With six laps left in Saturday’s Michigan National Guard 200 at Michigan International Speedway, Kyle Busch appeared destined to win his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the two-mile track.
But James Buescher, the reigning series champion, rewrote the script with a daring three-wide pass on Lap 97 of 100 and held on to win his first NCWTS event of the season and the fifth of his career.
Busch finished second at Michigan for the fourth time in the Truck Series. Ty Dillon ran third, followed by Joey Logano and Miguel Paludo.
Buescher had planned to pass Brendan Gaughan, who was running second at the time, into Turn 3 on Lap 97. But when he saw a chance to pass both Gaughan and Busch in the same corner, he took it, with authority.
“It started on the exit of Turn 2,” Buescher said. “I was catching Brendan and Kyle and was trying to push Brendan up to Kyle, and coming off 2 I had a gap between the 62 (Gaughan) and I. Brendan was also catching the 51 (Busch), so when I got the run on the 62, my plan going into Turn 3 was to pass the 62.
“It just worked out to where I passed the 62 and the 51. Kyle went down to throw a block, and he got loose entering as low as he did, and the position that my truck was probably didn’t help his ‘loose.’ I stayed committed, kept my foot in the throttle and came out the other end in front of them both.”
Busch acknowledged that Buescher, who was running fifth with four laps left, wasn’t on his radar until he challenged for the lead, but Busch’s version of the decisive pass mirrored that of the race winner.
“I figured that, once I could get out front, I felt like I could hold everybody off, because it was hard to pass,” Busch said. “The 62 got a run a run on me down the backstretch, and I pulled a little bit low to block, and then I heard the 31 was on the inside of him.
“How the 31 can get a run on the 62, who’s got a run on me, is beyond me. It blows my mind.”
Paludo grabbed the lead with a two-tire pit stop on Lap 57 and held it through a pair of cautions — until Busch got the upper hand moments after a restart on Lap 79.
But at a track where the aerodynamic draft played a huge role in the performance of the trucks, Paludo stayed close to the bumper of Busch’s No. 51 Toyota until debris from Brett Moffitt’s blown tire caused the seventh caution of the afternoon on Lap 90.
After a restart on Lap 95, Busch kept the top spot until his Tundra got loose in Turn 3 as he was trying to protect the lead in the three-car battle with Buescher and Gaughan.
Buescher climbed one position to third in the NCWTS standings, 52 points behind leader Matt Crafton, who finished ninth Saturday. Pole winner Jeb Burton, who ran 10th after getting mired in traffic, is second in points, 51 back of Crafton.