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Busch Charges to Second-Place at Daytona

Interstate Batteries Car Leads Race-High 47 Laps in Banner Day for JGR

Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch
As Kyle Busch drove his No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry to the lead during the closing laps of Saturday’s Camping World 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Norm Miller couldn’t stop smiling.

Miller, Chairman of Interstate Batteries, stood on the pit wall next to longtime friend Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), as the familiar green and black colors of his company were challenging for the win again at Daytona.

Busch, the talented 22-year old, led five times for a race-high 47 laps en route to his second-place finish in the season-opening race won by JGR teammate Tony Stewart.

“It was a good run for us in the Interstate Batteries Toyota,” said Busch, who posted his second top-10 finish in his ninth Nationwide Series start at Daytona. “It’s just a shame to come in second with such a great race car. I had a good time out there and it was definitely a lot of fun to have a car that was driving that well. The good thing is that we had a good enough car to stay up there all day.”

After taking the lead from Stewart on lap 23, Busch paced the field prior to the first round of green flag pit stops on lap 36. There, the No. 18 team changed four tires and made a slight track bar adjustment that kept them at the front of the lead pack.

The long, green flag run during the first part of the race ended on lap 54, when the cars driven by David Gilliland and Mark Green made heavy contact with the SAFER Barrier on the outside retaining wall between turns one and two. On the ensuing pit stop, the Interstate Batteries team rang off a strong stop that sent Busch back out in second-place.

Busch quickly jumped to the lead again on lap 61 and stayed there until debris brought out a caution on lap 79. Again, the Interstate Batteries team ripped off a lightning fast pit stop that kept him in the lead.

Busch kept that lead until lap 112 when a nine-car accident brought out the final caution of the day and set up a six-lap shootout for the win.

Over the final few laps, Busch battled with Dale Earnhardt Jr., and even made contact with Martin Truex Jr., while trying to keep the two at bay and preserve the win for either himself or Stewart.

“I was just trying to stay in line,” said Busch of his contact with Truex in the final laps. “He got a run on me and I tried to block him on the low side and then the high side. That’s what you have to do if you want to finish up front in these restrictor plate races. You can’t just let those guys go by you because you just get hung out to dry and fall back.”

In the end, Stewart was just too strong to pass. But despite not bringing home the win, Busch couldn’t have been happier for Stewart and JGR.

“Congratulations to Tony Stewart and his guys. They deserve it,” said Busch. “We built this car to copy their car, because we knew their car was a little bit better. I didn’t have the car that was going to win the race, but Tony did. I’m so proud to see a Joe Gibbs car in victory lane even though it wasn’t us.”

While the win was Stewart’s third in Nationwide Series competition at Daytona, it was the first Daytona win for JGR and its new manufacturer Toyota.

In third behind the JGR juggernaut in the Camping World 300 was Earnhardt, while Brian Vickers and Matt Kenseth secured the rest of the top-five. Rookie Bryan Clauson, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin (driving for Braun Racing), David Ragan and Carl Edwards comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were four caution periods for 12 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish the 120-lap race.

The 1-2 finish put the JGR cars 1-2 in owner points. With the first of 35 Nationwide Series races in the books, the No. 20 car is first with 190 points while the No. 18 car is second with 180 points. In third is the No. 5 car of Hendrick Motorsports with 165 points.

The next event on the Nationwide Series schedule is the Feb. 23 Stater Bros. 300 at California Speedway in Fontana. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by ESPN2 beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m. The race will also be broadcast on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 128.

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