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Bristol Sweep: Take 2. Kyle Busch Wins Again!

Last August Kyle Busch became the first NASCAR driver to ever a sweep a complete weekend with victories in all three of the sports’ national touring series events at Bristol Motor Speedway. His encore this weekend at the famed short track proved to be nearly as impressive, although with no Truck Series race on the schedule he had to settle for just two victories instead of three.

View 39 Photos from Sunday’s Event – Click Here

Busch, who captured Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday by leading 266 of the race’s 300 laps, would complete the sweep again with a strong first-place run in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Unfortunately the good fortune didn’t extend to his teammates as a late tire issue relegated Joey Logano to a 23rd-place finish and damage from an early wreck left Denny Hamlin with an ill-handling car and a 33rd-place finish.

Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in the 12th position and was stellar from the outset yet again. Navigating his way to the front of the field Busch took the lead for the first time on lap 85. From there Busch spent the rest of the day inside the top-five and much of that was spent trading out of the lead position with Jimmie Johnson. As the leaders came down pit road for the final stop of the day late in the race, Busch was running in the second position, but the M&Ms crew put together a stellar stop to put him back out in front. Busch knew what to do from there as he would never relinquish the lead and went on to capture his first win of the 2011 season. In all he would lead seven times for 153 total laps.

Joey Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in the 18th position and would report an apparent issue with his engine early in the race. Despite the problems he managed to race his way back inside the top 20 through the first third of the race and had entered the top 15 midway through the 500-lap affair. Logano continued to get stronger as the race went on and appeared set for a top-ten finish, but a problem with his right front tire following the day’s final pit stop would prove costly. The tire would give way with about 20 laps remaining and the trip to make repairs under green conditions would set him back several laps and leave him with a frustrating 23rd-place finish.

Hamlin qualified the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota in 25th position and found early misfortune on the tight confines of the half-mile track. With several cars wrecking in front of Hamlin on lap 28 he was unable to avoid contact and it caused damage to his No. 11 Camry. Although the FedEx team worked quickly to make repairs the damage affected the handle on the car and Hamlin was unable to keep it on the lead lap. Further diagnosis showed that the toe of his car had been knocked out causing an extremely loose race car and it was all Hamlin could do to keep the car on the track and out of trouble. He would ride it out to a 33rd-place finish 12 laps off the pace.

Carl Edwards finished second behind Busch, while Jimmie Johnson was third, Matt Kenseth fourth, and Paul Menard rounded out the top-five. There were 10 cautions for a total of 59 laps and 17 lead changes among eight different drivers over the course of the 500-lap race.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to the west coast next week at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA on Sunday, March 27. The race will begin at 3 PM ET with live, high-definition coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 2:30 PM ET. The race will also be broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 128.

Kyle Busch: 10,000+ Laps Led NW Series

It’s been seven months since Kyle Busch last visited Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and made NASCAR history by sweeping all three NASCAR national touring series races in a single weekend when he won the Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series races last August.

And in his return to the .533-mile oval in Saturday’s Scotts EZ Seed 300 Nationwide Series race, Busch showed no let up. The driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) was as fast as ever, leading twice for a race-high 268 laps en route to his 45th career Nationwide Series victory.

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“It was all in the team,” said Busch, who started fifth but needed only 31 laps before he took the lead. “These guys gave me a great racecar. We unloaded yesterday and played around with a lot of different setups to see exactly what we wanted to put underneath this Z-Line Designs Camry and get it here to victory lane. It was a great effort by everybody.”

On lap 265 of the 300-lap race, Busch notched an impressive milestone – 10,000 laps led in Nationwide Series competition.

“Anytime you’re able to break any kind of series record with the likes of Sam Ard and all the guys who made this series what it is, it’s big,” Busch said. “Kevin Harvick in his heyday was really good, and that was just a couple years ago. Of course, Mark Martin in his time, and all the guys – (Larry) Pearson and (Tommy) Houston and all those boys. It’s cool and I enjoy it. There’s still plenty more time, hopefully, to make some more records.”

Busch now has 89 victories across NASCAR’s top three divisions (Sprint Cup – 19; Nationwide – 45; Camping World Truck – 25). He could add to that total again this weekend with a win in Sunday’s Jeff Byrd 500 Sprint Cup Series race.

“I wish there was more opportunities for this on Sunday,” said Busch, who has four Sprint Cup wins in 12 career starts at Bristol. “I know what these guys go through and what kind of stuff they do on a daily, let alone weekly, basis in order to keep these cars competitive week in and week out. It’s like J.D. (Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing) says, ‘If we’re not competitive and we’re not winning races, then we’re not going to be here very long.’ I feel like these guys thrive on success and getting to victory lane. I give all the credit to them, but I would say that for some reason the Nationwide cars just suit my style perfectly. I don’t know what it is. I’ve always been really good in the Nationwide cars, ever since I started. In my first race I finished second, and I’ve had a lot of great success over the years with Hendrick Motorsports and NEMCO Motorsports and now with Joe Gibbs Racing. All in all, it’s fun. Let’s go do some more.”

When Busch entered victory lane upon the completion of the Scotts EZ Seed 300, it marked his second Nationwide Series win of the season and his third at Bristol. He is now just five wins shy of breaking the all-time Nationwide Series win record of 49, currently held by Mark Martin, who won the previous Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas.

“You all keep making a big deal that Mark got one away from me, well I caught back up one today,” Busch told the assembled media in his post-win press conference. “There’s still a few more before I get there, but I’m sure he’s watching and we’re hunting him down.”

Busch’s JGR teammates – Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry, and Brian Scott, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry – finished fifth and 12th, respectively.

Finishing .524 of a second behind Busch in the runner-up spot was Kasey Kahne. Dale Earnhardt Jr., came home third, while Elliott Sadler and Logano rounded out the top-five. Harvick, Carl Edwards, Jason Leffler, Brad Keselowski and Aric Almirola comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were eight caution periods for 46 laps, with 12 drivers failing to finish.

The next event on the Nationwide Series schedule is the March 26 Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., where Busch is the reigning champion. The race starts at 5:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with its pre-race show at 5 p.m.

Las Vegas Nationwide Race Recap

Kyle Busch had the makings of another winning performance in Saturday’s Sam’s Town 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Unfortunately, the Las Vegas native’s drive for victory ended abruptly with an accident that left him a disappointing 30th at his home track.

The driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) led three times for a race-high 84 laps, but the lap-131 accident left Busch’s machine heavily damaged and unable to complete the full 200-lap distance.

Busch had the dominant racecar early in Saturday’s event. He wrestled the lead from Kevin Harvick on just the ninth circuit around the 1.5-mile oval and seemed to have the race firmly in control as he began lapping cars that were in the top-10. Just past the lap-120 mark, however, things got difficult for Busch.

Under caution on lap 126, Busch pitted for four tires and fuel, along with track bar, air pressure and wedge adjustments in hopes of remedying a loose handling condition that was beginning to hamper Busch’s car. Because there were varying pit strategies among the lead-lap cars, Busch was forced to restart in 10th on lap 129 as several cars ahead of him opted for fuel-only stops.

Busch quickly tried to make up his lost track position on the ensuing restart, and that’s when trouble struck. He maneuvered his Z-Line Designs Camry to the high side of the racetrack coming out of turn four and then shot down to the apron of the frontstretch in an attempt to pick up spots at the front of the field. Unfortunately, the left front of Busch’s car caught a patch of infield grass, which caused him to lose control.

The Z-Line Designs Toyota spun to the bottom side of the racetrack, and while Busch did a masterful job of attempting to regain control, he ran out of real estate and his car made contact with the inside retaining wall just past the exit of pit road. Busch was able to drive the car back to the garage, but the damage was too severe to repair.

“I had a really big run off the top and I didn’t want to go to the outside. I wanted to kind of get down and be on the bottom so I could get into the white line in turn one,” said Busch, who has failed to finish three out of the last four Nationwide Series races at Las Vegas. “I didn’t even make it that far. I got to the bottom of the ‘22’ (Brad Keselowski) and he came down to block a little bit. I didn’t want to run into him so I went into the grass and I know the grass typically doesn’t work, so I looked kind of stupid doing that. Tried to hang onto it, and just couldn’t get it back straight in enough time and got into the inside wall. I hate it for the guys at JGR and all the guys at Z-Line Designs and everybody that was out here cheering for us today. Another tough day in Vegas.”

Denny Hamlin didn’t gamble, yet he still came up short in Saturday’s Sam’s Town 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) finished seventh after leading twice for 28 laps around the 1.5-mile oval.

Hamlin and Carl Edwards were the class of the field in the last half of the 200-lap race, and after each pitted with less than 20 laps to go, it appeared it would be a battle to the finish between the two veterans. Unfortunately, a handful of drivers still on the lead lap had varying pit strategies and successfully gambled that their fuel could carry them to the finish. That left a disappointed Hamlin in seventh-place, while an equally disappointed Edwards finished just ahead of Hamlin in sixth.

“We knew it was going to be close,” said Hamlin, who now has three top-10 finishes in six career Nationwide Series starts at Las Vegas. “I knew some guys were going to stretch it to make it. You just hope that it doesn’t come down to that and it did.

“We were pretty good – better than I thought we were going to be today. It seemed like we were a little bit off on speed all day yesterday. We got a little bit of that back today. I have to say thanks to Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and this whole Interstate Batteries team. I’m proud of them. This is a new team with a new crew chief and everything, and it was a good experience.”

While taking a positive outlook after a tough finish, Hamlin obviously would have preferred to go head-to-head with Edwards in the final laps.

“We were so equal,” Hamlin said. “He was a little bit better than me on the long runs. That’s part of racing, though. You have to have the right fuel strategy and have everything go the right way, and it just didn’t happen.”

Brian Scott drove the No. 11 Shore Lodge Toyota to a 14th-place finish. Early in the race, while running in the Top-10, Brian made contact with the outside wall, damaging the right side of his car. A trip to pit road revealed only cosmetic damage was the result of the accident. One trip to pit road and several stops during later caution periods enables Kevin Kidd and the No. 11 crew to repair the car and return it to competitive speeds.

With 50 laps remaining, Brian was able to make a comeback and return to the Top-10. However, a stop for fuel with less than 5-laps remaining relegated him to a 14th-place finish. Though a higher position was wanted, Brian and the crew showed Championship form by not letting their early troubles define their race.

Mark Martin bolstered his all-time Nationwide Series victory mark by winning the Sam’s Town 300. It was his 49th career Nationwide Series win, his first of the season and his fourth at Las Vegas. The victory was Martin’s first win in the Nationwide Series since 2008 when he won at Las Vegas.

Justin Allgaier finished 1.221 seconds behind Martin in the runner-up spot, while Keselowski, Danica Patrick and Trevor Bayne rounded out the top-five. Carl Edwards, Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jason Leffler and Kenny Wallace comprised the remainder of the top-10.

In finishing fourth, Patrick became the first female to score a top-five finish in a Nationwide Series race. She is now the highest-finishing female in a NASCAR national series event. Sara Christian finished fifth at Heidlberg, Pa., on Oct. 2, 1949 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

There were six caution periods for 27 laps, with 15 drivers failing to finish.

The Nationwide Series takes a rare weekend off before returning to action for the March 19 Scotts Turf Builder 300 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with its pre-race show at 1 p.m.

Sprint Cup Races in Vegas

Denny Hamlin would prove to be the biggest mover on the track today after starting from the back of the field following an engine change and climbing his way to a seventh-place finish to lead Joe Gibbs Racing in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Unfortunately Hamlin’s good fortune did not extend to his teammates as an engine failure left Kyle Busch with a 38th-place finish and a late pit road tire penalty limited Joey Logano to 23rd.

Hamlin qualified the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota in the 17th position but had to go to the back of the field to start the race. Often cited for his patience on the track, Hamlin certainly displayed that characteristic today as he methodically worked his way up through the field and into the top ten. Although he gained seven spots over the course of the first seven laps of the race, but Hamlin’s ascent would not always come that fast as the field spread out on green flag runs over the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Speedway. Hamlin continued to climb his way toward the front of the field however and by lap 174 he was closing in on the top ten. Once inside the top ten Hamlin continued to show patience and brought the No. 11 FedEx Ground Camry home with a solid seventh-place effort.

Joey Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in the sixth position and quickly proved that his qualifying effort was consistent with the quality of his car. In fact, Logano spent almost the entire day inside the top ten and really much of that racing inside that top six. As the laps wound down it appeared certain the No. 20 Camry would finish in contention for a spot in the top five, but as the teams hit pit road for a final time the Home Depot crew was assessed a tire penalty that would force Logano to serve a pass-through penalty and ultimately leave him a lap off the pace. Although in position for the lucky dog spot, the much needed caution would never come as the race remained green and left Logano with a disappointing 23rd-place finish.

Busch started the No. 18 Snickers Peanut Butter Squared Toyota in the fifth position and was strong through the early going of the race. Unfortunately the first sign of trouble would hit on lap 96 as a blown tire would take him up into the wall. Although he was able to get back out on the track and appeared to have time to overcome the setback, the No. 18 Camry would lose its engine about 20 laps later. With flames shooting from underneath the car, Busch’s day would be over just 107 laps into the 267-lap race, and the Las Vegas native would have to settle for a 38th-place finish.

Edwards captured the victory, with Tony Stewart second, Juan Pablo Montoya third, Marcose Ambrose fourth, and Ryan Newman rounded out the top-five. There were seven cautions for a total of 35 laps and 21 lead changes among 14 different drivers over the course of the 267-lap race.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will take a week off before returning at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 20. The race will begin at 1 PM ET with live, high-definition coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at Noon ET. The race will also be broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 128.

Kyle Busch One Spot Short of the Sweep

Kyle Busch was just a few laps from accomplishing yet another weekend NASCAR sweep, but he was forced to settle for a strong second-place finish in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. While Busch earned the second-place finish, his teammate Denny Hamlin battled to an 11th-place finish, while engine issues forced Joey Logano to settle for 33rd-place.

Busch started the No. 18 Combos Toyota in the fourth position but wasted no time in moving to the front of the field and claiming what was a familiar spot for him over the course of the weekend. Busch, who became the first driver to ever sweep a weekend with victories in all three NASCAR national touring series last summer in Bristol, entered the day with dominating victories already in the Truck Series race Friday night and Nationwide Series race on Saturday. In fact, Busch led all 200 laps in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race.

Busch was able to claim the lead early today and held that until the team made a decision to come to pit road following an early debris caution. The decision shuffled him back in the field, but a two-tire change on lap 51 would put him back near the top 10. On lap 59 Busch would get loose following contact by Ryan Newman and was forced down into the side of Carl Edwards. The contact required a trip down pit road, but the M&Ms team was able to keep Busch on the lead lap. Restarting at the back of the field on lap 67 proved to be good fortune however as Brian Vickers spun to set off a chain reaction that took out a number of cars in the middle in the field. Things started to settle down from there with longer green flag runs. Busch would get stronger as the race went on and pit strategy with about 29 laps to go would pay off as Busch, riding in second at the time, brought his No. 18 Camry down pit road for the final time one lap before leader Jeff Gordon. When the pit stop cycle was over, Busch was in first. He was able to get a great jump on the day’s final restart with 22 laps remaining to maintain the lead but Gordon was just a bit better on the long runs and went around Busch for the lead once again with just eight laps remaining. Busch held on from there for an impressive second-place run.

Denny Hamlin qualified the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota in the 12th position and had climbed into the top 10 by lap 10 of the race. An early debris caution allowed Hamlin to remain out on the track while many of the leaders made the determination to come down pit road. The track position proved vital as he would take the lead on lap 32. Pit strategy would continue to shuffle the field through the early portion of the race, but as the race settled in to longer green flag runs the No. 11 Camry was unable to make up the necessary ground to get back to the front. Over the last 22 laps Hamlin was able climb his way back toward the top ten to earn an 11th-place finish.

Joey Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in the sixth position and was solid through the early going moving up into the fourth spot. The team made the decision to come down pit road for fresh tires and fuel which caused a shuffle of track position. Shortly after a competition caution prior to lap 40 the team diagnosed an engine issue that limited Logano’s ability to power up to full speed. The result put him toward the rear of the field in 38th position. Amazingly Logano was able was to improve his position on the track while nursing the engine as he steered clear of several early wrecks. Unfortunately his luck would run out with just about one hundred laps remaining as his engine finally gave way. Logano, who had been as high as 24th, would have to settle for a disappointing 33rd-place finish.

Gordon captured the victory, with Busch second, Jimmie Johnson third, Kevin Harvick fourth, and Ryan Newman rounded out the top-five. There were eight cautions for a total of 43 laps and 29 lead changes among 12 different drivers over the course of the 312-lap race.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next Sunday, March 6. The race will begin at 3 PM ET with live, high-definition coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 2 PM. The race will also be broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 128.

 

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