Rowdy In Kentucky
Box Score Info:
RACE: NASCAR XFINITY Series Alsco 300
TRACK: Kentucky Speedway
START: 1st, POLE, 29.681 seconds, 181.935 mph
LAPS: Completed 200 of 200 laps
RACE WINNER: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing
• NASCAR’s XFINITY Series entered week sixteen of the 2017 season at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta for a Saturday afternoon race event. Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) veteran Kyle Busch and the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Rowdy Edition Toyota team started from row one, a POLE first-place qualifying lap at 181.935 mph captured in 29.681 seconds. The lead starting spot was Busch’s series-leading 61st in 333 career XFINITY series starts. Busch battled both loose and tight-handling conditions with his Toyota Camry mid-race, only to see improvement after pit stop adjustments gave the series veteran the car balance needed later in the race to maintain the lead and take home the checkered flag. The win was Busch’s 88th victory in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, his seventh at Kentucky Speedway in all three of NASCAR’s top-racing series.
• Busch’s win was the series-leading 88th victory in 333 starts, the former XFINITY Series champion and Joe Gibbs Racing’s third XFINITY Series win at Kentucky Speedway in two years. The Saturday afternoon finish earned the series most- winningest driver the Mobile 1 Driver of the Race Award. Busch led the field three times across 70 event laps and took the checkered flag with a strong lead over 1.5 seconds ahead of the next competitor to cross the finish line.
• Kyle Busch won the Coors Light Pole Award with a lap of 29.681 seconds to put the defending race winner in the first-place starting spot for the afternoon’s 300-mile, 200-lap race. It was Busch’s fourth pole of 2017 and second first-place start at Kentucky Speedway in the past two years.
• Busch took the green flag from the first-place spot to begin the series’ first race segment and immediately battled for position with teammate Erik Jones. “My car’s both loose and tight, really battling tires and race track,” Busch described to the No. 18 team’s crew chief this season at the first event caution flag. At the end of segment one Busch was scored in second place and the team made their first pit-road visit for adjustments. Busch restarted in the fourth position. In the second race segment Busch further described his Toyota Camry as having a vibration, ”the tires must be mismatched, the air pressures are off.” The No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Camry would start a green-flag run tight-handling then would turn too loose for Busch to control, especially in turn four. The NOS Energy Drink Rowdy Edition Camry was in third place to end segment two and a second pit stop was conducted to further adjust car handling.
• The third race segment restart came with traffic and Busch began from a fourth-place position on lap 96, then drove to regain the lead spot three laps later. The driver was heard over the radio, “Car feels good, just tight in the center both ends.” The team was in first place when a caution flag appeared at lap 128 and Phillips brought his driver to pit road one last time for final car adjustments. The over-the-wall pit crew, veteran team members who have pitted Busch’s various cars over the years, changed four Goodyear tires, while other competitors chose to change two tires, or to remain on the race track. Busch was scored in the sixth position at restart on lap 137. Within two laps he moved forward two positions into fifth place. Another nine laps and Busch had moved his NOS Energy Drink Camry into the fourth position. With 51 laps remaining in the event, the winningest driver in XFINITY Series history had driven into the third-place position. Another late caution period occurred and the No 18 team would choose to remain on the race track, which put them back into the lead position for the final restart with 28 laps to run before race completion. Busch was not challenged by the competition for the race lead, and he captured the win while navigating final lapped traffic. Busch scored his second win and the first official victory for the No. 18 team at Joe Gibbs Racing in the XFINITY Series, since an encumbered result earlier in the race season at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway.
Saturday’s XFINITY Series event recorded an average speed of 119.258 mph and saw seven lead changes across four drivers. Busch led the field three times across 70 laps. There were eight caution periods for 44 laps of the 200-mile event.
• With Saturday’s victory the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink team strengthens their drive towards the front of NASCAR’s Owner Championship Points Standings, now in seventh place recorded 190 points from the top position held by the No 22 Penske team.
• The NASCAR XFINITY Series competes again Saturday, July 15 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. The race will be broadcast live on NBCSN at 4:00pm EST.
Driver Kyle Busch post-race thoughts:
How does it feel to get back to victory lane again in the XFINITY Series at Kentucky?
“It’s certainly nice to get to victory lane anytime you can. It’s been a heck of a year on the bad front for us so it’s nice to have this as a little bit of a turnaround. Our Toyota Camry has been really fast all year long and this NOS Energy Drink Camry – this is the first time we’ve gotten the Rowdy paint scheme to victory lane. I appreciate my buddy helping me design this thing and making it look so good. Joe Gibbs Racing engines, the race fans – we appreciate them and XFINITY as well. It’s fun to have the opportunity to run in this series, I enjoy it and I like running as much as I can, it just gives me a little better idea for the night time and the big races on Sunday obviously, but tonight being a Saturday night one.”
This win didn’t seem to come easy today?
“It didn’t, it was a little more challenging. That’s what racing is all about, these guys keep getting better and we just bide our time a little bit as well today. We did what we needed to do to be there at the end and gave it our best opportunity there. We took four tires and that kind of got us behind there with two pit stops to go and then some of those guys came in again. Obviously our car was really fast out front and once I got in clean air I didn’t think anybody had anything for us.”
How hot was it in the car today and how will you prepare for tonight’s race?
“It wasn’t too terrible out there today. I expected it to be a little bit worse than it was. It wasn’t 95 degrees, but it was probably 85 or 88. It’s certainly a challenge just to make sure you get enough fluids in you and be able to get the fluids back in. I’m still sweating and leaking so you have to be able to put that back so we’ll see how it goes. It was just like going for a bike ride and I’m sure Jimmie (Johnson) did that today and maybe some others. I’ll be ready to go, it’s just about being able to get back, get some rest, get in some cool air and get some fluids down.”
What are your restart procedures from the initial start through the race?
“You’re looking for those guys that are laying back. I try not to lay back from those in front of me. It felt like the furthest back I got was about a half a car length and I think that’s respectable. Sometimes I think there are guys behind me when Erik Jones and myself are on the front row, they were two lengths back. You have to just wait as far as you can into the zone for them to get back to your back bumper and the restart zone here is so late and so close to the start-finish line that it makes it look really, really bad because everybody is anxious to go and we’re not even to the zone yet. Just trying to make sure that you don’t get pinned in a bad spot when you’re up front and when you’re behind you try to do it right and you’re trying to do the right things and not manipulating what NASCAR wants you to do.”
Do you notice anything different with the tire dragging as it relates to the middle groove?
“Yeah, until they oil down the backstretch and that lane getting into turn three, I thought the track was really ‘racey.' Hopefully they can burn that in a little bit more down the backstretch and that quick dry that they put down in order to take up some of that oil, they can burn that off and get it back to black instead of white. After that, it got to being about one groove again and I didn’t see anybody widening it out. You were afraid to get into the white stuff because the car will just take off up the race track on you. The other thing I saw was the race track was really good in one and two, it got really wide and definitely nothing out there to race in, but at least it’s safe if you do slip and get out there and you can still catch your car. There’s room for lapped cars to go out there and not feel that they’re going to crash. They were pretty mindful of the leaders today and we’ll see how all that goes tonight.”