Sunday, April 10, 2016

Kyle Busch charges to victory in Duck Commander 500

Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs
Kyle Busch’s encore to his win in the Xfinity Series on Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway was a victory in the rain-delayed Duck Commander 500. While he didn’t have the dominant car - he led only 34 of 334 laps, but those laps included the most important one.

What’s the magic that has made the Joe Gibbs organization so strong?

“Kyle Busch is the magic, if you ask me,” proclaimed Busch, tongue-in-cheek.

The Las Vegas native might have to work out a timeshare deal with Jimmie Johnson for Victory Lane at the rate he’s going. He’s won 13 times across the three national series, an impressive feat at any track, but especially at one that’s as demanding as Texas.

Second-place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr. admitted that he didn’t think he could have caught Busch. Earnhardt started 16th, but quickly made his way to the front. After being caught on pit road during a caution, he patiently worked his way to within sight of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Camry, but as Earnhardt Jr. said, “Kyle just kind of got too far out there, and Kyle knows how to hammer down when it matters.”

“I had a blast inside the car,”  said Earnhardt. “A lot of sliding around sideways and good hard racing. We’ll go to the next one and try again.”

Joey Logano couldn’t quite pull off a repeat of his 2014 victory, ending up third.

“I’m proud of what my race team did. This Shell/Pennzoil team executed perfectly today,” Logano stated. “We may not have had the fastest car, we obviously didn’t have the fastest car, but we executed into a top-three finish, and I’m very proud of my team for that.”

For the drivers who lead the most laps, the race ended in disappointment. Martin Truex Jr. spent 141 laps up front but couldn’t hold on to the lead, falling to sixth.

“We just ran out of tires, you know. Made it through (turns) one and two side-by-side, got to three and just didn’t have the grip,” Truex Jr. explained. “Then we fell back because we were sliding around. Everybody had new tires, we ran under caution for a long time, they keep building air pressure and losing grip. Pretty big disadvantage, but can’t say enough about the guys for the race car they brought here and the weekend we had. It hurts. It’s happened a few times to me here. Hurts a little bit, but we’ll get over it and we’ll move on and we’ll take the positives out of it tonight.”

Johnson, who was looking for a seventh set of six-guns for his collection, finished fourth after some adversity. He explained what happened. “On that first pit stop, everyone was checking up and I hammered the back of the 18. We had to fix damage on the nose, and it wasn’t pretty. There’s a big hole up front and that couldn’t have been helping us at all. There’s a lot of fight in this Lowe's team today. I’m thankful for the great equipment and the fight that these guys have because with all the damage and adversity we went through tonight, to come home fourth is really good for this Lowe’s Chevrolet.”

Chase Elliott was the top-finishing rookie. The No. 24 NAPA Chevy started in the back of the field after a transmission change, but Elliott calmly made his way through the field with the composure of a veteran. As usual, he downplayed the results of his efforts.

“It was a solid night. Obviously I hated to have to start in the back, but I think having a good qualifying effort allowed us to get a good pit selection. I think that helped us to try to gain spots throughout the night, but the biggest thing was just having a good car. I was really happy with it, especially on the long run,” Elliott said.

“Definitely still have some work to do on my end, and we'll keep digging at it. We're definitely not content. We know we have some work to do, and we'd like to be contenders. So we're going to keep working at it.”

Busch heads to Bristol with a two-point lead over Johnson in the standings and a three-point margin over Kevin Harvick.