CONCORD, N.C. – It was far from the dominating victory that Kyle Busch had in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but the end result was still the same.
Busch passed Sam Hornish Jr. with eight laps left and then held off Austin Dillon to capture the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dollar General 300. It was his 11th Nationwide victory of the season, 62nd of his career and eighth at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Combined with his five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victories at Charlotte, Busch is now the all-time winningest driver in NASCAR history at the track.
In May Busch led 186 laps and was all but untouchable as he drove to victory at the 1.5-mile oval, but Friday’s race was a much different story. He started from the pole and led the first six laps before being overtaken by the Penske Racing duo of Joey Logano and Sam Hornish Jr.
Busch spent most of the race chasing the Penske teammates and rookie Kyle Larson, but a timely caution period and a series of pit stops allowed Busch to get back in the hunt for the victory.
Larson was in the race lead with 45 laps left when Jeffrey Earnhardt’s engine failed, dropping oil on the track and forcing NASCAR officials to issue the caution flag. All the lead lap cars pitted under caution, with Busch beating everyone off pit road to take the race lead.
Busch was able to hold the lead during the restart as Hornish, Austin Dillon and Larson battled for position behind him. Soon Hornish had established himself in second and began closing the gap on Busch for the race lead.
With 22 laps left Hornish tracked down Busch and began looking for a way around him for the lead. Hornish made his move one lap later, bypassing Busch’s Monster Energy Toyota to take the lead.
It looked like Hornish had the race in hand, but after five laps Busch slowly began making up time on Hornish’s Ford Mustang. With Dillon hot on his heels, Busch was able to catch Hornish with nine laps left. One lap later Busch made his move, retaking the lead from Hornish coming out of turn two and down the backstretch.
Three laps after Busch took the lead, Dillon was able to overtake Hornish for the second position. He was able to gain a little ground on Busch, but not enough as Busch got to the checkered flag .459 of a second ahead of Dillon.
“I felt like I didn’t have a chance to win the thing and went up and found the top groove and chased Sam back down,” said Busch, who announced after the race he was donating all of his winnings to the Pretty in Pink Foundation in support of breast cancer awareness. “You lose a lot more than you win, that’s for sure. It’s great to be able to win this much and I can’t say enough about this team and everybody on this car.”
Dillon maintained his slim NASCAR Nationwide Series championship lead over Hornish, with the two championship contenders essentially racing to a draw. Hornish led the most laps and finished third, allowing him to keep the gap between himself and Dillon at just eight points with three races remaining.
“They (the media) asked us earlier this week what it would be like to be the points champion without a win. That right there should show you how great the racing is and how tough it is,” Dillon said. “That was three guys fighting it out there until the end for everything we had. That was a heck of a race. Like I told Sam, that was the best race I think I have been a part of all year.
“It was a good run for us. This is one of our better tracks and to come here and do that, I’m very happy.”
Hornish was happy, yet frustrated, with his third-place finish on Friday night.
“It is very frustrating to be leading with 10 laps to go and pulling away from the 54 car (Busch) and not be able to win,” Hornish said. “We never could get far enough ahead of the track and get our car right where it needed to be. I had to work hard to keep the car underneath me those last 10 laps.
“(A) good night all and all and we’ll go on to the next one and try and take what we learned tonight and make us a little better.”
Kevin Harvick finished fourth, followed by Matt Kenseth in fifth. Justin Allgaier, Logano, Trevor Bayne, Parker Kligerman and Michael Annett completed the top 10.
Larson slapped the wall in the closing laps and faded to 13th at the finish.