NASCAR’s Kyle Busch conquered his demons at Kansas Speedway on Friday night.
Busch, who had known nothing but heartache at the track in the Sprint Cup series, dominated a caution-filled wreckfest and won the Camping World Trucks Series SFP 250 in the first NASCAR race under the lights since Kansas Speedway opened in 2001.
It was the 37th win in the Camping World Trucks Series in Busch’s career, and first in three starts at Kansas Speedway.
Busch, who has won 131 races across NASCAR’s three national series — 29 in Sprint Cup, 65 in Nationwide and 37 in trucks — has had a far more difficult time in the Sprint Cup series at Kansas.
In 13 Sprint Cup starts, Busch has but one top 10 finish and has been no better than 31st in his three Cup races on the track since it was repaved in 2012.
“I’m a winner at Kansas,” Busch sighed in a moment of disbelief in Victory Lane. “I didn’t even know how to get here. I just saw NASCAR officials waving me down to get to Victory Lane.
“I’ve run well here in the truck series, I’ve run well here in the Nationwide Series, but I haven’t accomplished as many wins here as I have at other places,” said Busch, whose only previous win in 24 previous races at Kansas Speedway was in a 2007 Nationwide event. “Tonight gives us a sense of what the track had from daytime to nighttime … and what I can expect going into the Cup race.”
Busch, Austin Dillon and Joey Logano — the three Sprint Cup regulars moonlighting in the truck race — dominated. Busch led 104, Logano 41 and Dillon 18 of the 167 laps.
Busch’s Toyota overtook the Chevrolet of Dillon — the 2011 truck champion, racing for just the third time in the series since winning the title — with 21 laps to go and beat defending series champion and defending race champion Matt Crafton in a Toyota.
Logano, driving for Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski, was third in a Ford, and Dillon was fourth.
Busch, who won the pole with a track record 178.921 mph, won his second truck race in two starts, duplicating his effort in the season opener at Daytona. The win also was a record 29th in the trucks series for Busch’s crew chief, Eric Phillips.
While Sprint Cup regulars are ineligible for points in the truck series, Crafton used his second-place finish to take over the series points lead with an eight-point advantage over Timothy Peters and Ron Hornaday Jr.
A year ago, Crafton used his truck win at Kansas Speedway to propel his run to the series championship, and the runner-up to Busch could do the same thing this year.
“Job one was to try and win the race,” said Crafton, “and we came up a little short.”
Jennifer Jo Cobb of Kansas City, Kan., stayed out of trouble and finished 13th, her best result in the series since her sixth-place finish at Daytona in 2011.
“The best thing about tonight is I learned the potential we have,” Cobb said. “I’m already looking for improvements off that. I was such a good run and a clean race, but I can identify things that will make us quicker next time.
“When you compare the difference between this year and last year, it’s been amazing. Last year … I was running on hand-me-down trucks and engines and everything. We stayed in there. We overcame the situation. We rebuilt from scratch. We got new sponsors. Plus I have a wonderful spotter. You can’t do it without that. When you’re in-sync like that, it’s amazing.”
The race had nine cautions for 46 laps, starting with the very first lap when four trucks couldn’t get through turn four.
“I think the track was a little bit more slicker than we expected,” said rookie Tayler Malsam, who finished fifth. “People got aggressive early, but it was definitely greasier than I expected or most people were expecting.”