Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – FONTANA, CA – How intense a competitor is Kyle Busch?
The victories that elude him seem to bother him more than the wins he celebrates—even monumental ones.
You’d think that Kyle Busch would have been overcome with elation after collecting his 200th NASCAR national series victory in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway. After all, that was a milestone goal Busch had announced years ago.
But when Busch crossed the finish line 2.354 seconds ahead of runner-up Joey Logano, his thoughts quickly turned to the wins that had gotten away.
Busch had come close in the March 3 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas, where he ran third. In Saturday’s Xfinity Series event at Auto Club, he dominated until a pit road penalty sent him to the back of the field. Busch rallied to finish second.
After the obligatory, “Oh, yes. Whoo, boy! Awesome race car!” when he crossed the finish line, Busch followed with “Can you imagine if I could have gotten Vegas and yesterday? How many in a row?”
That hate-to-lose attitude has propelled Busch to the 200-victory mark, and it may well carry him to his next goal—raising his Cup victory total from the current 53 to 100.
IN KYLE BUSCH’S SHADOW, KURT BUSCH POSTS SOLID RESULT
Sixth-place Kurt Busch had the highest-finishing Chevrolet in Sunday’s Auto Club 400, but his strong performance in the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Camaro was overshadowed by the accomplishment of his brother, Kyle Busch, who claimed his 200th NASCAR national series victory in the same race.
Nevertheless, older brother Kurt shared in his brother’s achievement.
“This is a big day,” Kurt said. “For my little brother to have 200 wins, they’re all added up through his hard work and his dedication to perfection. Not bad for two kids with an attitude from Vegas.”
Though each driver has one championship to his credit—Kurt in 2004 and Kyle in 2015–Kyle now has 53 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories to 30 for his brother. And Kurt is well aware of the gap.
“I’ve got to hold up my end of the bargain,” Kurt quipped after falling from fourth to sixth in the final two laps of Sunday’s race. “I’ve gotten too nice, and I’m not winning enough–but I’m having fun.
“I love the Ganassi guys. Matt McCall (crew chief) wants more. I know he does. I want more. I was hoping for a top five today, but we’ll take it. All in all, we’re running where we need to be running.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI OVERCOMES EARLY BRUSH WITH THE WALL TO RUN THIRD
On Lap 43 of Sunday’s Auto Club 400, Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Team Penske Ford brushed the outside wall and fell back in traffic.
Keselowski was 22nd for a restart with one lap left in the first stage of the race, but he didn’t stay there. Though a combination of pit strategy and determined driving, Keselowski charged forward after dodging a wreck on Lap 60.
On Lap 72, he passed teammate Joey Logano for second. And when eventual race winner Kyle Busch was slapped with a pit road speeding penalty under caution during the break after Stage 2, Keselowski led 38 straight laps and built a four-second lead before a timely caution on Lap 164 put Busch back in the mix for the win.
Ultimately, Keselowski finished third behind Busch and Logano, but he wasn’t fully satisfied with the performance of his car.
“We were a little off, really, all day,” Keselowski said. “We got a lot better from the first run to the end. We were so strong in practice. The track changing kind of threw us for a loop with the wind. Just never could get right off Turn 2. Ended up kind of costing us the race there with the 22 (Logano). I couldn’t stay in front.
“But the team, team Penske, these guys worked really hard on this car to get it back. I brushed the wall a little bit earlier. They fixed it, got us back. They kept working on it and (we) still had a solid day.”