Kyle Busch‘s win in the Camping World.com 300 at Fontana yesterday brought his record number of wins in a NASCAR Nationwide series season up to twelve and with five races still to run it could go higher yet. But it was the pit crews who decided the result.
The majority of the race was dominated by Busch and Kevin Harvick with Busch having the quicker car on short runs but Harvick holding sway on any run longer than about twelve laps. At each restart Busch would move straight into the lead in the NOS Energy Drink Toyota driving the low line whilst Harvick kept his #33 Chevrolet on the high banking and slowly worked his way up to the front, eventually taking the five points for leading most laps with 86.
At the second caution period triggered when Steve Wallace hit the wall on lap 79 Busch incurred a penalty for speeding on pit road which meant he started outside the top 15 when the green flag was eventually shown on lap 91. He was in a different league to everyone else as he made his way back through the field and, after a further yellow flag period between laps 101 and 106 he restarted in fifth place and ended the green flag lap in second, such was the pace in the #18 car.
With one exception Busch’s pit crew were faster than Harvick’s during the pitstops and clearly the winner was going to be decided by whether the Harvick crew could pull it all together on the final “money” stop and whether the end of the race was with a long run under the green flag or yellows would intervene.
It was Busch’s luck which held when the yellows were brought out on laps 126, 135 and then again on lap 140 giving Harvick no chance of building his long-run pace and the final blow was another tardy stop by his crew on lap 128 losing him five track positions. A fighting finish saw him salvage third place on the final lap behind Brad Keselowski. Asked after the race if some of his pit crew might be going Harvick said, “If they can’t handle the pressure they can go find something else to do.”
Keselowski’s second place leaves him with a 385 point advantage over Carl Edwards, who finished fourth in the race, with Kyle Busch a further 101 points back. The title is far from mathematically sewn up yet but it will take an appalling run of luck for Keselowski to lose his grip on the title.
The caution on lap 140 was caused by what appeared to be another example of retaliatory driving when James Buescher turned Danica Patrick who hit the wall hard and triggered a multi-car crash that took out former motorcycle champion Ricky Carmichael and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as well. By her own admission Patrick had accidentally gotten into Buescher on the previous lap but with just eleven laps to go at the restart and the group running just behind the top fifteen it was always going to be a tough fight to the finish. It was a shame to see the three rookies finish that way, all of them having excellent races and a top fifteen finish in prospect. As it was Patrick was credited with 30th, one place behind Stenhouse Jr. and one ahead of Carmichael.