A week after locking up his 200th NASCAR national series victory at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Kyle Busch took the first step toward the next century mark.
Holding off challenges from Ross Chastain and runner-up Ben Rhodes, Busch survived a late restart in winning Saturday’s TruNorth Global 250 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway.
The race ended under a last-lap caution, after Reid Wilson’s No. 44 Chevrolet spun in Turn 4 and nosed toward the inside wall. Rhodes was running second when the yellow flag waved, with reigning series champion Brett Moffitt third and Chastain fourth.
The victory was Busch’s second at the 0.526-mile short track in his own Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota. Busch has won each of his three starts this season and now has 54 victories in Trucks, extending his series record.
“These guys worked really, really hard this weekend,” Busch said of crew chief Rudy Fugle and the No. 51 team. “We unloaded, and I didn’t like where we were at. We made wholesale changes to this thing all weekend long and just tried to keep improving this Cessna Beechcraft Tundra and make it faster…
“All these guys kept trying to make it turn the center (of the corner) better. At Martinsville, you have to turn the center without getting too loose in or too loose off… And we had enough tire at the end to hold them all off.”
Busch led 174 of the 250 laps, including the final 66. He passed Chastain for the top spot on Lap 185 and held it the rest of the way through four subsequent cautions before the final restart with three circuits remaining.
“Today we just kind of let the race play out and come to us,” Busch said.
Rhodes had a second-place car but not a race winner — and he knew it.
“It was a good day at Martinsville,” Rhodes conceded. “It was the best finish I’ve had here yet. I was surprised — qualifying 16th. We had a fast Ford F150, but we just needed a little more. We got beat by the best in the business. He knows what he’s doing here.
“It was fun following him and seeing how he was pacing himself. That’s something I’ve struggled with in the past… Anytime you restart next to that guy, I try to log it in my memory banks so I can just try and get him next time.”
Pole winner Stewart Friesen finished fifth after leading 19 laps, third most behind Busch and Chastain (53). Myatt Snider, Grant Enfinger, Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter and Bubba Wallace completed the top 10.
French Canadian driver Raphael Lessard finished 14th in his first start in the Truck Series.
1. (2) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 250.
2. (16) Ben Rhodes, Ford, 250.
3. (5) Brett Moffitt, Chevrolet, 250.
4. (10) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 250.
5. (1) Stewart Friesen, Chevrolet, 250.
6. (15) Myatt Snider, Ford, 250.
7. (19) Grant Enfinger, Ford, 250.
8. (6) Matt Crafton, Ford, 250.
9. (8) Johnny Sauter, Ford, 250.
10. (13) Bubba Wallace(i), Chevrolet, 250.
11. (18) Harrison Burton #, Toyota, 250.
12. (21) David Gilliland, Toyota, 250.
13. (12) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 250.
14. (7) Raphael Lessard, Toyota, 250.
15. (3) Todd Gilliland, Toyota, 250.
16. (9) Austin Hill, Toyota, 250.
17. (4) Sheldon Creed #, Chevrolet, 250.
18. (11) Derek Kraus, Toyota, 250.
19. (14) Tyler Ankrum #, Toyota, 250.
20. (24) Spencer Davis, Ford, 249.
21. (23) Timmy Hill(i), Chevrolet, 249.
22. (26) Austin Theriault, Ford, 248.
23. (20) Tyler Dippel #, Chevrolet, 248.
24. (27) Reid Wilson, Chevrolet, 247.
25. (30) Korbin Forrister, Toyota, 246.
26. (29) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, 246.
27. (25) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 244.
28. (32) Travis Kvapil, Chevrolet, 240.
29. (28) Brennan Poole, Toyota, 239.
30. (31) Daniel Sasnett, Chevrolet, 238.
31. (22) Cory Roper, Ford, Rear End, 225.
32. (17) Gus Dean #, Chevrolet, Oil Line, 61.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 70.175 mph.
Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 52 Mins, 26 Secs. Margin of Victory: Under Caution Seconds.
Caution Flags: 7 for 50 laps.
Lead Changes: 8 among 4 drivers.
Lap Leaders: S. Friesen 1-8;K. Busch(i) 9-74;A. Hill 75-79;K. Busch(i) 80-120;S. Friesen 121-130;R. Chastain(i) 131-180;K. Busch(i) 181;R. Chastain(i) 182-184;K. Busch(i) 185-250.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Busch(i) 4 times for 174 laps; Ross Chastain(i) 2 times for 53 laps; Stewart Friesen 2 times for 18 laps; Austin Hill 1 time for 5 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 51,52,13,4,45,88,24,16,8,46