By Brian Smith
Kyle Busch has run eight NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Dover International Speedway, which adds up to 1,604 possible laps [the 2006 race ran four extra laps]. Consider that he’s led 761 of those laps – 47.4 percent – and it gives an idea of how dominant Busch has been in this series at the Monster Mile.
However, due to some occasional rotten luck, those led laps haven’t always led to wins. That wasn’t a problem for Busch on this occasion as he drove to victory in Friday’s “Lucas Oil 200” NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.
It’s his second consecutive NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win after taking the checkered flag last week in Charlotte. It’s also his 32nd career win in the series, his third career Truck win at Dover, and his 10th win overall in 2013 across NASCAR’s three nationally touring circuits.
In past races, Busch has led early only to have misfortune befall him late. This time, Busch just sort of hung out through the first 119 laps as he watched his other Kyle Busch Motorsports driver, pole sitter Darrell Wallace Jr., lead everyone around the track.
“Today was a whole different animal,” Busch said. “We made a lot of adjustments to it throughout the race. We’re all trying to fight for the front and fight for the bottom. Late in the going I found something by going up the racetrack a little bit, so I’m glad I found that.”
It wasn’t until green flag pit stops became necessary that Wallace relinquished the lead. First place changed hands several times over the next few laps as drivers came in and out of the pits. Busch was running second when his time came at lap 117, and he and others rebounded to the front as the cycle continued.
The one driver who did not was second-place starter Chase Elliott, who was leading when he pitted on lap 135, but was nabbed for speeding on pit road and had to serve a pass-through penalty. Elliott finished fourth.
Busch retook the lead on lap 145, and aside from a couple of pesky cautions, was able to fight off a persistent field for the rest of the race. He restarted second following a yellow-flag pit stop on lap 161, but took only eight laps to run down Series points leader Matt Crafton. He again held off the field on another caution restart on lap 184, but that field was given another chance when Tim George Jr. blew a tire on lap 194.
But it simply happened again. The race resumed on lap 196 with Busch taking the high line and immediately driving to a lead which he did not relinquish, putting his No. 51 Toyota Care Toyota into Sunoco Victory Lane.
As a result, the race ended up being a case of an experienced veteran taking down some of NASCAR’s rising stars. Wallace [age 19] and Elliott [age 17] made up the youngest starting front row in the history of any of NASCAR’s three national series. Wallace – who is 19 years, seven months and 24 days, to be exact – became the youngest pole sitter in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series history. And the starting four of Wallace and Elliott, combined with Jeb Burton [age 20] and Ryan Blaney [age 19] have a combined age of about 75, the same as Richard Petty. Those four combined for a rounded-off average age of 18 years and 9 months as they led the seemingly ancient 28-year-old Busch, who started fifth, to the green flag.
In the points race, Crafton and Jeb Burton retained the first and second spots, respectively. But Ty Dillon, who entered the weekend in third place, did not have a good day. He missed the driver’s meeting and had to start at the rear of the field despite qualifying sixth. As it turned out, it wouldn’t matter much, as Dillon’s engine called it quits on lap 32, leaving him with a 31st-place finish. The setback dropped him all the way to seventh in the standings.
As a result, Brendan Gaughan moved up to third. Johnny Sauter used a 7th-place finish to jump from sixth to fourth. The rest of the top-10 consists of Ryan Blaney, James Buescher, Dillon, Wallace, Miguel Paludo and Dakoda Armstrong.
Busch obviously is not in that battle as he declared himself for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. But for him, this is one down and two to go as he tries to sweep all three races at Dover this weekend, first the June 1 “5-hour ENERGY 200” NASCAR Nationwide Series race and then the June 2“FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
“I think we can,” Busch said. “I’m the only one dumb enough to try – that’s the probem. I think we can. It’s going to be hot. It’s going to be a long one. Anything can happen here at Dover – it’s the Monster. This is just the start of the weekend.”