Camry driver Kyle Busch (first) captured the checkered flag in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The win marked the sixth for Busch in only his first 10 starts of the season and the 57th NNS victory of his career.
He also won races at Phoenix, Bristol, California, Texas and Darlington earlier this year.
The Las Vegas-native started from the outside front row and led the field five times for 186 laps (of 200) at the 1.5-mile, North Carolina race track.
The win was the seventh for Busch at Charlotte Motor Speedway making him the winningest driver in the NNS Series. He surpassed Mark Martin’s record of six wins at the speedway.
Camry drivers Matt Kenseth (eighth) and Parker Kligerman (ninth) also earned top-10 finishes at Charlotte.
Other Camry drivers in Saturday’s race included Brian Vickers (11th), Elliott Sadler (13th), Mike Bliss (19th), Alex Bowman (20th), Hal Martin (23rd), Kenny Wallace (29th), Eric McClure (30th), Joe Nemechek (32nd), John Wes Townley (35th) and Jason White (39th).
Four Toyota drivers are in the top-10 of the unofficial NNS point standings — Sadler (fourth), Vickers (fifth), Kligerman (sixth) and Bowman (10th).
KYLE BUSCH, No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing | Finishing Position: 1st
What does it mean to become the winningest Nationwide driver at Charlotte? “Mark (Martin) — he’s really, really good in the Nationwide Series and there’s a lot of things that I’m beating him at, which is cool for me. He might be watching at home. This one means a lot to beat a guy like Mark Martin, Jack Ingram and all the Nationwide guys that have set previous records before. This is cool for us. It’s great for this team — all of Joe Gibbs Racing and especially for Monster Energy and Toyota. Can’t say enough about Nationwide Insurance and of course the fans. It’s fun to come out here to Charlotte — I love this place. This is my favorite race track and it’s led to a lot of Nationwide and Truck wins, but we have yet to win a Truck race here. I feel like this weekend is a good weekend for us and we’ll dig in on that tomorrow with 600 miles.”
How strong was your race car? “The car was really, really good. I tell you what, those late cautions there were throwing us for a little bit of a loop. You had to keep up with the restarts and who was restarting behind you and all that stuff in order to get good ones. I felt like the last two I got were pretty good. All in all it was a great day for us. This one is special. We win a lot, but I love Charlotte — it’s my favorite race track, so I love winning here in Charlotte. We’ve had some fast cars this year and I don’t think we’re done yet.”
Would it be exciting to win the 600 for the weekend sweep? “It certainly would be and I would love nothing more than to be able to do that, especially for M&M’s and all of our fans and everybody that supports us so much and pulls for us. It’s cool to win anytime, but it’s especially gratifying in the Cup Series – we all know that. We seem to have a bit easier time here, but none of these are ever easy. We just have to work on tomorrow and being around for 600 miles and being in contention to win that thing.”
Why was breaking Mark Martin’s record for wins at Charlotte so important? “Anytime you’re tied with somebody, you want to beat them. To be tied with the greats in this sport like the Mark Martins or the Jack Ingrams — it makes it pretty special to beat those guys and the records they set at different tracks or whatever has been done before. Certainly, it’s never easy, but I felt like we had a good car. We were in good position and I told Adam (Stevens, crew chief), ‘If this track gets hot, these guys are in trouble because they seem to slip slide around more than we do.’ I felt like our car was really good. I’m proud of the fact that what I felt actually came true today.”
Were you surprised cars with fresher tires couldn’t battle for the win? “They really didn’t get an opportunity to run a long run. I felt like that was going to be where the guys were going to showcase their tires — not necessarily on the short run. It seemed like our car would fire off and run some fast lap times, but how long could I hold those fast lap times and keep those guys at bay behind me that had fresher tires. Too many cautions came into play there at the end of the race. They never had an opportunity to get themselves sorted out and to go chase down the guy in front of them and ultimately see if they couldn’t catch me.”
Would it be a relief to finally get a Cup win at Charlotte? “It certainly is. I’ve been so close here so many times. Two years ago, the fall race I led a ton of laps and then Matt Kenseth passed me with like eight (laps) to go. I certainly have had some devastating moments here at this race track, but also a lot of good ones too. Hoping that tomorrow is a good race for us. We start eighth, but our car is a top-five car right now and I think that throughout the race and throughout the 600 miles — daytime to nighttime and the adjustments you have to make to keep up with the race track. You have to go from practice to qualifying to the race and have the right adjustments ready to go. Tomorrow there is that extra element added in with the nighttime and being ready to go when the speeds are going to be the highest at night and having your car setup good.”
Does it get boring when you lead so many laps? “It’s a little tougher than you think it is. You certainly have to stay focused all the time. There is never really a moment where you think, ‘Oh, this is easy, I’m waiting for someone to come race me.’ I would rather no one ever come up and race me, but I know that’s boring for the fans and for the media to see. I thought there at the end, Kasey (Kahne) didn’t get by me and we really didn’t dice it up or race that much, but he caught me. I had to change my line to a line that I hadn’t run all race long and it proved to work to my benefit. That was good. Also, it’s a lot of fun to go out there and lead that many laps and run up front and just see all the people in the grandstands telling you that you’re number one every lap. To then take home the checkered flag at the end of the day and put it right back at them.”
ADAM STEVENS, crew chief, No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How strong is this race team this season? “This is the same team we had together last year. Just a lot of highly qualified and talented and hard-working guys. When you have that much confidence in your people and the job that they do, you don’t have to look over their shoulder and it allows me and my engineer and my shock guy to really focus on the details. Kind of get engrossed in that rather than making sure that the big picture stuff is right. I don’t ever question the work that the guys do in the shop or the work that we do here at the race track. I think that letting other guys focus on the details is what gives us fast race cars.”
J.D. GIBBS, president, Joe Gibbs Racing
Are you surprised by the success of this team? “Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and Kyle (Busch) — they just make it look easy. As we all know, it’s not easy. It’s difficult to win these races and be where you are week in and week out. I’m just impressed with the way they relate and the way they help our other teammates too. It’s been just special to be a part of it.”
MATT KENSETH, No. 18 Reser’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing | Finishing Position: 8th
Did you struggle with the handling of the car? “Our adjustments were good. We just started so incredibly far off. I don’t know — it’s pretty frustrating. We finished probably better than we ran, but it was just a frustrating day really. We were so far off in the beginning and I didn’t think we really would be and we kept going backwards. We got the car a little better then, but most of the restarts I just kept getting stuck in the wrong lane. Whatever lane I was in, I would lose four spots and then the yellow would come out. It was kind of an uphill battle.”
PARKER KLIGERMAN, No. 77 TOYOTA Toyota Camry, Kyle Busch Motorsports | Finishing Position: 9th
How was the race? “Everyone on this No. 77 Toyota Camry worked real hard all week. They’ve been working hard the last couple weeks and will be into the next couple weeks because we’ll be testing the road course, a test at Kentucky, these races here and Dover then Iowa — it’s all compounded. My guys are working overtime and we came out here and thought we had a fast Toyota Camry and we had the stars and stripes on it, which is exciting — Memorial Day and thanks to all our veterans past and present. We thought we could go get them hopefully a checkered flag to add to the stars and stripes, but it just wasn’t our day. We had numerous problems in the pits. Fought all the way back to being in third there with 20 (laps) to go and thinking that if we could just go green the whole way then we would be just fine. We got a series of restarts and were able to hold on pretty well and then the last run we were just so tight that we were a sitting duck to the guys on news tires.”
BRIAN VICKERS, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing | Starting Position: 11th
How was the race? “I’m disappointed. We had a top-three car, maybe even a car that could win if we made the right adjustments. We lost — we more than lost, we finished 11th. We all make mistakes, but we can’t keep making mistakes and you can’t keep repeating them. That’s two weeks in a row that we’ve had a wheel loose and had to come in the pit. At Darlington, we came back and we still pulled a top-three out of it. Today it was too late in the race and we didn’t have time to get back.”