Jones started second to Busch in the main, but lost the position to Larson at the green flag. He got back up to second, though, by lap 20. Jones ran second to Busch throughout most of the main until he tagged the wall with the right-rear of his car while running second, developing a tire rub. He headed for pit road for repairs and then matters got worse when he spun, bringing out the yellow flag with about 10 laps remaining.
“I just wrecked all by myself,” Jones said. “I don’t know why, but I’ve been here twice and wrecked all by myself twice, so I need to figure something out. Unfortunately, we had a fast Camry and didn’t have a shot to win; we were second-class all day. But it is what it is and try to be better when I come back.
The Jones caution was the first of only two cautions throughout all the day’s Xfinity Series racing.
Busch’s and his other JGR teammate, Suarez, stayed out during the first caution and restarted the race on the front row with seven laps remaining. But when the race returned to green, Suarez slipped and dropped outside the top-10. As a result, Larson, Harvick and Menard moved up into the second through fourth positions and maintained those spots through the final restart and two-lap sprint to the checkered flag.
“Well, the new tires for those guys was good for them, but not so good for us having old tires, you know, obvioiusly, but I just dig in deep and gave it everything I had and knew I had to get really good restarts in there,” Busch said. “The second to last one, I got a really good one, and then the last one was okay. I got an okay one, and then I saw Harvick pull out, and he must have been, obviously, blocking the guys behind him who had a run because he never got alongside of me.”
Meanwhile, Allgaier got by teammate, Sadler, on the final lap to crack the top-five and take the Dash 4 Cash bonus. Sadler was relegated to sixth at the checkered flag.
“Under that last caution, I was thinking, ‘Hey, I’m racing a teammate,’ and that changes the game. Just knowing he was a teammate and had the same stuff I did, how do you force the pass? I was fortunate; we got behind him coming off turn four,” Allgaier said. “It was the only time today I went through turn four perfectly and was able to get next to him and then pass him. Everything had to come down to that perfect moment. Just very fortunate to get up here with this check.”
Suarez recovered to finish seventh. Taking eighth through 10th were Joey Logano, Ty Dillon and Brennan Poole.