Busch beats the odds to win Las Vegas Xfinity

Image by Kinrade/LAT

Busch beats the odds to win Las Vegas Xfinity

NASCAR

Busch beats the odds to win Las Vegas Xfinity

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It took successful a gamble, a serendipitous caution and a couple of overtimes for Las Vegas-native Kyle Busch to win a second NASCAR Xfinity Series race on his home track, but Busch beat the odds in Saturday’s Boyd Gaming 300.

A lap down at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel, Busch rallied to win his 93rd Xfinity race, extending his series record and bringing his victory total across NASCAR’s three national series to 197.

Having also won Friday night’s NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series event, Busch will now go for the third three-race weekend sweep of his career in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race (12:30pm ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

After a wreck in the first overtime ruined the chances of reigning champion Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, Austin Cindric and Zane Smith, Busch held off John Hunter Nemechek in the second overtime, clearing the No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet off Turn 4 on Lap 212 and beating Nemechek to the checkered flag by .192 seconds a lap later.

But it was an early caution in the second stage of the race that put Busch in position to win. Busch pulled onto pit road with a loose wheel on Lap 15 and lost a lap to the front-running cars. At the end of Stage 1, won by Cole Custer, Busch’s crew chief, Ben Beshore, took a gamble in keeping the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota on the track under caution for the stage break.

Busch returned to the lead lap with a wave-around but had to fight through traffic on old tires. A caution on Lap 59, however, gave Busch the opportunity he needed to pit for tires, and after restarting 17th on Lap 63, Busch charged to third by the end of the stage on Lap 90.

Passing Reddick for the lead on Lap 111, Busch was out front for a total of 98 laps, as the race went 13 laps beyond its scheduled distance.

“It was really tough coming back from those setbacks,” Busch said. “I wasn’t sure how we were going to be able to do it, down a set of tires. We got a lucky break with that caution during the second stage.

“That kind of got us back on cycle, and we were able to put the first set (of tires) back on with fresh wheels, so we didn’t have any more issues there.

With Bell winning last week at Atlanta, the new Toyota Supras have won two straight.

“It’s cool to be able to back up Christopher’s win last week and get the Supra back in Victory Lane with me,” said Busch, who won in his first of seven planned Xfinity starts this season. “I wanted to be the first one, but he had to show me up a little bit last week.”

Busch is the only driver to sweep three national-series events in the same weekend, a feat he accomplished twice at Bristol, in 2010 and 2017. But a sweep at his home track would be all the more meaningful.

“I thought this was going to be the toughest of the three (races), because we could never get the balance right,” Busch said of the Xfinity event. “I was either way too tight or way too loose. I could never find a happy medium.

“Overall, I feel like our Cup car is pretty good. That car has some speed. We ran a lot out there in the pack and in traffic, and it’s going to be an interesting race [on Sunday]. Make sure everybody tunes in.”

Nemechek (23) and Gragson (9) finished second and third. Image by Harrelson/LAT

Las Vegas native Noah Gragson ran third, followed by Austin Dillon and Daytona winner Michael Annett.

Ryan Sieg, Ross Chastain, Chase Briscoe, Custer and Justin Haley completed the top 10.

Nemechek ran side-by-side with Busch but couldn’t keep up off Turn 4 on the penultimate lap.

“We gave him a run for his money,” Nemechek said. “I’ve been beaten by Kyle too many times, in late model races and now in the Xfinity Series. Hopefully, we can come out on top and build momentum off of this.”

Bell grabbed the lead from Busch on Lap 181 but brushed the outside wall soon thereafter, and Busch regained the top spot on Lap 182. Busch was a quarter-lap away from the white flag when contact between Custer’s Ford and Brandon Jones’ Toyota caused the sixth caution and forced overtime.

On the first attempt, Reddick spun beneath Busch’s Toyota in Turn 4, knocked Bell’s Toyota sideways, and triggered a wreck that also collected Smith and Cindric.

That accident set up Busch’s winning dash and primed him for a possible sweep on Sunday.

“To do it here in Las Vegas at my home track would be huge,” Busch said.

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