|For a race without the usual fireworks, Kyle Busch got some for winning. (Garry Jones/Associated Press)|
Kyle Busch takes shine to Kentucky
SPARTA, Ky. - Kyle Busch figured the best way to beat the traffic last night at Kentucky Speedway: He simply stayed out of it.
Busch rolled to victory in the Quaker State 400, the inaugural Sprint Cup race at the 1 1/2-mile oval, pulling away from Jimmie Johnson on a restart with three laps to go to collect his third victory of the season.
“This is cool man,’’ Busch said. “This is right up there with the best of them.’’
Not so for track officials, as the venue in the northern Kentucky hills experienced some ugly growing pains during its first step into the spotlight. A massive traffic jam made the trip in a tortuous test of patience.
Even the drivers weren’t immune: Denny Hamlin nearly missed the driver’s meeting while getting stuck in the snarl. Not exactly the kind of debut
“It was one of those things,’’ said Hamlin, who finished 11th after starting from the back of the 43-car field. “You’ve got a lot of fans that want to watch the first race. You can’t do anything about a two-lane road.’’
And the drivers can’t seem to do anything about Busch, who moved into the points lead as the season reached its halfway point. He started from the pole and dominated long stretches.
Busch leads Carl Edwards by 4 points heading into next week’s race at New Hampshire. Kevin Harvick began the night with the points lead, but slipped to third in the standings after finishing 16th.
“It’s certainly good to know we’re figuring things out,’’ said Busch, who has 99 victories across NASCAR’s top three series.
“I’m hoping [No. 100] comes at Loudon [next week].’’
David Reutimann slipped past Johnson to finish second. Ryan Newman was fourth, followed by Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth.
“He was strong all night long,’’ Johnson said of Busch. “Spent a lot of time chasing him [and] watched him inch away from me the longer the run went on.’’
It’s a feeling the fans who spent hours in gridlock on Interstate 71 could echo. Cars were still packed up several miles from the track when the race began.
Randy Meyer and his brother Mark needed nearly eight hours to make the trip from Batesville, Ind., normally a 90-minute drive.
“It was a nightmare,’’ Randy Meyer said. “I go to Indy every year for the [Indy] 500 and I’ve never seen anything this bad.’’
The drivers spent the week talking openly about the buzz created by the Cup’s first new venue since Chicago and Kansas were added to the schedule in 2001 and the challenge of getting over the track’s signature bumps in Turns 3 and 4.
It was much ado about nothing. The three-wide racing promised by Smith never materialized and the bumps provided little drama as the race unfolded in a series of long runs, most of them dominated by Busch, who led 125 of the 267 laps to win for the second time in three days.