25 February 2012
Nationwide: Buescher survives to take maiden win
With Danica out of the running, the crowd went into a brief frenzy when Austin Dillon, driving for the first time in Nationwide in the #3 car made famous by Dale Earnhardt Sr., worked in a two-car tandem with Dale Earnhardt Jr. to take the lead of the race for a few laps.
There had been cautions for Jason Bowles' engine going up in smoke on lap 30, Mike Bliss crashing on the backstretch on lap 60, Brian Scott losing it and crashing out of turn 4 on lap 74 and Joey Gase's engine going into meltdown on lap 93, but as the race entered the final 20 laps it seemed that the mayhem that had featured in the previous night's Truck race was being successfully avoided by the Nationwide field.
Unfortunately - no. Things were about to get very interesting indeed.
Kyle Busch had been having something of a bipolar sort of race up until then, dropping to the back at first until the team were able to fix a problem with a loose right side window that was affecting aerodynamics. After that, Busch sailed to the front with astonishing ease - only to them have a collision in the pits with luckless Cole Whitt on lap 50 just after Whitt had taken out Patrick. The collision affected the steering of the Kyle Busch Motorsports #54 and once again Busch fell to the back and struggled for pace until his team could straighten out the problem - at which point he was promptly back in business and flying to the front again.
By lap 103 he had hooked up with his brother Kurt and the two were making the rest of the cars look as though they were dawdling around the supermarket car park. They forced their way through the pair of two-car tandem runners at the front of the field and everything got very shaky for all concerned, but everyone commendably held it together. Not so with the cars immediately behind, who were convinced that all of them were about to wreck, and as a result they ended up losing control themselves and sparked a furious multi-car wreck.
Kenny Wallace, Ryan Truex,, Denny Hamlin, Jeremy Clements, Justin Allgaier, Robert Richardson Jr., Michael Annett, T.J. Bell, Reed Sorenson and Johanna Long were among those involved. Allgaier's car was lifted up into the air and onto the hood of Sorenson's car, ripping both cars to shreds, but no one was hurt.
“You've got pack racing and the two-car tandem both and, unfortunately, that doesn't work,” said Allgaier after being released from the medical centre.
“It was just a chain-reaction,” said Denny Hamlin, who is Kyle Busch's Cup team mate at Joe Gibbs Racing. "It looked like Kurt and Kyle got a huge run through the middle and some guys started moving around," he said, adding that this was why he didn't like running Nationwide races these days and preferred to stick to Cup events.
The wreck was so messy that a piece of bodywork became lodged in the SAFER barrier at the point where it rejoined the concrete wall out of turn 4. It resisted all efforts to remove it, so NASCAR were forced to throw a brief four-minute red flag to allow them to do what was necessary to effect repairs.
Now it looked like an eight lap dash to the flag, with fuel unlikely to be an issue unless there was a repeat of Friday night's multiple green-white-chequered attempts to end the race that had sent the Trucks nine laps past the scheduled race distance. The cars got underway again on lap 112 and once again Kyle Busch turbo-charged his brother Kurt into the lead, but it was very crowded up front with the pairings of Tony Stewart with Elliott Sadler and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with Sam Hornish Jr. making it a three-wide affair. That was never going to end well.
David Ragan ended up being pushed from behind by Trevor Bayne into the back of Hornish, and the impact turned Hornish sideways across the chasing cars, promptly unleashing another round of expensive carnage. This time the casualties included Michael Annett Jr., Danny Efland, Scott Speed, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Eric McClure and Joe Nemechek, as well as Hornish and Ragan and sundry others - 20 cars involved in all.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
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