Kyle Busch won from the Coors Light pole—as he almost always does—and the race for the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship remained excruciating tight.
Busch held off charging series leader Austin Dillon in Friday night’s Dollar General 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Earlier in the day, Busch had won his ninth NNS pole of the season, and for the eighth time in nine tries this year, Busch won from the top starting spot.
The victory was the series-best 11th of the season for Busch, who won for the eighth time in the series at Charlotte and for the 62nd time in his career, extending his own series record. In Victory Lane, Busch announced that he and wife Samantha were donating all the race winnings to the Pretty in Pink Foundation to combat breast cancer.
“I didn’t think we were going to win the thing, but somehow I got to the top (of the track) and started making time and was able to get back up there (to the lead),” Busch said. “I certainly want to do this tomorrow night also (in the Sprint Cup race).”
Sam Hornish Jr. ran third and remained eight points behind Dillon in the battle for the Nationwide Series title. Hornish scored an extra point for leading most laps (76) and matched Dillon’s 43 points scored in the race.
“We had three guys fighting it out there till the end with everything we had,” Dillon said. “It was a heck of a race. I told Sam it was the best race I felt like I was a part of all year, slicing and dicing out there.
“Man, it was so easy to miss your line out there. The track’s obviously getting some character, and it’s creating some better racing, I feel like. It was a good run for us. This isn’t one of our better tracks, and to come here and do that, I’m very happy.”
Kevin Harvick came home fourth, followed by Matt Kenseth and Justin Allgaier.
Busch, the pole winner, was first off pit road under caution for a restart on Lap 163 and held the top spot until Hornish ran him down on Lap 180. Over the course of the run, however, Hornish’s Ford began to fade, and Busch regained the top spot with a pass to the outside of Turn 2 on lap 193.
Hornish said the handling of his car loosened up as the run progressed.
“Tonight we had it turning plenty good, and as the run went on, it got freer,” Hornish said. “I’m just happy we came in here tonight, and we ran well. It’s very frustrating to be leading with 10 laps to go and pulling away from the 54 car (Busch), and to not be able to win.
“We could never get far enough ahead of the track to get our car right where we needed to be. I had to work hard just to keep the car underneath me there the last 10 laps.”
Kyle Larson restarted 10th on Lap 117 but, running the outside lane next to the wall, he diced his way through traffic and inherited the lead when Regan Smith came to pit road on Lap 141. At that point, Larson held a lead of more than four seconds, but Busch, running second, trimmed nearly three seconds off the advantage before Jeffrey Earnhardt’s blown engine caused the fifth caution on Lap 156.
Trouble with the right front tire cost Larson four spots during pit stops under yellow on Lap 157. Ultimately, the talented rookie scraped the wall in Turns 3 and 4 on lap 183 while chasing Austin Dillon during an intense battle for third.
Despite finishing 13th, Larson nevertheless made a huge impression on the eve of his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start in Saturday night’s Bank of America 500.
Elliott Sadler, fourth in the standings before the race, started from the rear of the field after backup car after wrecking his primary No. 11 Toyota during qualifying. Sadler charged through the field and ran as high as 14th before a bizarre wreck in Turn 1 spoiled his night.
The incident started in the tri-oval, where Reed Sorenson clipped the edge of the infield grass with his left-side tires and shot up the track into the No. 14 Camry of Eric McClure. Brian Vickers, darting to the inside to avoid the wreck, clobbered Sadler, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, just as Sadler was exiting pit road.
Sadler returned to the track but crashed in Turn 3 on Lap 66, ending his race in 35th place and effectively ending his run at the series championship.