After losing the lead on the first overtime restart, Kyle Busch came back during the second overtime to seal his dominating performance with a win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ Wise Power 200 at Kansas Speedway on Saturday night.
Busch led a race-high 59 laps and won both stages en route to his win at Kansas, which was his 61st win in the series, Kyle Busch Motorsports’ fifth win in a row and Toyota’s seventh win in seven races in 2021.
“No restarts went our way tonight,” Busch said. “We definitely missed something. Coming up through the gears, it just would not go. It was just slow and [the field] would just swarm us.”
Busch’s third Truck Series win at Kansas came on the eve of his 36th birthday.
While Busch celebrated his victory, his teammate, John Hunter Nemechek, received a $50,000 check from Camping World for being the series’ points leader after the race. Nemechek left Kansas with a 33-point lead over Ben Rhodes. The remainder of the playoff picture consisted of Austin Hill, Sheldon Creed, Stewart Friesen, Matt Crafton, Zane Smith, Todd Gilliland, Grant Enfinger and Johnny Sauter.
The race had 14 lead changes between seven drivers and was run under caution five times for a total of 25 laps.
The Camping World Truck Series will head to Darlington Raceway for the official throwback weekend of NASCAR next weekend. The race is scheduled for Friday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Stage 1 – 30 laps
John Hunter Nemechek started on pole and led the field to the green flag and while he began running away from the field fast, Sheldon Creed was running away with Nemechek, staying within a second of the leader for the first laps of the race until lap 12 when Creed took the lead.
Behind the two leaders, Kyle Busch was making up ground. With 13 to go in the stage, he was third, 2.2 seconds behind Creed and gaining. Busch moved past Nemechek for second after Nemechek had a close call with the outside wall, and on lap 26, he passed Creed for the lead. Nemechek was able to bounce back and pass Creed for second, but neither of the drivers could catch Busch, who ran away with the stage win.
The top-10 finishers in stage 1 were Busch, Nemechek, Creed, Ben Rhodes, Matt Crafton, Austin Hill, Stewart Friesen, Todd Gilliland, Derek Kraus and Ross Chastain.
Stage 2 – 30 laps
Under the stage-end yellow, the leaders all came into the pits, Busch held the lead through the pit stops, but Creed took over second from Nemechek. Busch led the field back to the green flag on lap 38. Creed took the lead in turn 3 after restarting second, but after two laps, Busch took the lead right back.
On the stage’s 14th lap, Chase Purdy got loose in turn 3 and the car started to spin, but Purdy was able to keep his car from hitting anything and he saved the truck from fully spinning. The caution didn’t come out, but Purdy fell to 27th, two laps down.
After Busch took the lead, the only thing the other two could do was fight each other for second. Busch ran away once again, winning the second stage.
In stage 2, the top-10 finishers were Busch, Nemechek, Creed, Hill, Zane Smith, Friesen, Kraus, Rhodes, Gilliland and Hailie Deegan.
Race to the finish – 74 laps
Teams pitted under the second stage-end caution. This time, Nemechek got off of pit road first, taking the race lead away from Busch, his teammate and team owner. Busch came out second with Creed, Zane Smith and Stewart Friesen rounding out the top-five. Austin Hill was reporting that his truck wasn’t feeling right. His no. 16 team in the pits wasn’t able to find anything under the hood that seemed out of the ordinary, so he carried on in the race.
Nemechek led the field back to green on lap 68, but after a side-by-side battle stalled the two cars, Busch drove from third to first and cleared them both for the lead in one swift motion.
The caution came out on lap 70 for an on-track incident for the first time when Carson Hocevar spun in turn two. Hocevar didn’t suffer from any damage and was able to save the truck from spinning 180 degrees, but NASCAR still threw the caution.
Busch led the field back to the green flag, but he was quickly overtaken. Zane Smith took the lead for a brief moment as Busch fell to eighth, but Smith was then overtaken by Creed. Smith slid back to fourth after Nemechek took second back and Ross Chastain took over the third position.
Just after the 50-to-go mark, Creed’s lead over Nemechek was closing. Additionally, Busch had worked his way back to third and he was closing on the leaders. With 40 to go, the top-three only had .6 seconds between them.
With 39 laps to go, Nemechek tried to pass Creed, but was unsuccessful, bringing Busch closer to the leaders. Behind their battle, Zane Smith elected to pit early for his last stop of the night with 37 to go. Nemechek pitted shortly after, and the field followed suit over the course of the next few laps.
Nemechek cycled out in front of Creed and Busch, who were side-by-side, by a little over a second. They weren’t the top-three anymore, though, because Johnny Sauter, Christian Eckes, Derek Kraus, Ryan Truex, Timmy Hill and Spencer Davis stayed out, hoping to catch a caution and gain some track position. As the laps ran out, the group of six was falling victim to their own strategy. The trucks on fresher tires began overtaking the six that had stayed out. Busch was able to pass Nemechek for second as they worked their way closer to Sauter, knowing he would have to pit soon.
With 17 to go, Creed entered turn 1 on the outside and ran into the wall, cutting down a tire. Creed had to pit and Sauter pitted soon after, leaving the two Kyle Busch Motorsports trucks of Busch and Nemechek to duke it out for the win again. Nemechek was trying to use the outside line to make up time on Busch, but Busch kept pulling away until Jennifer Jo Cobb had an issue with 7 laps to go, bringing the caution out.
Under the caution, Nemechek came down pit road to put on scuffed tires in an attempt to find some speed in his truck on the restart since he felt like he couldn’t beat Busch outright, and with only 13 other trucks on the lead lap, he thought his team thought the gamble was worth it.
The race restarted with a two-lap overtime shootout to the finish. Busch led the field back to green with Chastain beside him. Chastain took over the lead as Ben Rhodes went to the outside of Busch. Zane Smith was able to get to second, but Stewart Friesen spun and collected Derek Kraus, bringing out the caution and Busch fell from first to fifth. Rhodes had to pit for fuel under the caution, bringing Busch up to fourth and Nemechek up to seventh.
Chastain led the race restart for the second overtime with Smith beside him, and all hell broke loose immediately.
A handful of drivers made contact on the restart. Chastain, Nemechek and others received tire rubs from contact they made. Austin Hill snuck to the inside of Chastain, and then Busch came back on the outside to make a three-wide battle for the lead coming to the white flag. Busch took the lead coming into turn 1 and the race was just about over. Busch scored his 61st win of his Camping World Truck Series career and his second of 2021.
Featured photo credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images