Even with a car that was clearly the class of the field, Kyle Busch had some anxious moments in closing laps of Saturday’s Indiana 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
That Busch beat runner-up Brian Scott to the finish line by 2.141 seconds belies the difficulty Busch experienced on the final restart on lap 95 of 100, when Joey Logano squeezed Busch into Turn 1 and allowed Scott to take the lead.
After harrying Scott for nearly three laps, Busch finally made the winning pass, putting an exclamation point on a dominant performance that saw him lead 92 laps.
The victory was Busch’s eighth of the NNS season in 15 starts and the 59th of his career, extending his own series record. Earlier in the day, Busch had won his 31st NNS pole, breaking a tie with Mark Martin for the all-time lead in that category.
“I had no friends around me on the restart,” Busch said of the final run. “On the restart before, I had (Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt) Kenseth behind me, and he pushed me and got me clear of the 22 (Logano). There on that final restart, (Kevin) Harvick was hanging back a little bit trying to get a run…
“I got down into (Turn) 1 and just lost all grip. I just slid. I was turning left, turning right, trying not to get into Logano. I got into him and we chased up the race track. I was watching my mirror at the same time, trying to see if anybody was coming, and here comes the 2 (Scott) out of nowhere, and he got by us there. It made it tough to pass him back.”
Eventually, Busch got Scott loose and seized the opening, leaving Scott to second-guess his approach to the last six laps.
“I feel like he was able to get by me because I was a little too cautious on corner entry,” Scott said. “I was really focused on making sure I got as low as I could and not give him any clean air. I thought that was going to be more beneficial.
“I over-slowed just a little bit into (Turn) 1 and allowed him to get up to my bumper and hit me and get me loose and get me up the race track and get back by me, unfortunately. But it was a lot of fun leading here at Indianapolis there toward the end, and I would give anything to be able to rewind, go back and do it over again.”
Scott’s second-place run was the best of his career in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Logano came home third, followed by Brian Vickers and Harvick.
As the highest finishing Nationwide regular qualified for the fourth leg of Nationwide’s Dash4Cash, Vickers claimed the final $100,000 bonus and won an additional $100,000 for Pam Nabors of Santa Cruz, Calif., the fan who was paired with Vickers in the Dash4Cash finale.
Nabors is a second cousin to actor Jim Nabors, who is a fixture at the Indianapolis 500 with his rendition of “Back Home Again in Indiana.”
Busch was on pit road on lap 65 when NASCAR called the second caution of the race because of fluid from Sam Hornish Jr.’s overheating engine.
Busch, however, stayed on the lead lap and regained the top spot when all the lead-lap cars ahead of him came to pit road for service under the yellow. With many drivers who came to pit road under yellow opting for new right-side tires only — among them Trevor Bayne, Vickers, Harvick and Paul Menard — Busch, on four new tires, led the field to a restart on lap 71 with a tire advantage over most of the competition.
Logano, who had come to pit road under green on lap 64, kept pace with Busch for two laps after the restart, but by lap 75, the driver of the No. 54 Toyota had opened an advantage of more than one second. Busch’s lead had grown to more than two seconds by lap 84, when Nelson Piquet Jr. brushed the wall and dropped debris on the track to cause the third caution.
A multicar incident on lap 89 caused the final caution and set up the six-lap run to the finish.
Hornish’s engine woes led to a 34th-place finish and cost the former Indy 500 winner the series lead. Austin Dillon, who ran 12th, took over the top spot in the standings by six points over Regan Smith, who came home 19th.