DARLINGTON, S.C. - Kyle Busch won the battle of attrition last night as NASCAR's least popular driver overcame a pit-road penalty and several scrapes with the wall to win at Darlington Raceway.
Busch's third Sprint Cup Series victory of the season hardly thrilled the crowd, which viciously booed him in prerace introductions and hadn't softened by the time he took the checkered flag. Already loathed by many, he enraged Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s massive fan base by wrecking him as they raced for the win last week in Richmond.
It created a frenzy of hatred toward Busch, but the 23-year-old driver tuned it out and focused on what he does best: winning races.
The win was his eighth of the season spanning NASCAR's top three series, and he has won most of them in very convincing fashion. This one was no different, as Busch led a race-high 169 of the 367 laps in a
"Darlington showed again tonight it's one of the hardest places. Always has been, always will be," Busch said in Victory Lane.
An offseason repaving project smoothed the asphalt on the egg-shaped, 1.366-mile superspeedway, and the new surface gave the entire field fits. It made the track extremely fast and grippy, forcing Goodyear to bring a very sturdy tire that could handle the speeds and survive long runs.
Busch bounced hard off the wall at least twice in what was an eventful fight to the finish. He was leading early in the race but was penalized when his crew left a lug nut off his rear wheel following a pit stop, dropping him to 29th.
He battled his way to the front, picking off Jimmie Johnson, Earnhardt, and seven-time Darlington winner Jeff Gordon to reclaim the lead. From there, Busch pulled away, stretching his Sprint Cup Series lead to 79 points over Jeff Burton.