Two down. One to go.
Kyle Busch moved one race closer to an unprecedented weekend triple Saturday - and, oh, by the way - a giant step closer to his first title in a major NASCAR touring series.
Busch dominated the 300-mile O'Reilly Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway, leading 179 of 200 laps and pulling away after a restart on lap 187 to beat substitute driver Casey Mears to the finish line by 3.154 seconds to win his eighth Nationwide Series race of the season and the 29th of his career.
More important from a historical perspective, perhaps, Busch has the opportunity to become the first driver to win races in each of NASCAR's top three series at the same track on the same weekend. Busch won Friday night's Camping World Truck Series race at the 1.5-mile speedway. On Sunday he'll start fifth in the Dickies 500 Sprint Cup race at Texas.
"Four in a row at Texas, baby!" Busch shouted after crossing the finish line, referencing his fourth straight Nationwide win at the track.
Mears took his first ride in the #29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet after Jeff Burton, who was supposed to drive the car, was banged up in a Friday crash during Sprint Cup practice. Burton was not seriously hurt, but owner Richard Childress made the switch as a precaution, and Mears validated the decision in his first Nationwide appearance since 2007.
Busch opened a 272-point lead in the Nationwide standings over ninth-place finisher Carl Edwards. Brad Keselowski, who ran fifth Saturday, is 292 points back in third place. Busch can clinch the series title outright next Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway by finishing 15th or better. He also clinches with a finish of 34th in the final two events of the season.
A potential penalty to Busch's #18 car could have an affect on his clinching scenarios, however. NASCAR announced Saturday afternoon that the team faced a potential penalty for improperly secured weight discovered during opening-day inspection.
Both a monetary fine and points penalties could be involved. NASCAR slapped Nationwide Series driver Mike Harmon with a 25-point penalty and a $10,000 fine at Daytona in February for a similar infraction.
It's NASCAR's custom to issue penalty announcements on Tuesday afternoon.
Jason Leffler came home third Saturday, followed by polesitter Matt Kenseth.
Busch came close to a triple in February, when he won the truck and Nationwide events at Auto Club Speedway in California and finished third in the Cup race. If he completes the weekend sweep at Texas on Sunday, he'll do so in crew chief Dave Rogers' debut on the pit box. Rogers replaced Steve Addington as Busch's Cup crew chief after last Sunday's race at Talladega.
"We qualified better than we expected - fifth, so that's cool," Busch said when assessing his chances for the Cup victory. "The car wasn't bad in practice (Saturday). There were some areas where we felt really good about it; there were some other times when we didn't feel so good about it.
"I like what's going on there. I think we've got about a fifth-to-tenth-place car right now, and if we can just hang there throughout the day - make some good changes, make some good adjustments, have Dave learn some things, maybe - that we can be contenders. And if you're contenders at the end of the race, you never know."
by Reid Spencer/Sporting News