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Busch scores XFINITY victory at Watkins Glen

by Brian Carroccio
Saturday, August 5, 2017

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Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch edged Joey Logano by just over a second to win today's 23rd Annual Zippo 200 at The Glen. It was the 90th career NASCR Xfinity Series and 177th NASCAR touring series victory for the driver of the No. 18 NOS Rowdy Toyota.

The win was also the first Xfinity Series win at Watkins Glen for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Brad Keselowski came home third with Justin Allgaier and Paul Menard rounding out the top-five.

Busch took the lead from polesitter Logano on lap 1 and would maintain the point until a lap 16 spin in turn 1. That turned over the lead to Keselowski who would go on to win Stage 1. Busch, who finished the opening stage third, incurred a pass through penalty following the stage after passing through too many pit boxes.

When the pit stops following the first stage cycled through, Daniel Hemric, who had come to pit road before the end of Stage 1 found himself at the point. However, after 4 laps, Hemric surrendered the lead to Paul Menard, who also came to pit road before the end of Stage 1. Menard would go on to capture the second stage and stayed at the front until lap 46.

From there, Logano would take over for two circuits, then Busch for 5. Brendan Gaughan, who had come to pit road before the end of the second stage, found himself in the lead on lap 54 after the leaders made their final stops. When Gaughan came to pit road for his final stop on lap 60, it was Busch who once again found himself in the lead.

And he seemed to be cruising to an easy victory in the closing stages maintaining around a two-second gap on Keselowski. However, with 7 laps remaining, a full-course caution came out after Casey Mears' car stopped on the backstretch. Busch was none too happy with Mears noting that the run-off areas on the track were discussed in the drivers' meeting.

"I don't know why we have driver meetings," said a characteristically sarcastic Busch.

One the ensuing restart, Busch would choose the inside line and get the jump on Keselowski. "Eight wheels turn better than four," joked Busch when asked why he chose the inside line. Essentially, Busch believed choosing the inside would protect him against a banzai move by Keselowski up the inside on the restart. "You leave yourself vulnerable to the inside car spinning you out," said Busch more seriously.

Tomorrow, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series will be in action here at Watkins Glen with qualifying scheduled to begin at 12:05 p.m. ET and race set for 3 p.m.

The XFINITY Series will continue next week with its road course swing — heading to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Mid-Ohio Challenge on Saturday, August 13 (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 NOS Rowdy Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

Finishing Position: 1st

How were you able to overcome a few early mistakes to get the victory today?

“You’ve just got to get through it, but unfortunately I screwed up early and I got us behind but the guys gave me such an awesome race car that we could make it back up and we were able to do that today. So, this NOS Energy Drink Rowdy flavor Camry was awesome today. This Toyota Camry drove really good. The guys had awesome brakes on the car. The tires were pretty good too. I thought I flat spotted them a couple of times, but they held through throughout the run so that was cool. And, then we just want to thank the fans. Of course they’re great and they support the racing up here. Fans on TV, thanks for watching of course. DVX Sunglasses, Cessna, XFINITY, we appreciate them and giving us the stream app. It’s a lot of fun to watch these races from too when you’re out and about.”

Do you feel like it’s a possibility to sweep the weekend with a win in the Cup Series tomorrow?

“It certainly is. Our cars have been really fast this weekend. I don’t know if I’m just in the groove or what, but it feels pretty good. The cars have really been working for me here and it just feels so good to finally win an XFINITY race here. We’ve been so close so many times. One of my favorite runs here was in a Zippo car and being it the Zippo race today that’s kind of ironic – I guess they sponsor it every year -- but being with Eddie D’Hondt and the Zippo car I remember we were really, really fast and wish we would’ve got that one. We got it done here today. This group of guys is awesome and they did everything there for me today. Pit road was pretty good for us. We stayed out long on that one run and we were able to cycle back up to the lead. It worked two weeks in a row that way, I don’t know how much longer we can do that before they figure it out but it’s been working for us so we’ll take it.”

How do you feel about earning the win and the 139th series wins for Joe Gibbs Racing, which sets a NASCAR XFINITY Series record?

“That’s pretty awesome. Just congratulations to this group of guys and everybody on this Joe Gibbs Racing Camry. It’s awesome to drive fast Toyota Camrys like we’ve been bringing to the race track so hats off to those guys for doing that. This NOS Energy Drink Camry was just that, we were pretty good all day yesterday in practice, all day in the race. I tried to throw it away and screw it up early on by spinning, but man I was just trying to conserve and save and I thought I almost missed the corner so I gave it a little bit more brake and then it just wheel-hopped on me. That’s just how close to on edge we are here and I spun around and got back going and only lost a couple spots, but that couple of spots was pretty important for the rest of the day.”

Can you take us through working your way back up through the field and the penalty on pit road?

“You’re always worried about those situations because I don’t know if it was last year or the year before here where I got in the back and there was a wreck through the esses there and I couldn’t get through and I couldn’t get through and I got clipped and I got crashed. Anything can happen in those situations. But, we had to go to the back and put on a show for all of the fans here today and slicing our way through traffic. There were a couple of moments there that I wasn’t sure that we were going to make it through but everybody did a great job racing me hard, racing me clean and had some fun times.”

What went through your mind on that last restart?

“I just knew – I was hoping and praying we could get to the white flag and then we didn’t, but then I knew once that caution did come out you’ve just got to focus on the restart. You’ve just got to hit your marks on the take off and then you’ve got to be able to know where you want to start slowing down for the corner for turn 1. When I got a good launch on Brad (Keselowski) there and got ahead of him a little bit I kind of guarded my entry in order to make sure not to overshoot it and it was close so I was glad I didn’t go to where I thought I needed to go. All in all, the car cut through there real good and I got a good launch up through the esses and down through the backstretch and had a nice gap on everybody by then.”

How does it feel to finally get the XFINITY Series win here at Watkins Glen?

“It feels good. It’s been a long time coming. I feel like we’ve been so close so many times and had fast race cars so many times and something has kind of kept us out of victory lane – sounds a lot like this year I guess. Overall, finally able to check this box off the list so can’t say enough about Eric Phillips (crew chief) and all these guys on this Joe Gibbs Racing NOS Energy Drink Toyota Camry. It was just really, really fast and I knew that I just had to not screw it up and I tried but we were fast enough that we could recover and Eric made a great call there when those guys all ducked off I was still running fast lap times just like last week and we were able to kind of stretch our gap a little bit or close the gap back into where Brad (Keselowski) was and I think he came out and got stuck in traffic or something for a few laps or got slowed up. It just gave us the opportunity to jump him on pit road and that’s what we did. And, having that much – I don’t know if having that much fresher tires did a whole lot, but certainly felt like it did there late in the race.”

Why did you pick the inside lane on the final restart?

“I thought about it a few different times and I guess my thought there at the end was just to be in control of the inside being the inside guy. Being on that outside you leave yourself vulnerable to the guy on the inside wiping you out and I didn’t want to have that even if Brad (Keselowski) got a good restart and was alongside me I’m the inside car, eight tires turn better than four. I could probably use him up and make it through turn 2 the way I would want to. That’s kind of where I settled in my thoughts.”

Can you talk about the penalty for driving through too many pit boxes?

“I don’t know how close it was. I need to go back and look at it. I didn’t think I was that close, but I tried to make sure that I was just getting over straight enough that my guys I didn’t mess them up and having a good stop because they’re backwards. I’m trying to do everything that I can to make it easier for them and I must have just misjudged it a little bit. It’s not harder by any means. It just was a slight mistake by me on trying to help out my pit crew.”

Do you feel like you’ve broken through after getting the win at Pocono last week in Cup and now this win at Watkins Glen?

“What’s the saying? I feel like I’ve been in a case of emotions all year long? Is that what you’re saying? I broke out of it finally. I don’t know. It’s just, like I said earlier, just not having won here in forever in the XFINITY Series and then not having won in forever it seems in the last year finally two weeks in a row it’s finally turned around a little bit. Just feels good in that respect and hopefully we’re just peaking at the right time and we’re able to ride this wave of momentum a little bit and keep it going through the rest of the year. It’s a long ways to go the rest of the year. It’s 14 weeks obviously, I think, but still it doesn’t hurt to have opportunities to win races at any point in the season especially in the second half.”

Are you confident you can win the Cup Series race here tomorrow?

“I don’t think there’s any reason why we can’t or shouldn’t have a shot to win here tomorrow. We had a really fast race car in opening practice and felt like we had a fast race car in second practice too, but a couple guys kind of closed the gap on us so they brought themselves closer to us. Overall, though, the M&M’s Caramel Camry was good. The time we had – we lost 30 minutes in the first practice because of all of the cautions and then we lost 30 minutes in the second practice because of having to sit out for a penalty so really we only had about 40 total minutes of practice here this weekend so it was really short for us. Good thing my guys unloaded with a fast race car because we didn’t have to make a whole lot of changes to it and we felt pretty good with what we had.”

ERIC PHILLIPS, crew chief, No. 18 NOS Rowdy Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

Can you talk about Kyle’s performance today?

“It’s interesting with the stages there’s a whole lot of scenarios that you can play out and we were kind of where we wanted to be there and we messed up getting into turn 1 there and looped it and kind of backed my strategy out. They were really close to being able to pit there with two to go in that last stage and I felt like if we were the leader we could control that and keep them on our strategy and then the caution came out so it kind of played in our favor there. I knew once we got back there after that caution right before the end of the second stage if we could run a couple of clean laps I felt like we could get to some of those guys and gap them. Then, I almost cut it too close, but it’s a game with playing if you’re going to get a caution or stay out longer, but it worked out in our favor and we got into victory lane today.”

 Full race results

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