FORT WORTH, Texas – It was a true changing of the guard.
Reigning NASCAR Busch Series champion Kevin Harvick earned his sixth win of the season, holding off Kyle Busch by 3.486 seconds to win Saturday’s O’Reilly Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway.
As Harvick earned his 32nd career victory in the series, a new series champion was crowned. Carl Edwards’ 11th-place finish allowed him to clinch his first Busch title with two races left this season.
The championship is the second in the series for team owner Jack Roush. Edwards’ teammate, Greg Biffle, won the 2002 series title for Roush.
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“In 2005, we went out to run the Busch Series full time. We got close. In 2006, we got a little closer,” said Edwards, who now holds a 552-point lead over second-place David Reutimann – a margin that cannot be overcome in the final two races.
“This year, especially the first half of the year, it was just spectacular. I’ve won championships at my local dirt track. I won a Baby Grand Stock Car Association championship in 2002. This just feels great.”
By July, Edwards had amassed an 852-point lead and he appeared set to clinch the title at any time. However, an uncharacteristic run of bad finishes in the past two months have postponed his celebration.
“We are a better race team than we have looked like lately,” Roush said. “I’m very happy for Carl. He certainly earned this championship.”
Edwards also becomes the last driver to win a Busch championship. Nationwide takes over sponsorship of what will be called the Nationwide Series in 2008.
For Harvick, the win was his fourth at Texas and made him the all-time leader in series victories at the track, breaking a tie he held with Mark Martin. He also moved into sole possession of second place in the series’ all-time victory list. Harvick’s 32 wins trail only Martin’s 47.
“We had a great year last year in what I thought was the best single season in my racing career,” said Harvick, who won his second series title last season. “We couldn’t do anything wrong and we were winning races against a lot of the same guys who have been competing for the championship this season.”
While Edwards secured the driver’s championship, the 2007 owner’s title remains up for grabs.
Richard Childress Racing’s No. 29 team, using drivers Jeff Burton and Scott Wimmer, holds a 113-point lead over Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 team, which has used drivers Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola and J.J. Yeley.
“Two more races is a long way to go,” said team owner Richard Childress, who has won two Busch driver’s titles and three owner’s titles. “Winning the owner’s title with two drivers was our goal from the beginning of the season.”
Hamlin finished third in the race on Saturday. Clint Bowyer was fourth and Matt Kenseth fifth. Tony Stewart led the most laps (114), but finished seventh after he had to make extended repairs to his car during a pit stop on Lap 129 of 200.