Kyle Busch sets up possible Vegas weekend sweep with NASCAR Xfinity win

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 02: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Extreme Concepts/iK9 Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinty Series Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 2, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

It took successful a gamble, a serendipitous caution and a couple of overtimes for Las Vegas native Kyle Busch to win a second NASCAR Xfinity Series race on his home track, but Busch beat the odds in Saturday’s Boyd Gaming 300.

A lap down at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel, Busch rallied to win his 93rd Xfinity race, extending his series record and bringing his victory total across NASCAR’s three national series to 197.

Having also won Friday night’s NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series event, Busch will now go for the third three-race weekend sweep of his career in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race (12:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

After a wreck in the first overtime ruined the chances of reigning champion Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, Austin Cindric and Zane Smith, Busch held off John Hunter Nemechek in the second overtime, clearing the No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet off Turn 4 on Lap 212 and beating Nemechek to the checkered flag by .192 seconds a lap later.

But it was an early caution in the second stage of the race that put Busch in position to win. Busch had come to pit road with the loose wheel on Lap 15 and lost a lap to the frontrunning cars. At the end of Stage 1, won by Cole Custer, Busch’s crew chief, Ben Beshore, took a gamble in keeping the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota on the track under caution for the stage break.

Busch returned to the lead lap with a wave-around but had to fight through traffic on old tires. A caution on Lap 59, however, gave Busch the opportunity he needed to pit for tires, and after restarting 17th on Lap 63, Busch charged to third by the end of the stage on Lap 90.

Passing Reddick for the lead on Lap 111, Busch was out front for a total of 98 laps, as the race went 13 laps beyond its scheduled distance.

“It was really tough to come back from one of those setbacks,” Busch said. “I wasn’t sure how we were going to be able to do it down a set of tires. We got a lucky break with a caution during the second stage.

“That kind of got us back on cycle, and we were able to put the first set (of tires) back on with fresh wheels so we didn’t have any more issues there.

With Bell winning last week at Atlanta, the new Toyota Supras have won two straight races.

“It’s cool to be able to back up Christopher’s win last week and get the Supra back in Victory Lane with me,” said Busch, who won in his first of seven Xfinity starts this season. “I wanted to be the first one, but he had to show me up a little bit last week.”

Busch is the only driver to sweep three national-series events in the same weekend, a feat he accomplished twice at Bristol, in 2010 and 2017. But a sweep at his home track would be all the more meaningful.

“I thought this was going to be the toughest of the three (races), because we could never get the balance right,” Busch said of the Xfinity event. “I was either way too tight or way too loose. I could never find a happy medium.

“Overall, I feel like our Cup car is pretty good. The car has some speed. We ran a lot out there in the pack and in traffic, and it’s going to be an interesting race (on Sunday). Make sure everybody tunes in.”

Las Vegas native Noah Gragson ran third, followed by Austin Dillon and Daytona winner Michael Annett.

Ryan Sieg, Ross Chastain, Chase Briscoe, Custer and Justin Haley completed the top 10.

Nemechek ran side-by-side with Busch but couldn’t keep up off Turn 4 on the penultimate lap.

“We gave him a run for his money,” Nemechek said. “I’ve been beaten by Kyle too many times, in late model races and now in the Xfinity Series. Hopefully, we can come out on top and build momentum off of this.”

Bell grabbed the lead from Busch on Lap 181 but brushed the outside wall soon thereafter, and Busch regained the top spot on Lap 182. Busch was a quarter-lap away from the white flag when contact between Custer’s Ford and the Toyota of Brandon Jones caused the sixth caution and forced overtime.

On the first attempt, Reddick spun beneath Busch’s Toyota in Turn 4, knocked Bell’s Toyota sideways, and triggered a wreck that also collected Smith and Cindric.

That accident set up Busch’s winning dash and primed him for a possible sweep on Sunday.

“To do it here in Las Vegas at my home track would be huge,” Busch said.

NASCAR Xfinity Series Results Boyd Gaming 300

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Las Vegas, Nevada

Saturday, March 2, 2019

1. (8)  Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 213.

2. (10)  John Hunter Nemechek, Chevrolet, 213.

3. (4)  Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 213.

4. (31)  Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 213.

5. (16)  Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 213.

6. (18)  Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 213.

7. (15)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 213.

8. (28)  Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 213.

9. (1)  Cole Custer, Ford, 213.

10. (13)  Justin Haley #, Chevrolet, 212.

11. (20)  Ray Black II, Chevrolet, 211.

12. (35)  Gray Gaulding, Chevrolet, 211.

13. (3)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 210.

14. (12)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, Accident, 208.

15. (17)  Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 208.

16. (19)  Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 208.

17. (11)  Brandon Brown #, Chevrolet, 208.

18. (22)  Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 208.

19. (27)  David Starr, Chevrolet, 208.

20. (29)  BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 208.

21. (2)  Chad Finchum, Toyota, 207.

22. (5)  Austin Cindric, Ford, Accident, 206.

23. (34)  Timmy Hill, Toyota, 206.

24. (6)  Zane Smith, Chevrolet, Accident, 205.

25. (24)  Ja Junior Avila, Toyota, 205.

26. (14)  Vinnie Miller, Chevrolet, 202.

27. (30)  Stephen Leicht, Chevrolet, 200.

28. (9)  Brandon Jones, Toyota, Accident, 198.

29. (25)  Matt Mills, Chevrolet, 196.

30. (37)  Mike Harmon, Chevrolet, 194.

31. (7)  Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, Engine, 119.

32. (26)  Jeff Green, Chevrolet, Suspension, 99.

33. (38)  Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Handling, 61.

34. (21)  Bayley Currey(i), Chevrolet, Electrical, 24.

35. (36)  Stan Mullis, Toyota, Vibration, 14.

36. (32)  Josh Bilicki, Chevrolet, Electrical, 13.

37. (23)  Donald Theetge, Chevrolet, Accident, 1.

38. (33)  Joey Gase, Toyota, Accident, 1.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  123.518 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 35 Mins, 12 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.192 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  7 for 37 laps.

Lead Changes:  12 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   C. Custer 1-8;A. Cindric 9;C. Custer 10-48;T. Reddick 49-93;G. Gaulding 94-95;T. Reddick 96-111;K. Busch(i) 112-147;C. Bell 148-149;K. Busch(i) 150-180;C. Bell 181;K. Busch(i) 182-204;T. Reddick 205;K. Busch(i) 206-213.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Busch(i) 4 times for 98 laps; Tyler Reddick 3 times for 62 laps; Cole Custer 2 times for 47 laps; Christopher Bell 2 times for 3 laps; Gray Gaulding 1 time for 2 laps; Austin Cindric 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 00,19,2,20,23,1,7,22,11,9

Stage #2 Top Ten: 2,20,18,00,23,7,19,1,39,98

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