Kyle Busch continued his march through NASCAR’s record books with yet another victory at Bristol Motor Speedway.
His dominating win Saturday was the 46th of his career in the second-tier Nationwide Series, which puts him three back from tying Mark Martin’s record. But in leading 266 of the 300 laps, he became the first driver in series history to lead more than 10,000 laps.
Busch has led a total of 10,035 laps in the Nationwide Series.
And at Bristol? His win Saturday was his 10th spanning all three of NASCAR’s national series, and he’s led a whopping 2,349 laps on the Tennessee bullring.
“Nobody gets around this place better than he does,” crew chief Jason Ratcliffe said.
Busch has won the last four races at Bristol, dating back to August when he had a three-race weekend sweep. He’s got four career Bristol wins in the elite Sprint Cup Series, three in Nationwide and three in the Truck Series.
The Nationwide win moved him closer in his pursuit of Martin’s all-time mark. Martin grabbed a win two weeks ago in Las Vegas, but conceded that Busch would break the mark by this summer. Busch said Martin probably texted him immediately after the race in what’s become good-natured ribbing between the two.
“Mark and I have a little fun egging it on,” he said. “He told me after Las Vegas time is on my side, not his side.”
Kasey Kahne finished second and was followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Elliott Sadler and Joey Logano. Kevin Harvick was sixth, Carl Edwards seventh and Jason Leffler, Brad Keselowski and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 10.
As Busch pulled away from the field, the real drama was back in traffic and even in the garage.
Danica Patrick tangled with Ryan Truex on the track, and waited for him to pass by after the accident, arms in the air as if to say ‘Why did you wreck me?’
Truex wasn’t sure what he’d done wrong, and received affirmation from an unidentified team member over his in-car radio.
“She’s never been wrong about anything a day in her life,” Truex was told. “I wouldn’t worry about it.”
Patrick, who was coming off a career-best finish of fourth at Las Vegas, was running inside the top 20 at the time of the accident. She finished 33rd in her final race before she resumes her IndyCar schedule.
Patrick is not scheduled to run another Nationwide event until June at Chicago.
“He just runs hard, he’s run hard every time I’ve been around him and it just feels like overkill,” she said of the incident with Truex. “I felt like this was actually a pretty decent run at Bristol for the first time. It’s disappointing to leave for a couple of months, to leave with this kind of thing, but that’s Bristol, it gets the best of you.”
Meanwhile, Jennifer Jo Cobb had pre-race drama when she refused to race because team owner Rick Russell told her he wanted to start then park the car. She said Russell told her 10 minutes before the start of the race, after she’d already bought tires for the event.
“I have made a commitment to my sponsors, my fans and NASCAR that I’m not a start-and-park driver,” she said. “I’m really serious about this. I have to work hard to prove to people that I’m serious about this. It was a blow both to my principles and my finances.”
Cobb also said she had a five-race deal with Russell, but he told her to save the car for next week’s race at California and she’d be replaced in that race.
“In that moment, I just made a decision that I don’t think I will ever regret,” she said. “This isn’t a case of me being a brat and just wanting to walk off the job and leave someone high and dry. There were several promises made and broken and he really tried to back me into a corner.
“I weighed all the risks and consequences and decided that integrity and principle meant more.”
Charles Lewandowski said he was approached right before the race and asked to drive the car, but didn’t have his safety equipment with him. Chris Lawson then started the race and ran four laps before parking the car.
Russell disputed Cobb’s version, saying the entire team was informed Friday of his desire to park the car. He also said Cobb has been in breach of her contract because she failed to provide engines at Las Vegas and Bristol.
Jenna Fryer, AP Racing