Busch takes first of three races this weekend at Richmond
Busch certainly did that Thursday night, dominating a field of NASCAR standouts and regional late model drivers to claim the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown at Richmond International Raceway. It was Busch’s third victory in the event, which benefits the Denny Hamlin Foundation. His first two wins were at Southside Speedway, a local short track where Hamlin got his start.
“I enjoy going out there and winning races,” said Busch, who also has two victories in the Sprint Cup Series this season. “You always get the commentary that us Cup guys, we should win this race. Or when we don’t win this race, either we aren’t very good, or other guys beat us, or oh, they’re the next up-and-coming, or what have you. Whichever way you look at it, you’re going to get beat up. So you might as well win and be on the high side of it getting beat up.”
"You might as well win and be on the high side of it getting beat up."
-- Kyle Busch
Sprint Cup regular David Ragan finished second, followed by Ben Rhodes, who competes in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and K&N Pro Series events. Short-track drivers Ronnie Bassett Jr. and Garrett Campbell rounded out the top five.
But they were all chasing Busch, who started fourth and quickly asserted himself as the driver to beat in the 75-lap event. Busch’s Kyle Busch Motorsports team built his No. 51 car for the race, which was founded to raise funds and awareness for the needs of children with cystic fibrosis.
“I never (don’t) live up to giving my total effort on something,” Busch said. “The last couple of years we were unsuccessful, unfortunately, at being able to win here. So I went out and said you know, if Denny’s going to do this race, I’m going to build my own car. I don’t care what it takes. We’ve got to be able to control our own destiny. When you rent or borrow peoples’ cars, it isn’t the best stuff for you, or it isn’t what you’re capable of putting together. So this made it easier, almost.”
Winning at Richmond is nothing new for Busch, who has claimed four straight spring Sprint Cup races here, and also has four Nationwide victories on the .75-mile track. Thursday night, Ragan was no match at the end, and was left hoping for a late caution he didn’t get.
“You want to have fun at these charity races, you want to put on a good show for the fans. … But you want to win the things, too,” Ragan said. “We just missed it by a little. I think Kyle’s car was little bit better than ours. We might have had something for him on a green-white-checkered, but he was just a little bit better tonight.”
Although many national-series NASCAR drivers were in the event, only Busch and Ragan were in contention at the end. Michael Waltrip and Tony Stewart went out early after accidents, and Trevor Bayne was sidelined with mechanical trouble. Regan Smith crashed in practice and didn’t start the race. Matt Kenseth, filling in for Hamlin -- out with a fractured vertebra suffered in a crash March 24 -- spun and was never a factor.
Kyle Larson finished 10th, and steered clear of any contact with C.E. Falk -- the Virginia short-track driver who was spun by Larson in February on the final lap of the All-American Series event in the Battle of the Beach at Daytona International Speedway. Hamlin made Larson a special invitee after that incident, but he and Falk were never really in proximity on Thursday night.
Busch had them all in his rearview mirror, in a car built specifically for the event. How much did it cost? “Too much,” he joked. “Actually, there’s more money in man hours than there is in materials.”
And with only pride at stake, the payoff was an appearance in Victory Lane. Given that Busch is also entered in Friday’s Nationwide Series event and Saturday’s Sprint Cup race, the win had the Joe Gibbs Racing driver hoping for a three-race sweep on one of his best tracks.
“Kyle’s pretty good here,” said Ragan, whose car was built by Jamie Yelton and Fat Head Racing. “His record is pretty amazing. Maybe next year we can come back and make our car a little bit better and have a chance to duke it out.”
Comments are currently unavailable. We’re working on the development of a NASCAR fan forum – please stay tuned.