Kyle Busch kept up the momentum of his recent winning streak in the Sprint Cup Series with his second NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the year this weekend which allowed him to head off to the start/finish line at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the ceremonial kissing of the yard of bricks with his wife, son and team.
CLICK: Full NASCAR Xfinity Series race results from Saturday afternoon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Busch had led for a total of 53 of the 100 laps of the Lilly Diabetes 250 on Saturday afternoon, having started the race from pole position for the first time in 2015 and the 44th time in total in 301 series starts, having posted a qualifying round lap of 49.854s (180.527mph) to put him 0.031s ahead of his Joe Gibbs Racing team mates Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones for the start of the Lilly Diabetes 250.
Busch led for the first ten laps before being overtaken by Suarez, and then a miscommunication with the pit wall meant he missed the summons to pit road under the first caution of the day on lap 12 for Roush Fenway's Darrell Wallace Jr. stopping on the backstretch. That left him on old tyres and an easy target for Richard Childress Racing's Paul Menard to dispatch after the restart. Fortunately for Busch there was a return to yellow shortly afterward for contact between Blake Koch and David Starr sending both cars hard into the wall in turn 4, which allowed Busch to make his stop after all on lap 22 under the ensuring caution.
RCR duo Ty Dillon and Brendan Gaughan stayed out to lead at the restart while Suarez won the race off pit road ahead of Erik Jones. Kyle Busch was dropped into the midfield by his need for a longer stop than the others and had to work his way forward, helped by those who had stayed out having to make their own deferred stops under a costly green flag. Busch found himself out in front again on lap 38 after HScott Motorsports' Kyle Larson dived onto pit road, with Penske's Ryan Blaney up into second ahead of Suarez, Menard and Jones.
Busch had pulled out a three second lead over Blaney as the race passed the halfway point with only 15 cars on the lead lap by this point, former leader Dillon now at the back and fighting - and ultimately failing - to avoid being demoted by Busch. A round of green flag pit stops was followed by a third caution on lap 70 when Jones hit the wall and left fluid on the track, and Dillon was fortuitously positioned to pick up the free pass back onto the lead lap.
Busch was in control of the restart but immediately found himself overpowered by Blaney who took the lead for the first time on lap 76. Busch settled into second ahead of Suarez, no doubt thinking this would be a temporary state of affairs, but Blaney was in it for the long haul and was still frustrating Busch's attempts to pass when the white flag made its appearance to mark the start of the penultimate lap. Busch was forced into a desperate last-gasp overtaking move down the inside on the backstretch on the final lap, helped by Blaney losing pace as the #22 shook in dirty air while trying to deal with the lapped car of Derrike Cope. It proved the edge Busch needed to get around the #22, and when the cars came back round to the start/finish line it was the JGR #54 with a 0.421s margin over Blaney, Suarez and Menard.
"I just got close enough to make him mess up," said Busch, who has now notched up 72 wins in the second-tier series and his second of the year following Michigan despite missing the first half of the season due to his broken leg and foot following a crash in the opening Xfinity race of the season at Daytona in February. "Made him get tight off of 2 and was able to capitalize underneath with him losing momentum.
"The Monster Energy Camry was the class of the field," Busch continued. "We should've won this thing going away, but I guess we had to make it exciting. Hopefully it was exciting down the last lap for the fans."
After completing his media duties, the 30-year-old driver then went to the medical centre to receive treatment for dehydration, one of a number of drivers finding the heat a problem on Saturday with speculation that the new aero set-up for the cars to encourage close racing is also leading to a significant build-up of hot air within the cars during lengthy green flag runs.
"It's my fault, obviously," said a clearly upset Blaney. "You saw it. I screwed up. This team doesn't deserve that. I dropped the ball for them today and I take full responsibility. It's all my fault.
"I got tight and I got too deep and didn't get off the long corner," he explained. "Not many can say they had a chance to win at the Brickyard and gave it away, but I did just that. I think I'm the only one in that category, so I'm leading that category but that's definitely gonna sting for a long time."
Elliott Sadler claimed fifth place for Roush Fenway ahead of Kevin Harvick who had been wrestling for much of the day with a less-than-ideal JR Motorsports #88. Larson took seventh spot ahead of Harvick's team mate Regan Smith, with Dillon recovering to ninth place to pip defending Xfinity champion Chase Elliott in tenth.
Championship leader Chris Buescher finished in 16th place in the Roush Fenway #60 meaning that Elliott had been able to trim back the lead to 25 points after 18 of the 33 rounds of the 2015 season completed.
"It was a long day for us," commented Buescher. "I felt we were getting a little better in the middle of the race and for whatever reason that last run was a lot tighter. It might have just been a bad set of tyres but we couldn't do anything with it. We had a lot better car than that at a lot of points during the race. Restarts are the most important thing here because once we get going you can't do anything. It is all about clean air still. That is really frustrating."
Dillon, Smith, Sadler, Wallace Jr., Suarez and Gaughan rounded out the rest of the top eight in the standings with no changes of position among them following this week's event.
The Xfinity Series heads to Iowa next weekend for the US Cellular 250 on Saturday, August 1.
Full race results from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, plus qualifying and practice speeds and latest Xfinity Series championship standings.
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