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Kyle Busch is on course for a possible sweep of all three NASCAR national-level events at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, after he added victory in the O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge Nationwide event to his win the previous night in the Truck Series, the tenth time in his career that Busch has pulled off a Nationwide/Truck double.
It's Busch's seventh win of the year and his 70th victory in 294 Nationwide starts, and the victory also marks the 100th Nationwide win for Joe Gibbs Racing - 58 of them delivered by Busch alone.
"It's obviously a special moment for all the guys at Joe Gibbs Racing, they have worked hard to get this many wins and get these wins," said Busch in victory lane. "I'm just glad to be a small part of the effort. It's a blast to drive these cars."
"Just proud of Kyle, all these guys and their pit stops," responded team owner Joe Gibbs. "We love this series and love being in it. We took us five years to get one [a win], so we really appreciate this. The Lord has blessed us with a great group of guys to do this."
Busch had started from sixth place and initially looked as though he didn't have the sort of pace to take him to the front to do battle with Joey Logano, who was starting from pole position after sweeping all three rounds of qualifying earlier in the day. Logano was initially joined at the front by Richard Childress Racing's Austin Dillon and his own Penske team mate Ryan Blaney, as he led through to an early first caution on lap 8 for JJ Yeley scraping the wall in turn 4.
That proved to be perfect timing for the Joe Gibbs Racing #11 crew who needed to bring their car in and extricate Elliott Sadler, who had been unwell with a serious stomach virus all morning but. Sadler had opted to start the race in order to get credited with any points the car went on to win, but it was quickly evident he was too ill to continue. Once Sadler was out of the car it was Clint Bowyer who stepped in and replaced him behind the wheel.
Logano once again shot off at the restart, but Dillon lost position which released Blaney and Bayne to take up the Chase. Initially it looked as though Logano would prove uncatchable, but the abrasive nature of the surface at TMS took the shine off both Penskes which seemed to suddenly wane after 30 laps. Lapped traffic then handed Trevor Bayne the ideal opportunity to get past Logano for the lead on lap 35, and then Bayne surged away building up a comfortable two second lead over the field by lap 49 when suddenly out of the blue disaster struck the #6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford: a right front tyre issue snapped the car into the wall at turn 2, the impact shredding an oil line and leaving the car ablaze as Bayne scrambled to get out.
“It is never good to pop a right front tyre or whatever we did there," sighed Bayne. "I have never had a car so dominant, especially at the Nationwide level. It was easy today for the time we were on the race track. The first couple laps I was really loose and needed a small adjustment but man I think we had a great shot to win this race today.
"There was no warning," he added. "I just wonder why it caught fire, whether due to contact with the wall or blown oil line before. It felt like a tyre the whole time. It never happens when you're running 20th and struggling along; it always happens when you're running well!"
Kyle Busch won the race off pit road over Ryan Blaney and Matt Kenseth, with Joey Logano dropping to sixth place after running through his pit stall: "I was going for pit stall one, but Nationwide pit stall one is actually pit stall two so I just missed it there," he explained later.
Most impressive in the early running had been Kyle Larson, who was up to fourth despite having started from the back of the grid after a problem with technical inspection meant he was unable to participate in qualifying; Clint Bowyer had also made rapid progress though the field and was in 11th despite the time lost swapping drivers under the earlier caution.
The race resumed on lap 61 after length track clean-up and repairs from Bayne's accident, with Busch able to see off an early challenge from Kenseth to lead through to the second caution on lap 96 for debris in turn 1. Busch was able to win the race off pit road again, with Logano now back up to second place for the restart on lap 102 ahead of Ryan Blaney, Brian Scott, Regan Smith and Kyle Larson. Kenseth meanwhile had fallen to 14th place after a bizarre moment during his pit stop in which the installation of a new water bottle had flipped the ignition switch and stalled the car.
Logano stalked Busch and the two traded the lead a number of times before the next caution on lap 129 triggered by Ryan Sieg losing the left rear axle housing, sending him spinning into Corey LaJoie on this day to the outside wall in turn 2. Once again, Busch won the race off pit road ahead of Logano, Scott, Bowyer, Blaney and Dillon. The timing of the yellows was a boon to Regan Smith who got the free pass, having gone off the lead lap with an unscheduled pit stop to address a bad vibration on the #7 JR Motorsports Chevy.
Busch and Logano resumed their battle at the front with the restart on lap 137, once more trading the lead back and forth as their respective pace ebbed and flowed. There was still one more round of pit stops to contemplate however, with Austin Dillon in early with 30 lap to go and Harvick, Kenseth and Bowyer all coming in five laps later. Overshooting his pit stall by Ty Dillon cost the #3 severely, but the leaders all waited until lap 180 before committing to pit lane allowing the out-of-sequence Regan Smith to take the lead as he waited in vain until lap 185 for a late yellow before coming in.
That cycled Busch back to the front with a two second lead over Logano, Blaney, Austin Dillon, Kenseth and Chase Elliott, while Smith resumed back in 13th. Logano set about closing the gap at the front, but there was too little time remaining and with no further incidents or cautions to help Logano close the gap there was simply no stopping Busch from reaching victory lane after having lead for a race-high 116 laps compared with Logano's next-best total of 59.
"We were fast on the long run, good enough to pass him, but then I got loose and along he came," sighed Logano of the last pass for the lead between the two which had come on lap 169. "He was able to gap us a little bit, and made that green flag pit stop able to keep the advantage."
Logano did manage to hold on for a comfortable second place almost four seconds clear of Blaney at the line, with Chase Elliott putting himself in the position of being able to close out the 2014 championship after finishing in fourth place ahead of Kenseth, Scott, Dillon and Harvick. That gives Elliott him a 48 point lead over his team mate and nearest challenger Regan Smith, who came home in 11th place.
"Just got to keep doing what we've been doing over the past couple of weeks," said Elliott, keeping level-headed about the prospect of clinching a national championship aged just 18. “When we started out today, we really, really struggled. From the start to the finish, this is probably the best performance that we have had together working as a race team. So big thanks to [sponsors] NAPA, the Nationwide Series and Chevrolet – everyone that makes this possible. We want to get another win before the end of the year so hopefully we can do that at Phoenix."
Clint Bowyer ended the race in ninth position after taking over from Elliott Sadler, while Kyle Larson ended up in 12th place following his early charge from the back. In the car owners' points standings, Busch's win over Logano means that the Penske #22's lead over the JGR #54 is slightly reduced to 26 points with two races remaining in the 2014 season.
Full race results from Texas Motor Speedway
Current Nationwide Championship standings
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