Camry driver Kyle Busch won Friday night’s NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race at South Carolina’s Darlington Raceway.
Tonight’s race marked Busch’s fifth victory in nine series starts this season, as well as his first NNS win at the 1.366- mile raceway.
Busch led four times for 49 laps (of 147) to earn his 48th career NNS triumph, and is just one victory shy of tying Mark Martin’s record (49) for all-time series wins.
The win was the sixth of the season for Toyota and the 60th for a Camry since joining series competition in 2007.
Denny Hamlin (second) and Steve Wallace (fifth) also earned top-five finishes for Toyota at Darlington.
Camry drivers Kenny Wallace (11th), Joe Nemechek (12th), Ryan Truex (25th), Brian Scott (29th), Michael Annett (31st) and John Jackson (40th) were also in the field.
Six Camry drivers are currently in the top-20 in the unofficial NNS point standings following 10 of 35 races in the 2011 season — K. Wallace (seventh), Scott (eighth), S. Wallace (10th), Nemechek (12th), Annett (13th) and Truex (17th).
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 1st Are you surprised that you won with your car banged up tonight? “It seems to be my best style here at Darlington — beat it up as much as you can and see if you can win with it. We didn’t mean to. There was that one run there that we all started getting tight and it kind of came out unexpectedly and I drove it out into three onetime and it didn’t stick and went right into the fence. Can’t thank Z-Line Designs enough. These guys do an awesome job for us — Jim and Monica (Sexton, Z-Line Designs) here with us tonight. NOS Energy Drink, Toyota, Joe Gibbs Driven Racing Oil and it’s good to have those guys here supporting us too. Marquis Jets, Gillette, Nationwide Insurance Series — we love racing here, it’s fun, we love it and of course the fans too. We wouldn’t be able to do it without those guys. Most importantly, this team — Jason Ratcliff (crew chief) and the guys brought me an awesome race car. They did such an awesome job for me. All we had to do was bide out our time a little bit and see how it shook out through traffic and the wreck and everything down the backstretch.”
Do you enjoy racing at Darlington? “I love coming to Darlington and it’s a really tough, treacherous place for me. Kind of proved that because the right side doesn’t look so great, but we still were able to win today. Just can’t say enough about this team — Jason Ratcliff (crew chief) and all these guys did an awesome job. It’s cool to be here in victory lane — first time in the Nationwide Series here in Darlington so this feels pretty good.”
How special is Darlington to you? “It is special because it’s so tough and so demanding. To beat the guy that we beat tonight — Denny Hamlin — that’s pretty cool too. We had a flawless race car today — it was really awesome. The guys did a really good job working on it back in practice this morning. We made some changes to it that made it better, which made it a better race car than what Denny had today. It goes to Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and the guys that make smart calls and put something fast underneath me every week.”
What happened to the nose of your race car? “That was the wreck down the backstretch there. We got all bottled up in traffic and unfortunately my teammate (Brian Scott) was right in front of me and I hit him and sent him for a whale of a ride. Hope he’s alright, but I saw him walking around so that’s good. You have that sometimes. Guys get three-wide going through turns one and two and you know there’s not room for three. Let alone coming up to an exit where there’s barely enough room for one car. It makes it treacherous on restarts when there are slower cars up there like that. Luckily, I didn’t get hit from behind and spun out. Unfortunately, my teammate did from myself and hopefully this week makes them feel a little better at the shop.”
Was it difficult to pass Elliott Sadler? “I was taking my time and being patient. I got there kind of fast and when I did I made a move through three and four and my car was just too tight around the bottom line there. It overheated the right front tire so I just got back in line and waited a couple more turns and was just seeing if I could get Elliott (Sadler) to bobble or make a mistake and it would be easier on me to get by him. Just waiting. He got slowed up with a lapped car off of turn two and I kind of built a run through one and two and got to his inside down the back and was able to clear him into three. It was a good race there for a little bit and kind of interesting. I did try once and then I just waited because there was still time and still laps left. I was trying to make sure I got by him before Denny (Hamlin) got too close. I figured if we had a three way battle that sometimes when there’s two cars racing it just leaves room for the third car to just blow by the both of them. We see momentum carry you by guys so easily here sometimes.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing (continued) How does it feel to get one race away from tying Mark Martin for all-time NNS race wins? “Being within one of Mark’s (Martin) win record is special. We’ve said it the last few times since I’ve probably been within five of being able to eclipse him. We’ll see when it happens — if it happens. Maybe some of you say it’s inevitable, but to us we just keep working our guts out and making sure we bring good race cars to the race track and I’m racing Dover and I’m racing Charlotte. Those are two really good places for me in a Nationwide Series — I’ve run really well at both of those. I’ve had great support from Z-Line Designs and those guys so it would mean nothing more than to win or to tie in a Z-Line car and to beat the record in a Z-Line car. I think next week is a Mac Tool car. I’m hoping I can still win, but if I don’t then it will just push it back and I can get in my Z-Line car at Charlotte.”
JASON RATCLIFF, crew chief, No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry How did you feel about tonight’s race? “I feel like we unloaded here probably closer than we have all year. We’re learning a little more about this car so we were really pleased with it right off the truck. Made some good changes. Felt like right at the end of practice that we learned something that made the car better. Starting up front was a plus — got a good pit stall and the guys did a good job on pit road. Really we just persevered tonight. The 60 (Carl Edwards) and the 38 (Kasey Kahne) were good. The 20 (Denny Hamlin) came on there. There was a lot of good race cars that had some problems. Even one time there we had some issues and had to come down pit road. In the end, it all shaked out. We’ve been good here in the past and it just kind of got away from us so to finally win one is very gratifying to win at this race track. It’s a tough place and Kyle (Busch) did an awesome job as usual. We just had it there at the end. We had four tires and most of those guys we were racing I think only had right side tires. That was the difference there at the end.”
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 20 Sport Clips Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 2nd Were you happy with your race car tonight? “Our car really was fast and we were actually faster than them, but we just didn’t have the tires that they had. But, they overcame it. They started a little bit further back than us and was able to drop through the field. Good job by this team. That’s what we were hoping for is a good finish and as far off as we were in practice we’ll take that.”
What was the difference tonight between your car and Kyle Busch’s winning car? “We were so far off in practice. We started the race with an unknown setup so we made gains on it. I felt like we were pretty good that second to last run. We were running with the 38 (Kasey Kahne), but Kyle (Busch) took four (tires) and we took two and it was just too much to overcome. The track position that he lost by picking two extra tires he made up pretty quick. Just a great day out there for the Raybestos team. This is what we come out here to do. Try to finish one-two for Joe Gibbs Racing.”
Will tires mean something in tomorrow night’s race? “It really does. It made a difference from my standpoint so I think it’s critical. Tomorrow we have a good starting spot so hopefully we get a one-two finish just like last week and win on Saturday.”
How was your run tonight? “We had a good run. We were so far off in practice. I really didn’t think we had a shot at it until mid-race or so. We were coming to the front pretty good. We challenged for the lead there on that second to last run, but when we came in that last stop we took two tires and the 18 (Kyle Busch) took four (tires) and a couple other guys took four. With that wreck clearing out most of the cars, Kyle (Busch) was able to restart right behind me. He just had the better tires and had the better car there at the end so we just didn’t have enough for him. Still, big gains from where we were in practice.”
How close were you to getting involved in the big wreck on the backstretch? “It was right behind me. I actually put the 33 (Clint Bowyer) three-wide with the 88 (Aric Almirola) and I think the 88 ended up getting loose. I think me and the 33 had slight contact, but I don’t believe it caused the 88 to spin. It was right behind me so it took out some cars and separated me and Kyle (Busch), and obviously that was the difference because I needed those cars as a buffer to separate us because he had the better tires.”
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 20 Sport Clips Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing (continued) Did you have to make it three-wide because you were only on two tires? “It’s common racing here, to be honest with you. They would do it to me and they have before. I didn’t cause the wreck. I’d have to look at a replay, but I definitely didn’t cause the wreck. I believe the 88 (Aric Almirola) got loose. I had good position, I held my line and that’s a – I mean, we’re racing for a win. We’re not racing for points at this point.”
STEVE WALLACE, No. 66 5-Hour Energy Toyota Camry, Rusty Wallace Racing Finishing Position: 5th How was your race car tonight? “Our 5-Hour Energy Toyota was pretty good. Man, we needed this top-five so damn bad it was stupid. We’ve had a rough year and we had a good run here tonight. I can’t thank all of my guys enough. It was a really good call by Doug Randolph (crew chief) there at the end to stay out. Man, it’s just a great deal. This feels like a win to me. So, hopefully we can go to Dover with our 5-Hour Energy sponsored race and have a good run there too.”
Did you get any tips from your dad about racing at this track? “Well, he ain’t the one driving the car, but he was on the radio quite a bit tonight kind of telling me what to do there. Yeah, we had a good run, man. This was really cool.”
KENNY WALLACE, No. 09 Toyota Camry, RAB Racing with Brack Maggard Finishing Position: 11th
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports Finishing Position: 12th
RYAN TRUEX, No. 99 Aaron’s Toyota Camry, Pastrana-Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 25th How was your race tonight? “Tough night for the No. 99 Toyota team. I thought I missed the wreck, but I just got hit from behind. The guys worked hard to get me back on the race track. I hate it for our team, we had a lot of momentum coming into this weekend and we ended up wrecked. I guess we will just move forward and start looking forward to Dover”
BRIAN SCOTT, No. 11 Shore Lodge Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 29th What happened that took you out of the race? “I guess that’s a product of Darlington racing when you have people starting up front that have no business being up there. It’s unfortunate that cars decided to do that. Not sure what game plan they are playing. It would make for a safer race for everybody if they would just come in and pit and start back there with other cars that run around the same speeds as them. I don’t know. I saw a car bounce off the wall and then I saw cars sideways in front of me. I looked like I was going to be clear low and I got jacked up from behind. I haven’t seen the replay — I don’t know what happened. Just a bummer. Beginning of the night started out pretty rough for the No. 11 Shore Lodge Toyota, but we came back. We had the car handling really good. We had good track position and we were good to the end and feeling pretty good. It looked like it was going to be pretty easy to get a top-10 or possibly a top-five. Just in short, a lot of damage to the car, which I hate. The guys at the shop do a really good job putting together really fast race cars at Joe Gibbs Racing and now we have one that’s going home on the wrecker. Just have to move on. The good thing about this No. 11 team is that they’re strong. We’ll move on, we’ll go to Dover next week, which is my favorite race track and we’ll bounce back.”
MICHAEL ANNETT, No. 62 Pilot/Flying J Toyota Camry, Rusty Wallace Racing Finishing Position: 31st