Busch Plays Second Fiddle

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Playing second fiddle on the outskirts of Music City is never any fun when your name is Kyle Busch, especially when the winner gets a Gibson Les Paul guitar.

The driver of the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing finished second to teammate Joey Logano in Saturday’s Pepsi 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tenn. But even after securing his best career finish in seven Nationwide Series outings on the 1.33-mile concrete oval, Busch left feeling nothing but disappointment despite inching ever closer to the Nationwide Series point lead. With five top-10 finishes in the series’ first six events of 2009, including a dominating victory the previous weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Busch has closed to within 23 points of series leader Carl Edwards.

Busch qualified fourth and spent most of the afternoon comfortably pacing himself at the front of the pack, leading six times for 77 laps in all, a total surpassed only by Logano. Busch’s primary struggles in the Z-Line Designs Toyota occurred on restarts, which he managed to overcome time and again throughout the race, but unfortunately, not down the final stretch.

After Busch lost the lead while under caution on lap 186 thanks to a risky fuel-only pit stop by Michael McDowell in the No. 47 car, which vaulted McDowell from 16th into the lead for the first time in his Nationwide Series career, Busch muscled his way past McDowell and back into the lead by lap 195. But the pass didn’t occur without incident, as contact with the No. 47 car left Busch’s Toyota with slight but aerodynamically significant damage to the right-front fender.

Still, Busch looked to be in cruise control as he stayed several car lengths ahead of Logano until, with 25 laps to go, a spin in turn four by Michael Waltrip brought out the penultimate caution flag of the day. On the lap-215 restart, Logano was able to scoot past Busch, whose car was now tighter than it had been all race long thanks, in large part, to the damage from the earlier contact with McDowell. Yet another caution and subsequent 4-minute, 10-second red-flag period for a multi-car accident on the frontstretch on lap 217 further dashed Busch’s hopes of catching Logano.

“Hats off to Joey because he had the better car today,” said Busch, who crossed the finish line .487 of a second behind Logano in the runner-up spot. “Our Z-Line Designs car was definitely a race-winning car over the long haul. But, unfortunately, we never had a good car for the short runs all weekend long, and it just didn’t work out for us there at the end. There was a little bit of contact toward the end with the (No.) 47 car (of McDowell). I don’t know if he was lost on the racetrack or what, but he knocked my right-front fender in and we got even tighter on the last couple of restarts. It’s unfortunate, but we leave here with second place and it’s on to Phoenix.”

With the second-place finish, Busch maintained his second-place standing in the championship point race and picked up 15 points on Edwards, who finished fifth in the Pepsi 300. Busch, who started from the pole in the April race at Nashville last year and led a race-high 125 laps before finishing a disappointing 16th, is running the full 35-race Nationwide Series schedule in 2009.

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