Camry driver Kyle Busch won Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, becoming only the third driver in history to earn 100 NASCAR wins behind Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105).
With the win, Busch also ties Mark Martin’s record for all-time series victories with 49 triumphs in just 217 NNS starts.
Busch led the final 33 laps (of 206) at the one-mile New England oval to earn his sixth victory of the season and his third consecutive win at New Hampshire.
Toyota drivers have earned 62 overall NNS victories since joining series competition in 2007 with the 26-year-old Las Vegas native earning 38 of those wins behind the wheel of a Camry.
Kenny Wallace (sixth), Michael Annett (seventh) and Steve Wallace (ninth) also finished in the top-10 for Toyota.
Camry drivers Joe Nemechek (11th), Brian Scott (17th) and Joey Logano (29th) were also in the field.
Five Camry drivers are currently in the top-15 in the unofficial NNS point standings following 19 of 35 races in the 2011 season — K. Wallace (seventh), S. Wallace (eighth), Annett (ninth), Scott (10th) and Joe Nemechek (14th).
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 1st How does it feel to join Richard Petty and David Pearson at 100 NASCAR wins? “Well, certainly mine is a little bit different, but certainly feels good and means a lot. Especially to come out here and win for Z-Line Designs and get the 49th win in their car. Jim and Monica (Sexton) are back at home. We can’t do it without all of their awesome support. They’re here with us through thick and thin and everything. NOS Energy Drink, Toyota, Nationwide Insurance, the fans and Mark Martin — to tie his record at 49 wins, that’s something that’s pretty awesome as well and it’s a great opportunity to race in this series and win that many. And, now to do it, it’s pretty neat.”
Do you think you can win a Cup championship this year? “Certainly, that’s our first and foremost goal to be able to win that Cup championship and bring that home for Interstate Batteries, everybody at Mars and M&M’s, Snickers, Combos. All of the people that help us on our Cup program. It’s fun. I think that we can do it. Certainly, we’ve struggled a little bit here this weekend, but I think we’ll get going here tomorrow. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys will think about it tonight and try to work on it for us. Again, today it was just an awesome race. The pass for the win I don’t think was the pass on Ricky Stenhouse, it was more of the pass between the 22 (Brad Keselowski) and the 33 (Kevin Harvick) there in turn four. Just kind of threading the needle. It was so hard to pass out there today that anytime you saw an opportunity you better jump on it and try to get by and try to hold on if you could. There those last couple restarts I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but we got a good one and (Kevin) Harvick was right there on that last one with me but I beat him through (turn) one and two. All in all a great day.”
How do you feel about all of the stats associated with today’s race? “I hope we can stop rattling off all of those after today. I think we get it. It’s a great opportunity for myself to race in NASCAR and to participate in as many races as I do and to win as often as we have. It takes great teams with everybody from Joe Gibbs Racing and Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and all the guys. To Dave (Rogers, NSCS crew chief) and to Kyle Busch Motorsports with Eric (Phillips, NCWTS crew chief) and Rick Ren (KBM general manager) and everybody there. Certainly it’s been fun. It’s been exciting here the last few seasons and being able to win as often as we have in a Nationwide Series especially, but of course to tie Mark’s (Martin) record at 49. Of course all over the NASCAR circuit – to win 100 is pretty cool. We’re halfway to my number. I always said it’s 200 and whether it’s relative to Richard (Petty) or to David Pearson’s — that’s not what I’m out here for. It’s for myself and myself only and to be able to achieve a goal. You set your goals high and you try to get out there and do it. If I set a goal that I knew I could reach, then it wouldn’t really be a goal. It’s off in the horizon, it’s a few years down the road, but hopefully one day we get to 200.”
Where will this race rank in importance of your 100 wins? “That’s a tough question. To me, there’s been so many that have been great just because of certain circumstances that made them great. Whether it was leading all the laps at Phoenix earlier this year or being able to come back from a lap down and win a race or to have problems and win a race. Adversity is kind of the ones that stand out in your mind the most that are most satisfying to you. Today is a great one. It will stick out for a long time because it is number 100. I’m not going to say that this is the biggest one because certainly I think the inaugural win at Kentucky is bigger than today and my first win at Las Vegas is bigger than this today. This is certainly a special day because it is number 100 and it does tie Mark Martin’s record of 49 in the Nationwide Series.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing (continued) How do you feel about being mentioned with drivers that are or will be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame? “You have to retire first right, to get in the Hall of Fame? Apparently he’s (Mark Martin) not going to be an inductee anytime soon — that’s alright — more power to him. I said on TV, he’s young at heart and he wants to keep doing what he’s doing. That’s awesome. For myself to be mentioned in the same category as a Mark Martin or a Sam Ard — (Rob) Moroso was really good from what I understand. Never really got to see him race, but there were also a few other guys — (Tommy) Houston, I can’t remember them all off the top of my head right now, that made the Nationwide Series and made it exciting in its hay day through the 80s and early 90s and this guy (Mark Martin) here going at it for a long time through the 90s and 2000. It’s fun to look back on those and see that my name is atop the list with the rest of those guys. There’s many more to go hopefully. We can certainly make it a large number one day and we’ll see how that all tallies up in the end.”
Why were you so good on restarts today? “I don’t know — I got a few dings in my left rear quarter panel so I got touched a few times. The restarts is something that I’ve concentrated on for a long time at trying to get better at. A couple times I spun my tires there, but not too bad. Got going in order to stay with the 6 (Ricky Stenhouse) and the 33 (Kevin Harvick) got a good restart on that last one. When you run through turns one and two pretty hard and you get some good speed built up through there and try to get your momentum back up to speed as quick as you can because these cars don’t have much horsepower so you have to try everything you can to get your speed rolling up and we were able to do it. Our car was pretty good.”
Can you take advantage of Kevin Harvick being warned by NASCAR about touching you? “I had a great race with (Kevin) Harvick. No problem — I think that’s the way you should race. I raced him just as clean as he raced me, which is great. If he got a warning, I’m sorry he got a warning. I did not get a warning. I don’t know that I took advantage of him in any way, but I raced hard, I raced clean and ended up where I am.”
Are you focused on getting your Cup number to match your Nationwide and Truck numbers? “Certainly it will be nice to get those numbers higher. If I could have 49 Cup wins right now, I would certainly feel a little bit better, but I don’t so it doesn’t matter. It’s a total – however you add them up, you add them up the same way regardless of the series, they equal 100. I’m 26 years old, maybe there’s an opportunity for me to be around here as long as Mark Martin and win four, five, six races a year to just keep tallying that number up. It’s going to take a lot longer at four or five wins a year than it does in the Nationwide Series at 10, 11 or 13 a year. Certainly we’ve been able to accomplish that the last few seasons thanks to this guy next to me (Jason Ratcliff, crew chief) and our team and the guys at Toyota that give us great race cars.”
JASON RATCLIFF, crew chief, No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing What was your strategy in today’s race? “It wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be when it started. Typical New Hampshire race for us. Kyle (Busch) does a good job of keeping the fenders on it and staying up front and we adjust on our car all day. We haven’t led a lot of laps in the last three wins, but we just stay close to the front and usually the guys on pit road can get it done and we can do some race strategy to get us out front and get our track position. Today it just wasn’t happening. Everybody was doing the same stuff and I thought, man, we’re not going to get it. I think it was like lap 152 where this guy (Kyle Busch) goes three wide with somebody and gets about three spots in one corner so we got our track position. Finally, once we did that I knew that we had an opportunity to get it. Glad to do it – glad to do it here at New Hampshire.”
KENNY WALLACE, No. 09 Toyota Camry, RAB Racing with Brack Maggard Finishing Position: 6th How was your race today? “We just finished sixth again. Three top-10s in a row. Just trying to score points for Toyota. Seems like we’re always first or second every week — we’re doing our best. I remind everybody every week — we’re a middle class team racing against Gibbs, Roush, Hendrick, Penske. We were sitting there looking like we were going to run 12th and they just started wrecking. We were in the right spot at the right time every time and just got a couple spots there at the end. Sixth is not too bad because it didn’t look like it was going to be that good of a day.”
MICHAEL ANNETT, No. 62 Pilot/Flying J Toyota Camry, Rusty Wallace Racing Finishing Position: 7th How was the race today? “It’s so hard to pass. If you don’t make any positions up the first three laps then you’re probably going to ride around wherever you end up after that. It causes that kind of racing. Another top-10 for the Pilot/Flying J 62 team — that’s five out of six. We ran top-five, top-10 all day rather than just ending up there. Huge momentum still for the team — we want those top-fives, but we ran where we were supposed to and just got knocked out of the way there at the end.”
STEVE WALLACE, No. 66 5-Hour Energy Toyota Camry, Rusty Wallace Racing Finishing Position: 9th What happened between yourself and Jason Leffler? “I really like Jason Leffler a lot — I get along with him really, really well. He hit me about five or six different times today and he cut up in front of me and spun himself out. It’s as simple as that. Got in the back of the 20 (Joey Logano) there and just a lot of things happened today — some were my fault and some were not.”
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 D.A.B. Constructors Inc. Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports Finishing Position: 11th
BRIAN SCOTT, No. 11 Shore Lodge Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 17th
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 GameStop Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 29th What happened that took you out of the race? “The 66 (Steve Wallace) just drove in there a little too high and got us. We started back there and I don’t know – there was a wreck, I know that. My spotter was saying, ‘low, low, low,’ and I was low. I think there was another wreck after that – all I saw was the rear spoiler of the car in front of me. He pretty much stopped and I went in there pretty hard. That was the end of our day.” Was this an aggressive race? “There was some people driving like idiots out there today. I will say that for sure. There were a lot of people shoving around and pushing around for no reason – early on in the race even. There just wasn’t any cautions. We learned a little bit for tomorrow so that should help us with our Home Depot car.”