Kyle Busch breaks Martinsville drought with truck race win
April 2, 2016
By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Kyle Busch, come get your clock.
Leading a race-high 123 of 255 laps, Kyle Busch pulled off an overtime victory in Saturday’s Alpha Energy Solutions 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway and filled a major hole in his resume by securing the coveted grandfather clock that goes to the victor.
“I’ve got a couple owners’ ones, but never one of my own,” said Busch, who got an excellent launch on the final restart and won the two-lap dash to the finish by .425 seconds over John Hunter Nemechek, who took over the series points lead with the runner-up finish.
Driving the No. 18 truck he owns, Busch also gave crew chief Wes Ward his first victory in the series, and he did it with one set of fresh tires still available. The win was Busch’s 45th in the series.
“This is just a day we’ve been looking for for a long, long time,” Busch said. “We’ve never necessarily had all the pieces go together like we should have. And I didn’t know the pieces were going to go together today, the way the cautions (11 of them) played out, the way the tire strategy was playing out — when to pit, when not to pit, how to do all that.
“Wes and I both leaned on each other, and we both had no idea, so we just dumbed into this, I think, but it all worked out.”
Busch last came to pit road on Lap 135, and Ward kept him on the track under both the sixth and seventh cautions, which occurred on Lap 186 and Lap 199, respectively. By then, the die was cast, and Busch ran the remainder of the race with his third set of Goodyears sitting behind pit wall.
As it turned out, he didn’t need them. Busch was so strong on restarts that he was able to open distance between the No. 18 Toyota and his pursuers, even when those chasing had superior rubber.
With a determined run in the outside lane, Nemechek was able to hold off third-place finisher William Byron, who was driving for Busch.
“I was able to hang tough on the outside, get around William there at the end,” Nemechek said. “That was the big key for us to finish second — if not we were probably going to lose a couple spots.
“Those restarts were hectic at the end. I just kept spinning the tires on the restarts. We’ve got to go back and look at some things. I could never get to Kyle.”
Nemechek left Martinsville with a three-point lead in the series standings over eighth-place finisher Parker Kilgerman, but not without some bruised feelings on the part of Daniel Suarez, who got shuffled back when Nemechek was battling eventual fourth-place finisher Kyle Larson for second on a wild restart on Lap 225.
Suarez pulled up next to Nemechek under a red flag for a multi-car wreck on Lap 236 and ultimately was a victim of a six-car incident (in Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 246) that sent the race to overtime, five laps beyond its scheduled distance.
Nemechek wasn’t sure why Suarez was upset.
“I don’t really know,” Nemechek said. “I know that we were beating and banging, and he moved me a couple of times, so I don’t really know what his deal was.”
For Busch, on the other hand, the deal was simple. He now has his first grandfather clock and a chance to complete an unprecedented Martinsville sweep, should he win Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the .526-mile short track (1 p.m. ET on FS1).
Busch acknowledged he learned a few things in Saturday’s race that could help him on Sunday, so perhaps there’s a second clock in the reigning Sprint Cup champion’s immediate future.