Full race results, qualifying and practice speeds and Nationwide Series championship standings
Turner Scott Motorsports' Kyle Larson crossed the line comfortably ahead of some of the biggest names in NASCAR racing to secure his second Nationwide Series win in 43 series starts in Saturday afternoon's History 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"It was about perfect for us," said the 21-year-old after clinching the chequered flag. "It was nice looking in the rear-view mirror and seeing them get smaller and smaller each lap. It's not very often that you see the #22 and the #54 get smaller in your mirror.
"It just shows how great of a car we had" he added. "The pit crew did an awesome job every stop we had. We had a great green-flag stop, too, so hats off to everyone on the team for making this win possible."
Earlier in the day, Kyle Busch had won pole position in the #54 repaired after a crash in practice on Thursday. It was his 38th pole in 279 Nationwide starts - extending his own series record - while his fellow Sprint Cup regular Brad Keselowski started alongside him on the front row in the #22. Busch took off at the green flag but Keselowski struggled and fell back to fifth behind Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson before he was able to stabilise and start fighting his way forward once more.
A half-slide for Ryan Sieg brought out a caution on lap 25 that allowed everyone to take their first pit stop of the day, and Kenseth was able to take the lead from Busch at the restart, Busch clearly unhappy with the handling of the #54 in traffic during this phase and sinking to sixth place before the next round of pit stops that got underway on lap 80. Kenseth retained the lead through the stops while Kyle Larson picked up second ahead of Keselowski, Brian Scott and Regan Smith.
Chase Elliott had moved into sixth place ahead of Harvick and Busch, but just minutes after the round of pit stops had completed the #9 went into the wall on lap 86 after a problem with his front right suspension, bringing out the second caution of the day. Along with Elliott there were returns to pit road for further adjustments for Busch, Elliott Sadler, Ty Dillon and James Buescher before the race resumed on lap 92 with Kenseth initially still in charge but quickly on the wane with handling issues: he lost the lead to Keselowski on lap 96 and proceeded to drop down to fifth place, just ahead of his Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Busch who was now looking somewhat healthier after his own latest adjustments.
Keselowski led until lap 119, when he got held up in traffic which allowed Kyle Larson to sweep around on the high line he'd been cultivating all afternoon.The pair had a four second lead over Kevin Harvick and Brian Scott, who in turn had two seconds in hand over Kenseth and Busch. Harvick needed to pit early on lap 134 with a vibration, but the rest of the leaders made it into the 60-lap window to the finish that should enable them to make it home without further visits to pit road - at least, with some fuel conservation strategy. Larson stayed out until lap 143 but was able to pick up the lead again ahead of Keselowski and Harvick, while Kenseth gained a position from Scott.
A debris caution on lap 170 redrew the strategic battleground, the leaders all preferring to face the final laps on a full contingent of four fresh tyres. Larson retained the lead for the restart but he was now joined by Harvick, while the biggest gainer was Busch up two spots to fourth alongside Keselowski. Harvick quickly dropped two spots at the green flag, leaving Keselowski and Busch in an all-out battle for second position while Harvick himself had his hands full staving off Scott's determined attempts to pass for fourth, but in the end all four were too evenly matched for anyone to break the status quo.
“We were out best and coming forward and probably could have passed [Keselowski] but it was a one-lane racetrack, unfortunately, with the sun," said Busch after finishing in third place. "The fastest way was around the bottom. You could never make up any time on the top side. Frustrating like that when you can't make anything happen and you're sitting behind a guy and the laps are ticking away."
"He had a fast car, that's just the reality of it," said Keselowski of Busch. " He had a fast car that was very versatile and could run the top and the bottom. That's what you dream for as a driver. That makes your life a lot easier and he did a great job of making the most of that."
More significantly, this brace of duels and the lack of any further cautions to close up the field again meant that Larson was released at the front and able to run the remainder of the race without any fear of being caught, finally crossing the line almost a second and half ahead of Keselowski. Larson had managed to lead for 82 of the 200 laps at Charlotte, with the next-best being the 67 led by Kenseth earlier in the day.
The top Nationwide finisher was Scott in fifth place ahead of Kenseth, while Regan Smith held on to seventh ahead of Trevor Bayne, Chris Buescher, Ty Dillon and James Buescher. That means Smith moves into the lead of the championship standings by five points over Sadler who crossed the line in 12th behind Buescher, while former points leader drops two places and is now 28 points behind Smith after ending up in 37th place and 26 laps off the pace following lengthy repairs in the garage for his encounter with the wall on lap 86.
“I don't ever want to discount having the points lead because it's always a good thing, but it's so early," Smith said.
In the owner points, the Joe Gibbs Racing #54 driven by Busch has a 42 points lead over the Penske #22 car driven this week by Keselowski.
Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Nationwide Series championship standings are available.