KYLE BUSCH/No.54 Toyota dominated the 10th Annual Blue Jeans Go Green 200 presented by Cotton, the Fabric of our America NASCAR Nationwide Series Race. Busch took the lead on Lap Six and led the most laps, until the Red Flag for rain stopped the race on Lap 168.
This is Busch’s 64th victory in 272 NNS starts, and his third straight PIR NNS win. For his crew chief, ADAM STEVENS, it was his fourth straight victory, the other being with JGR teammate, JOEY LOGANO.
During the two plus hours delay (2.7:54) NASCAR pulled out all the stops with its ginormous Air Titan track dryers, joining all the other various trucks, and the sun broke through. But Mother Nature was playing a joke, and the rain came back, while blue skies outside the track were taunting. Then, after countless drying laps (probably more than the race winner,) the skies opened up with a vengeance and thunder and lightning ensued. The race was officially called at 5:32pm local time.
The Air Titan is the only vehicle eligible for points in every NASCAR Series.
Rowdy started third and overtook pole sitter BRAD KESELOWSKI/No.2 Ford and didn’t look back – much.
KEVIN HARVICK/No.88 Chevrolet led four laps, and finished second, ahead of pole sitter BRAD KESELOWSKI/No.22 Ford. Keselowski led the first five laps before Rowdy overtook. Keselowski was involved with DARYL HARR/No.87 Chevrolet in an incident on Lap 21, which pushed him to the back. Over his radio, Harr’s crew took the blame for the incident. Keselowski charged back through the pack; he was not to be denied, and he led Laps 89-92, before Harvick overtook. The three drivers were the only leaders: Busch – twice for 155 laps, Keselowski led twice for nine laps and Harvick once for four laps.
Fourth through seventh were KYLE LARSON/No.42 Chevrolet, MATT KENSETH/No.20 Toyota, ELLIOT SADLER/No.11 Chevrolet, and TREVOR BAYNE/No.6 Ford. REGAN SMITH/No.7 Chevrolet, points leader after Daytona, started and finished eighth. Rounding out the top ten were Rookies CHASE ELLIOTT/No.9 Chevrolet and TY DILLON/No.3 Chevrolet.
Left to Right: Kyle Busch, Adam Stevens, and Steve DeSouza, Vice President NASCAR Nationwide Series Operations for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Busch confirmed that this was his first rain-shortened victory. “We were really good. I would have loved to gone back out there after, but the weather wasn’t on our side today. I felt like we could have won whether it was rain-shortened or whether we went the whole distance.”
Stevens gave the victory credit to his team.
Left to Right: Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, and Chase Elliott.
Harvick said “Kyle had the best car, and we probably finished where we should.”
Keselowski said “I guess it must be official now. It’s a good-bad day. I felt relieved to get it over with. Shutting down the 12 Nationwide team, we now have more depth. Always great to see people step up for new opportunities. Paul (PAUL WOLFE-Cup Car Chief) left yesterday to be with his wife for their first child.) – said “I’m going.” Others on the team are filling in.
Top Rookie Elliott said, after one and three-fourths of a NNS race history, “We all mesh well and communicate well.”
Thirty-two drivers of 39 were credited with finishes, with seventeen on the lead lap.
The average race speed was 102.665 mph. The race ran 1 hrs, 38 mins, 11 secs.
Four cautions took twenty-four laps for three accidents and an oiled track from JAMIE DICK/No.55 Chevrolet. All drivers were evaluated and released from the infield Medical Center.
Smith still leads the NNS standings with 83 points, followed by Bayne-78; Sadler-77; Rookie T.Dillon-71; Rookie DYLAN KWASNIEWSKI-67; BRENDAN GAUGHAN-66; Rookie Elliot-64; BRIAN SCOTT-60; JAMES BUESCHER-60; and MIKE WALLACE-55.
All cars cleared technical inspection with no issues, and no cars will be going back to the Charlotte R&D Center.
The NNS race started thirteen minutes early, under a cloud cover which reappeared after Sprint Cup Happy Hour was over, and staved off the rain ’til 32 laps to go. The weather was mild – mid sixties and 6mph breezes.
Busch has led more NNS laps at PIR than any other driver, eclipsing the previous record set by CARL EDWARDS.
The NNS next races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway 8 March 2014.