It has been no surprise as to which driver in NASCAR’s No. 2 series has been the most dominant this year. Kyle Busch continued his dominance on Saturday night as he held off a Carl Edwards on a late restart to capture the Kroger 200 at O’Reilly Raceway Park.
Edwards and Brad Keselowski raced a clean race, despite their much publicized differences. Busch had to fend off Edwards late and Edwards wasn’t about to send Busch into the wall just one week after punting Keselowski on the final lap last week in St. Louis. According to Busch, respect played a factor in this not occurring.
“It was good, hard clean racing,” Busch said. “That’s what happens when you race each other cleanly over time and with respect, you get respect back.”
And respect is what Busch has earned in the Nationwide series. Busch has now won five of his last six races and has now cruised to victory in 38 career Nationwide races, just ten behind the leader Mark Martin who has 48.
Just a week after Keselowski and Edwards’ run-in which forced NASCAR to come in and place punishment on the two, they found themselves running within a couple of car lengths for a while at the beginning of the race and once again on the late restart. Thankfully this time around, they gave each other enough room to maneuver. Keselowski had no issues this time around with Edwards.
“We gave each other plenty of room, and that’s good,” Edwards said. “Hopefully, we can keep doing that going forward.”
Busch seemed to be on his way until Joe Nemechek, with just 10 laps left to go, hit the wall. The caution set up a green/white/checkered finish and Busch selected to take the outside lane on the restart. Thinking Busch would take his time before restarting, Edwards hung back which proved to be the difference. Edwards relaxed and Busch was on his way.
“In my mind, I thought he was going to go late, so as soon as I laid back, he took off,” Edwards said.
Edwards did have the opportunity to bump Busch into the wall coming out of Turn 4, but he opted not to. Busch knew that if he did take him out, that he would not win the race either.
“I knew [the possibility] was there, but if I could just keep enough momentum rolling, just keep my car rolling, I felt like any time he’d lay a bumper to me, he’d get sideways too,” Busch said. “I felt like it was all about trying to keep the momentum rolling, keep the car stuck as best I could.”
Busch is without a doubt the man to beat when he is behind the No.18 car for Joe Gibbs Racing, even though Keselowski holds a 205-point lead over Edwards in the championship race. Busch qualified fifth but without a doubt had the fastest car on Saturday night. But his strategy played a part in the win as well.
“You’ve got to have a really, really methodical way about doing it here, and there just wasn’t enough time for him to do it in two laps,” Busch said.