FORT WORTH, Texas (March 29, 2019)
NOTE: Click HERE for video and sound of Victory Circle celebration.
Regulars in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series are closing the gap on all-time race-winner Kyle Busch. But not enough to prevent "Rowdy" from scoring his milestone fourth consecutive victory during Friday night's Vankor 350 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Busch, driver of the No. 51 Cessna Toyota Tundra, was pressed by series regular Stewart Friesen over the final 23 laps around TMS' high-banked/1.5-mile oval before recording his NGOTS record 55th win. Busch, the 33-year-old owner/driver of Kyle Busch Motorsports, finished 1.269-seconds in front of Friesen after 147 laps/220.5 miles. Busch's 55 wins have come in 149 NGOTS starts.
Friesen, driver of the No. 52 Halmar International Chevrolet Silverado, finished second for the fifth time in his Truck Series career. The 35-year-old native Canadian exited Texas still looking for his first series victory. As consolation, Friesen leads the championship standings by six over Grant Enfinger.
"The No. 52 was really fast and on our tailgate until he got heated up, and I was fortunate to keep the Cessna Tundra up-front," said Busch, who won his previous three 2019 series starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway. "I don't know...we lacked a bit of overall speed and guys were able to keep up with us too much. That means we've got to work harder to get faster."
Per NASCAR rules, as a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular and former champion, Busch is allowed one more Truck Series start this season. That is scheduled for Charlotte Motor Speedway, a sister 1.5-mile oval to TMS.
Friesen, meanwhile, said he thought Busch used the VHT (or PJ1) traction compound to his advantage. "I was blocking, that's fine," said Busch, whose truck is prepared by crew chief Ryan Fugle. "He got such a good run through (Turns) 3 and 4 you had to use any means possible to stay in front of him. When I was in the VHT I couldn't feel a whole lot of effect from the VHT. Felt like the rest of the racetrack."
In other words, it felt like just another Friday night cruise at an average speed of 106.923 mph.
Busch's victory on AMS' 1.5-mile oval, another sister track to TMS, broke a tie with NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. at 51 for the all-time lead. Hornaday is the only Truck Series driver to have won four or more races in a row, a feat he accomplished in 2009 via victories at Milwaukee, Memphis, Kentucky, Indianapolis Raceway Park and Nashville. Including Busch's current streak and Hornaday's run of five wins, seven different drivers _ for a total of 11 times _ have won at least three in a row.
Friday's start was Busch's first in a truck in Cowtown since posting his third series win here in November 2014. Busch now has four Truck Series wins at "The Great American Speedway" _ the fall races in 2009, 2010, 2014 and Friday night.
Johnny Sauter, the 2016 series champion and winningest active NGOTS driver at TMS with five, finished third in the No. 13 Tenda Heal Ford F-150. Sauter was followed by pole-sitter Enfinger in the No. 98 Champion Power Equipment/Curb Records Ford. Two-time series champ Matt Crafton, Sauter's ThorSport Racing teammate, finished fifth in the No. 88 FlexSeal/Menards Ford. Rounding out the top-10 were rookie Tyler Ankrum, Ross Chastain, Tyler Dippel, Brennan Poole and Ben Rhodes.
The race morphed into a Busch-Friesen battle on Lap 124, when Friesen motored around Brett Moffitt, the reigning series champion, for second and immediately closed on Busch. Friesen raced Busch side-by-side and Friesen grabbed the lead on Lap 127, before Busch returned to the point for good.
The race was red-flagged for 15 minutes, 51 seconds in Stage 2 on Lap 52 following Anthony Alfredo's spin and fiery crash into the Turn 2 wall. Alfredo, 19-year-old driver of the No. 54 Ceco Building Systems/Friends of Jaclyn Toyota, was racing Friesen's Chevrolet when his Tundra broke loose and spun, igniting flames and prompting the stoppage.
Busch's lead at that point was 0.708-seconds over Crafton, the NGOTS champion in 2013-14. Those two held serve to the checkered flag on Lap 70 at the end of Stage 2. "I had a couple of moments where I about busted my butt," said Busch, referring to the conditions that despite the ample application of VHT traction compound by series officials led to an early-race spate of yellow flag periods and the red flag stoppage.
Busch and Crafton were followed by Rhodes, Chastain, Friesen, Moffitt, Enfinger, Bubba Wallace, Poole and Ankrum.
Enfinger, who qualified on-pole at 187.350 mph in the No. 98 Champion Power Equipment/Curb Records Ford, took the checkered flag on Lap 35 at the end of Stage 1. Also scoring points were Rhodes, Friesen, Sheldon Creed, Austin Hill, Moffitt, Ankrum, Busch, Sauter and Jordan Anderson.
The race produced nine cautions for 47 laps before settling down. There were 16 lead changes among six drivers, with Busch unofficially pacing a race-high 97 laps.
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