Kyle Busch, a driver who already has known his fair share of success in a brilliant career, will remember this weekend at Richmond International Raceway for the rest of his life.
Friday night at RIR, Busch’s No. 54 Toyota won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race with big brother Kurt at the wheel. It was the first NNS victory for Kyle Busch Motorsports and a huge win for the family, which is why Kyle was choking back tears afterwards.
Saturday night, it was Kyle the driver who won at RIR, benefiting from the misfortune of others and a dubious late-race caution to put the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in victory lane for a record fourth time in a row in this race.
“The first thing I asked Kyle, I said, ‘Okay, is it more fun winning as a car owner or a driver?’ team owner Joe Gibbs said after the Cup victory. “And he was honest, he says as a driver.”
“It's way harder to win as an owner, for sure,” Busch countered. “I'm standing there on the pit wall (during the NNS race) and I've got no control over what's going on. I'm ready to come on the radio with Kurt and tell him what all he needs to be doing.”
For Kyle, this weekend was exactly what he needed, breaking a 20-race winless streak and helping him recover from a slow start to the 2012 season.
And for once, Busch won when he didn’t have the dominant car. He won because he was in the right place at the right time, benefiting from pit road problems for Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart. But, hey, in NASCAR, the fastest car doesn’t always win. In recent years, the car that leads the most laps in any race wins less than half the time.
Busch won the race when a caution flew for debris late in the race — specifically, a water bottle out of the racing line on the backstretch. Under the ensuing yellow. Busch beat Stewart off pit road on Lap 388, cruising to a relatively easy win after leading just 32 laps to 118 for Stewart and 206 for Edwards.
“I was losing half a tenth to a tenth on every lap to what Tony was doing up there (before the caution),” said Busch. “He was just so fast. ... My car just started getting a little bit too tight in the center and a little bit too loose off where I started losing ground, and once I about couldn't see him anymore, I figured, okay, I'm going to save what I've got here and just try to make it to the end here and see if any of the guys catch me from behind, give me something that I have left that I can reach them with if they get to my back bumper. No catching Stewart without that caution.”
And once out in front, Busch was long gone.
“I just knew if I hit my marks and did my job that we were pretty fast and that I could pull away,” Busch said. “When I looked up in my mirror and seen him (second-place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr.) a little ways back, I just didn't even look any more and just started concentrating on what was out in front of me and made sure I hit my marks to not let that opportunity arise.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.