BRISTOL, Tenn. – As evidenced by a wide smile and upbeat attitude in the Bristol Motor Speedway’s Victory Lane, his swagger was back, his style no longer cramped.
Kyle Busch ended Ron Hornaday’s Camping World Truck Series streak Wednesday night at the .5-mile bullring, winning the O’Reilly 200 for the second year in a row. The victory was Busch’s first in 17 NASCAR National Touring Series races and third in the Truck Series with Billy Ballew Motorsports.
“For some reason I’ve really taken to the new surface,” Busch said. “I loved the old surface. I love the new one.”
Since being wrecked by Tony Stewart approaching the checkered flag in July’s Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona, Busch has slipped to 15th in the series standings, three spots outside the Chase for the Cup cutoff line officially drawn after only three more races.
While winning in the Truck Series doesn’t help his Cup car get faster, Busch said it will aid his confidence as a driver.
“It just gets the momentum going. It just tells you that you can do it,” Busch said. “I’m my myself’s biggest critic. This definitely helps out. Gets me back in the right mindset. Gets me back in the right frame.”
The race wasn’t decided after pit strategy played out. Busch and crew chief Richie Wauters elected to come in under the race’s first caution, take four tires and stay out for the remainder of the race. The strategy worked out, but not before Busch picked off most of the field’s lead-lap cars along with Jason White, who led 86 laps in a gutsy bid to win his first Truck Series race.
Wauters said the tire compound keyed the No. 51 team’s strategy.
“The tires, they’re so hard here. They’re not falling off,” Wauters said. “It seems like when they cool down you can run just like you have stickers on again, so we decided to stay out. It was the right call tonight.”
Busch finished ahead of the second-place car of Matt Crafton and third-place Hornaday. The two are locked in a points battle that was trimmed to 211 points following 200 laps at Bristol, where Hornaday has multiple wins but hasn’t fared as well on the track’s revamped surface.
Wednesday night, a pit-stop error would doom any chance of Hornaday continuing his record streak, which hasn’t seen the No. 33 team anywhere but in Victory Lane since the series visited the Milwaukee Mile in June.
“We ran good, we just ran into some bad luck,” Hornaday said. “Kyle was just so dominant up top, and he had his truck free enough in the beginning. I learned that, and when he pitted and came right back in for fuel, that’s hurt us right there.
We lost too much track position right there. It was my own fault. I should have been paying more attention.”
The race was slowed five times for a total of 32 laps.
Pole-sitter Ryan Newman, who competed in the NASCAR Modified Series race earlier in the day, finished fourth. Brian Scott rounded out the top-five finishers with a no-tire strategy, still recovering from an accident at Michigan that broke his arm.