April 17, 2011 in Sports

Busch hangs tough at wild Nationwide

 
Associated Press photo

Mike Wallace takes to the air entering Turn 3 during Saturday’s Nationwide race.
(Full-size photo)

Kyle Busch won under a yellow flag in a wild finish Saturday, taking the Nationwide race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway when the last of 10 crashes sent Mike Wallace’s car flipping upside down.

Busch captured his fourth win in seven Nationwide races – and 47th of his career – on a day when tandem racing produced a series-record 56 lead changes, 11 cautions and two red flags to clean up all the debris.

Even Busch got caught up in the mayhem. He spun out in the biggest crash of the day, a 21-car melee just 28 laps from the scheduled finish of the Aaron’s 312.

Busch drove his battered Toyota onto pit road and figured he was done for the day. Instead, his crew patched up the damage, yanked off the pieces they couldn’t fix and sent him back onto the track without losing a lap.

He hooked with Joey Logano in a powerful duo, somehow finding a narrow gap to get past leader Trevor Bayne and his pusher, Carl Edwards, on the second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish.

Bayne and Edwards didn’t have a chance at payback. When Wallace’s car got clipped on the last lap going down the backstretch, spinning onto its roof, the yellow came out and Busch was assured of the win. Wallace’s car wound up back on its wheels and he actually drove it to the finish line of a race that lasted seven laps beyond its scheduled 117.

Busch’s No. 18 car looked better than Wallace’s.

Not by much, though.

“I got hit a couple of times. My steering wheel got knocked out of my hands,” Busch said. “I thought the thing was killed. Things were dragging and smoking. The sparks were flying.”

After his big wreck, Busch planned to drive straight behind the wall. Fortunately for him, his pit box came up before the entrance to the garage, giving his crew a chance to assess the damage and reassure him that he could make it to the finish.

Winning was another matter.

“Who would’ve thought we could finish first?” Busch said.

But in this new style of restrictor-plate racing, where cars go much faster when they pair off rather than drafting in a big pack, it’s essential to have a good partner. For Busch, that was Logano.

“I wish we could’ve gotten to the checkered flag,” the runner-up said. “Maybe we could’ve done something with Kyle. But we were committed to push him. It’s a bummer that a caution came out there at the end. All I know is I saw a car go upside down in my mirror.”

Logano’s car was all beat up, too, looking as though it had just been through a short-track brawl at Martinsville instead of a race on the longest oval in the Sprint Cup series.

“I got hit in the door. My bumpers are falling off,” he said. “It was crazy out there.”

Bayne seeks rebound

Trevor Bayne has yukked it up with Ellen DeGeneres and chatted with the vice president.

One thing he hasn’t done is come close to repeating his win in the Daytona 500.

Talk about a reality check.

“I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed,” the 20-year-old Bayne said Saturday, having just crawled from his car after a strong qualifying run at Talladega Superspeedway. “Sure, the standard got raised for us a little bit when we won our second race in the Cup series and our first Daytona 500. But this year is normal for any new driver coming into a series.”

Indeed, since winning NASCAR’s Super Bowl, he’s turned in a string of finishes that are more in line with someone of his age and experience.

Bayne hasn’t finished higher than 17th in six races since Daytona, but this might be the week for another strong finish. Talladega is NASCAR’s other restrictor-plate track, leading to the same sort of tandem racing he adapted to so well in the season opener.

IndyCar

The Power of Will is overtaking IndyCar through the early part of the season.

Points leader Will Power earned the pole at the Grand Prix of Long Beach on Saturday, edging defending champion Ryan Hunter-Reay to go 3 for 3 on poles this season.

“He’s the man right now,” Hunter-Reay said.

The Australian road-and-street specialist opened the season with the pole and a second-place finish at St. Petersburg, and followed that up with a wire-to-wire win at Alabama last week. That gave him 94 points for the season, seven ahead of Dario Franchitti, the man who overtook Power for the series championship on the final race of the 2010 season.


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