For the fifth time in his allotted five NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts in 2019, Kyle Busch took the checkered flag, this time under the lights in the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“I wish I could do more,” Busch said following his 56th Gander Trucks career win.
The rest of the field undoubtedly is quite happy the owner/driver of Kyle Busch Motorsports won’t be back until 2020. After all, Busch posted a perfect driver rating (150.0) and led five times for 102 laps in Friday night’s 134-lap event. He notched his eighth victory in 13 starts at Charlotte, where he has finished either first or second in nine straight events in the series.
The win was Busch’s 56th overall, extending his own series record and bringing his combined NASCAR national series wins total to 205.
“This Tundra was awesome tonight,” Busch said of the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota. “It was flying and it was fast. We worked on it a lot in practice. We were a little off when we unloaded, and we tried to make it better and better and better.
“We made improvements. That’s what’s good about me driving and Rudy (Fugle) crew-chiefing. “These guys do a great job working on it, and we just keep getting better. Happy birthday to Brexton (Busch’s son). He’ll be four tomorrow. It’s awesome to have him here tonight, and we’ll celebrate.”
On a three-lap run to the finish after the seventh and final caution, Busch pulled away to beat Brennan Poole to the stripe by 1.115s. Despite dealing with a broken sway bar for most of the race, Poole grabbed second after staying out under caution before the final restart on lap 132.
“My truck was all over the place, man,” Poole said. “I just gave it everything I had. I found something running the top lane there on the restarts, and it worked out really good.
“We just ran second to Kyle Busch tonight with a broken sway bar. I’m pretty proud of the effort. I know we’ve got a lot more chances like this coming up in our future to get this Toyota Tundra to Victory Lane. But I’m excited tonight, and I think I may even go get myself a beer when I get home.”
Stewart Friesen ran third, followed by Ben Rhodes and pole winner Matt Crafton. Austin Hill, Todd Gilliland, rookie Anthony Alfredo, Grant Enfinger and Ross Chastain completed the top 10. For Chastain, last week’s winner at Kansas, it was the eighth straight top 10 in eight races this season.
But Friday’s story was all about Busch.
It took just a few seconds to observe just how dominant his Toyota Tundra was going to be. Starting the race from the eighth spot, Busch had powered his way into third by the time the field came off Turn 2 on the opening lap.
On lap 5, he took the lead for the first time, cruising to the inside of KBM teammate Todd Gilliland. By the time NASCAR called the first caution for Natalie Decker’s hard contact with the Turn 2 wall on lap 23, Busch held a 5.652s lead over Gilliland.
Busch pitted for tires and fuel under the yellow, handing the Stage 1 victory to Crafton, who passed Gilliland on Lap 30 and took the green/checkered flag moments later. But four laps after the green waved in Stage 2 on Lap 37, Busch was back in the lead, heading for a stage victory with a margin of more than four seconds.
Divergent strategies scrambled the field during pit stops under rapid-fire cautions on laps 78 and 85, but Busch regained the top spot on Lap 96, passing Rhodes to the outside off Turn 2.
Busch stretched his advantage to 6.125s before Brett Moffitt cut a tire on Lap 126 and caused the seventh caution when the tire carcass rolled free onto the track in Turn 3. The yellow simply delayed but couldn’t thwart Busch’s seemingly inexorable march to Victory Lane.