On a night that started out like a mix between short track aggression and plate racing crashes, nothing could stop Kyle Busch at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway – not even pneumonia. One week after climbing out of the car with the flu, Busch showed little signs of slowing as he dominated Friday night’s Dollar General 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
Leading 137 of the 200 laps, Busch was in a class of his own as he drove away from the field once the pace of the race settled down. Continuing his stellar season, Friday night’s win was his seventh of the year and helped the 24-year-old extend lead in the series standings over Carl Edwards to 195 points.
“This thing was on a rail tonight. It was such a great race car,” a tired-looking Kyle Busch said after climbing from his winning ride. “It’s awesome to come out here on such a cold night and have this many people in the stands, so we appreciate their support.”
Suffering from flu-like symptoms following the Kansas race, Busch exited the No. 18 Toyota early for the first time of his career last week at the Auto Club Speedway. Calling it one of the toughest things he has had to do, Busch could only watch as his relief driver Denny Hamlin was taken out battling for the lead. Taking a hit in the points, Busch was diagnosed with pneumonia on Monday but on Friday celebrated in Victory Lane.
Starting fifth, Busch took the top-spot for the first time on Lap 22 and went on to lead three times for a race-high 137 laps, good enough for ten additional bonus points.
“We had some points to make up and we made up some tonight hopefully,” Busch said from Victory Lane.
As Busch was just getting started with his dominant performance, three cautions eliminated some of the top contenders, including outside pole sitter Matt Kenseth – who led twice for a total of twenty-four laps.
“I felt like some of my best competition fell away,” Busch admitted. “I don’t know what happened to the 16, but Kenseth was really good there in the beginning, he led the first 20-30 laps, but he was fast. Kasey Kahne I kept seeing his number on the board there, (Ryan) Newman came on late, the 11 was really good. (Bliss) probably had a car that could have run with us there at the end of the race, but we got out far enough ahead where it was going to be a while before he could run us back down.
“I felt good about our car. I felt like we were in a different zip code tonight and it was going to take some big changes on some guys parts to get up there and battle with us.”
Scoring the win, Busch earned his fifth Nationwide Series victory at Lowe’s Motor Speedway and twenty-eighth of his career, moving him to third on the all-time series win list.
“I love this place. This is my house on the Nationwide side,” Busch said with a smirk. “Jimmie (Johnson) can call it his on the Cup side, I’ve got some work to do there.”
While Johnson may have things in control on the Cup side of things, Busch has been in command this year in the Nationwide garage. With seven victories and twenty-six top-10 finishes in thirty-one races, Busch is beginning to eye his first NASCAR title.
“We have to go through these final races,” Busch said. “I feel like here, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead are tracks I can win at. We’re going to Memphis next week, which is a track Carl (Edwards) can win at. We know we need to keep up to our best game and do what we need to do in order to put this championship away. I would love to have done what Kevin Harvick did a couple years ago. I think the championship was over here at this race, he just started this race and he was done. I wish that was the scenario that we were in. We’ve got a couple more weeks that we can gain some good points and hopefully put it away at Phoenix.”