SPARTA, Ky. (June 19, 2004) Most 19-year-olds spend their summer weekends tooling around town in their cars with friends.
Kyle Busch takes it one step further. The Las Vegas teen spends his weekends speeding up to 180 mph around NASCAR Busch Series superspeedways with his friends. Only theyre called the competition, and Busch ranks right up there with the best of them.
Photo by Don Ward
Kyle Busch hoists his
trophy after winning the
Busch Series' 'Meijer 300.'
Busch topped the field of 43 competitors June 19 by winning the Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo on a Kentucky Speedway tri-oval that he might as well call home. He won here a year ago in May by outdueling four-time ARCA RE/MAX champion Frank Kimmel for the title of the Channel 5-205. Busch had just turned 18 at the time.
This year, the younger brother of Nex-Tel Cup Series driver Kurt Busch is a whopping 19 years old. But in this industry, age is just another statistic. What counts is experience behind the wheel, an expert team of technicians and pit crew, and in Buschs case a well-funded team owner supplying the best equipment money can buy.
Hendrick Motorsports is backing Busch this year on the Busch circuit after he blazed a trail through seven ARCA events last season, winning twice. He is listed among the drivers in the ARCA media guide, but after winning the opening race at Daytona, he was put on a strictly Busch Series diet for the remainder of the year.
After trailing most of the race at Kentucky in June, Busch was in the right place in the late going to take advantage of leader Greg Biffles miscue and put himself in a position to win. Bobby Hamilton Jr. had led for 107 laps but went to the garage with 19 laps remaining when his engine gave out. Biffle had taken charge of the 200-lap event by passing Hamilton on the front stretch with 77 to go. But during a caution, caused by Johnny Bensons crash into the wall, and with 19 laps remaining, Biffle was assessed a black flag penalty for speeding down pit road. Biffle quickly gained back the penalty lap when the other cars pitted during the caution, but at the restart he suddenly saw Buschs car No. 5 barreling down his rear-view mirror.
The Busch mobile had passed Jason Leffler and was charging hard, looking for an opportunity to pass as the final laps expired. Busch found the opening on Lap 197, slipping underneath Biffle while coming off the turn and holding on for 1.274-second victory. It was Buschs third Busch Series victory of the year quite a feat after having started at the rear of the field. He had qualified second but had to switch to his backup car after crashing his main car in happy hour the night before.
That was a dumb mistake that Ill definitely learn from, said Busch in the interview room after celebrating in Victory Lane. I just felt really bad for the guys for wrecking the car like that. It was just dumb.
The Hendricks team removed the engine from the wrecked car and placed it in the backup car overnight. They totally rebuilt that car in just a few hours its amazing what they can do, Busch said.
Biffle, who is competing in both the Busch and Nex-Tel Cup Series this year, didnt bother coming to the interview room, reportedly steamed at NASCAR for assessing the penalty. Biffle won the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race here in 200x. He has won three times this year on the Busch circuit and saw his fourth slip away. Mike Bliss, another former winner at Kentucky in trucks, finished third, followed by Ron Hornaday Jr. and Leffler.
Busch, who averaged 126.633 mph, remained second in the series points race behind Martin Truex Jr., but closed the gap from 40 to 10 points. Truex finished sixth Saturday.
Three cars caught on fire during the race. On the 10th lap, Blake Feeses car hit the wall in Turn 2, but he exited the car unscathed and the fire quickly was extinguished.
On Lap 71, cars driven by Buckshot Jones and Travis Geisler tangled near the spot where Feeses car caught fire. Jones burning car slid down from the wall to the infield. Jones escaped the car as the fire grew and he was able to walk to a waiting ambulance.
Jones received treatment in the infield medical center for smoke inhalation, but was otherwise unhurt.
On Lap 117, Mark Greens car blew an engine and caught on fire as he headed to pit row. He was not injured and the fire was extinguished.
The announced attendance of 72,312 was the largest ever for an event in the five-year history of Kentucky Speedway.
Fultz wins for third time in Sparta
Cincinnati native Jeff Fultz won for the third time at the Kentucky Speedway by capturing the June 18 NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division Southeast Series The Kentucky 150. He also won the series events at Kentucky in June and August 2001.
Fultz, who qualified fourth, outraced second-place Chris Davidson of Pearland, Texas, and J.R. Norris of Mulga, Ala. Fultz collected $11,000 for his .262-second triumph before a crowd of 16,111.
It was his 19th career victory and second this year. He also won in Greenville, S.C.
The series returns to Sparta this fall as part of the V-TAPS Triple Header Fall Classic, a new, one-day event scheduled for Sept. 18.
For more information on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' "The Built Ford Tough 225 Presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers," visit the Kentucky Speedway website.