SPARTA, Ky. – Kyle Busch figured the best way to beat the traffic on Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.
He simply stayed out of it.
Busch rolled to victory in the inaugural Sprint Cup race at the 1.5-mile oval, pulling away from Jimmie Johnson on a restart with three laps to go to collect his third victory of the season and jump into the points lead with two months to go before NASCAR’s Chase for the championship begins.
“This is cool, man,” Busch said. “This is right up there with the best of them.”
For now anyway. The way Busch is surging, better days almost certainly lay ahead.
The drivers can’t seem to do anything about Busch, who moved into the points lead as the season reached its halfway point. He leads Edwards by four points heading into next week’s race at New Hampshire with about two months to go before the Chase for the championship begins.
Kevin Harvick began the night with the points lead, but slipped to third in the standings after finishing 16th.
“It’s certainly good to know we’re figuring things out,” said Busch, who has 99 career victories across NASCAR’s top three series.
David Reutimann slipped past Johnson to finish second. Ryan Newman was fourth, followed by Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth.
“He was strong all night long,” Johnson said of Busch. “Spent a lot of time chasing him (and) watched him inch away from me the longer the run went on.”
The drivers spent the week talking openly about the buzz created by the Cup’s first new venue since Chicago and Kansas were added to the schedule in 2001 and the challenge of getting over the track’s signature bumps in Turns 3 and 4.
It was much ado about nothing. The three-wide racing promised by track owner Bruton Smith never materialized and the bumps provided little drama as the race unfolded in a series of long green flag runs. Busch led 125 of the 267 laps to win for the second time in three days.
Busch won the Trucks race on Thursday despite starting from the back. He wound up on the pole for the Cup race after rain washed out qualifying, and he didn’t let the advantage go to waste as he moved within one victory of becoming the third driver in NASCAR history to collect 100 wins across the sport’s top three series. The 26-year-old has 22 career Cup wins, 48 in the Nationwide Series and 29 in Trucks.
“I’m hoping (No. 100) comes at Loudon (next week),” Busch said.