Kyle Busch didn’t bother to do the traditional celebratory burnout after winning the Toyota Tundra 250 on Friday under the lights at Kansas Speedway.
Even though he inched closer to Richard Petty with the victory by claiming his track-record seventh overall win at Kansas, it didn’t feel right for Busch, the 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, to celebrate too much.
That’s because Ben Rhodes’ misfortune opened the door for Busch’s latest win.
Leading with seven laps remaining and pulling away from Busch, the engine blew in Rhodes’ No. 27 Safelite Auto Glass Toyota.
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“That’s one of the worst ones to swallow right there,” Busch said. “I didn’t do a burnout or anything like that. I just got the checkered flag for our group of guys and everybody at Kyle Busch Motorsports.
“Ben Rhodes had that race won. That one was his. I was trying everything I could to chase him back down. I just didn’t have enough speed in our Tundra tonight. His was just a little bit faster than ours was.”
The final image of Rhodes — a 20-year-old from Louisville, Ky., who’s yet to win a race and was tantalizingly close to a breakthrough — saw him pounding the steering wheel as his car limped back to the garage.
“We ran with the best tonight … but Ben Rhodes has a curse on his back or something, because something always goes wrong,” said Rhodes, who’d led the previous 18 laps before the engine issues. “A piece of debris went through the grill into the radiator and blew up the motor. It’s just tough. We ran with the best of the best. I was learning from Busch all night long.”
It’s the second consecutive spring Rhodes’ night ended in heartbreak at Kansas.
Last season, he was battling for the lead during overtime when he bumped Johnny Sauter, causing a spin that left him 18th in the final race report.
Rhodes, who spent Wednesday speaking with 150 students at Prairie Star Elementary in Leawood, wound up 23rd after the engine trouble this time.
“If I don’t make it in this game, it won’t be from lack of effort,” Rhodes said. “It will be from bad luck, so let that be known.”
The win was Busch’s 172nd total win in NASCAR’s three national touring series, including 47 in the Truck Series.
Only Richard Petty has claimed more checkered flags with 200 wins, all in the Cup Series.
It was Busch’s second career Truck win at Kansas. He’s also won four Xfinity Series races and is the reigning Cup winner after his breakthrough first victory in last spring’s race on the 1.5-mile tri-oval.
“There’s going to be more that you lose than you win in this sport,” said Busch, who led a race-high 91 laps. “Again, I feel terribly for Ben and it was certainly a race that was gifted to us.”
Busch also won the first two stages, denying the Truck regulars any playoff points under NASCAR’s new stage-racing format.
The race got off to a ragged start with three cautions within the first 16 laps and it didn’t get any easier during the first stage, which featured five total cautions for 21 laps of the 40-lap segment.
In fact, through the first 60 laps, half were run under caution and there were 11 cautions in the race, one shy of the track record.
Busch said he thought too many drivers started with loose setups from Thursday’s practice, which then struggled in traffic once the race started.
Sauter finished second followed by John Hunter Nemechek and Christopher Bell — who won the pole, his second this season and for his career.
Chase Briscoe — the reigning ARCA Series champion, who finished off that title in October at Kansas — rounded out the top five.