MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) — Kyle Busch could have been a sitting duck, like he's been before at Martinsville Speedway. Instead, the luck went his way for a change as he held off John Hunter Nemechek in a two-lap overtime restart and won the NASCAR trucks race at NASCAR's oldest, smallest track on Saturday, his first victory in 31 career starts on the 0.526-mile oval.
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) — Kyle Busch could have been a sitting duck, like he's been before at Martinsville Speedway.
Instead, the luck went his way for a change as he held off John Hunter Nemechek in a two-lap overtime restart and won the NASCAR trucks race at NASCAR's oldest, smallest track on Saturday, his first victory in 31 career starts on the 0.526-mile oval.
Busch, who was saving his last set of fresh tires for an opportune time inside the final 50 laps, never got one and won despite driving the last 115 laps on the same tires. Much of the rest of the field had tires that were at least 30 laps newer, and a few also got burned when they pitted for scrub tires expecting the same last full pit stop, but a series of late restarts helped Busch end his Martinsville drought.
Nemechek got second and Busch's teammate, William Byron was third, followed by Kyle Larson and Timothy Peters.
Busch won for the 45th time in NASCAR's truck series and became the third different winner in as many races this year.
"This is just a day that we've been looking for, for a long, long time," Busch said in Victory Lane.
The last 55 laps featured five of the 11 restarts, and all eyes were on Busch because he opted to stay out while Matt Crafton, who was in sync with Busch on tires, headed for the pits and his last set of fresh tires. Busch again established a lead of several car lengths on Nemechek after the restart, but with about 30 laps to go another caution came out, and then another with about 20 laps to go.
Crafton, on better tires than anyone, could only muster a seventh-place run because of all the yellow flags.
"That's the chance you take when you go that far and then want to pit and try to come back up through the field, is all the cautions and stuff, or getting yourself caught up in a wreck," Busch said. "We played it the right way, whether we dumbed into it or not."
With 21 cars on the led lap, the cautions were critical because Busch never gave anyone a chance to make him fight for the lead.
The race went back to green with 16 laps to go and Busch put some distance between himself and Nemechek and Larson, but as the field scrambled to gain position behind them, a crash in the backstretch brought out another caution on lap 236.
This one led to an 8 1/2-minute red flag to clear debris, and the field made several laps under a yellow flag as the cleanup continued, setting up what would have been a challenging final six laps for Busch to hold on.
Then a large crash in Turn 4 brought another caution, another nearly 5-minute red flag and the overtime race to the finish.