Coming into this weekend's races, Kyle Busch had been asked whether he was aiming to hit the landmark of 100 victories in NASCAR's national-level competition (comprising Cup, Nationwide and Truck series) at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway in two weeks time. Kyle had said he didn't think he could wait that long and wanted to wrap it up sooner - and he was true to his word when it came to the New England 200 Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Saturday afternoon.
Unusually, Busch didn't actually dominate this race - he led for only one 33-lap stint at the end which fortunately for him included the final all-important lap with the chequered flag at the end of it. Before then the race had been controlled by Kevin Harvick (who led for a total of 59 laps) and Trevor Bayne (who led for 58.) Polesitter Brad Keselowski had tussled with Kevin Harvick for the lead at the start but it was clear that Keselowski didn't have the pace early on and soon dropped back. Busch took up the pursuit of Harvick but the first yellow came out before he could make a play for the lead, when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. slid in turns 3 and 4. A huge traffic jam at the restart allowed Trevor Bayne to take the lead while his Roush Fenway team mate Carl Edwards retired with an engine failure: "Jack [Roush] just said it is a broken valve or broken valve spring," he said. Bayne stormed away and was practically unchallenged during the middle section of the race in his best run in the series since his return from medical leave.
A caution for debris put Harvick back into a lead he retained through a rapid follow-up caution for a spin by Aric Almirola, which was followed at the next restart by a spin for Jason Leffler after being turned by Steve Wallace: "He hit me four or five different times and I got tired of it," said Wallace afterwards. “He wrecked himself. I never laid a fender on that guy before. He tried to tear my car to hell today, and I just wasn't taking it."
The next restart was also thwarted, this time by Derrike Cope's engine blowing up; and then Stenhouse himself led after seeing off Keselowski at the restart, before Harvick and Busch once again came on strong and surged for the lead following a sixth caution for debris on lap 165. Finally on lap 175 Kyle took the top spot and a spin for Keselowski brought out another caution on lap 184.
A messy end to the race saw two multiple-car cautions: on lap 190 Steve Wallace knocked Joey Logano into Trevor Bayne and sparked an accident in turn 4 that also involved Reed Sorenson and Jeremy Clements. "I got back in [Logano] accidentally there,” Wallace admitted. "A lot of things happened my way today. Some were my fault, some of them weren't."
At the next restart a pile-up caught up Almirola, Logano, Andrew Ranger, Mike Wallace, Steve Wallace and Brian Scott, setting up a final green-white-chequered finish. Taking the inside line, Kyle Busch managed to pull away from Harvick at the restart and despite concerns about having enough fuel with the race now six laps past its original length he made it to the chequered flag 0.304s ahead of Harvick to take the win.
Despite their close running and their troubled history there were no incidents between Busch and Harvick, and Harvick revealed that he felt he had been "handcuffed" by NASCAR prior to the weekend: "I was told a few weeks ago if we touched the #18 car we would be parked."
As well as the 100th landmark, Busch's win at Loudon also puts him on 49 Nationwide wins which equals the all-time tally of Mark Martin, who was one of the first to show up to congratulate Busch. "Everybody forgets, he's 26 years old," Martin said. "There are so many more out there for him." Kyle Busch has racked up that number of wins in 217 career Nationwide starts. Busch also has 22 Cup wins and 29 Truck victories and has won a total of 14 NASCAR series races in 2011 to date.
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