JOLIET, Ill. – Joe Gibbs Racing officials have maintained all season their No. 18 team in the Nationwide Series was just as good as the No. 20, which had racked up nine wins and garnered all the attention.
Friday night, Kyle Busch shined the spotlight in the other direction.
Busch, driving the No. 18 this weekend, blew by Brad Keselowski and David Reutimann on Lap 95 of 200 to take the lead and never let go, powering to a dominating victory in the Dollar General 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Busch finished more than three seconds ahead of his nearest rival, JGR teammate Denny Hamlin who was driving the No. 32 this weekend for Braun Racing.
The win is the fourth of the year for the No. 18, which has competed in 10 of 20 races. Busch has been behind the wheel for three of the wins with JGR teammate Denny Hamlin earning the other. The win is also the 13th for JGR in the series this season, tying the record set by Richard Childress Racing last season.
“We had an awesome race car tonight. This thing just came to life. We woke it right up and it went right to the front,” said Busch. “We just weren’t sure how good it was at the beginning of the race.
“It’s been a phenomenal year for us. This is something special that doesn’t come along for a long time. We’re looking forward to being able to get some more wins here. This season is not over yet.”
After taking the lead, the only time anyone other than Busch led the race was during a string of green-flag pit stops that occurred with about 50 laps left. Hamlin made up some ground in the closing laps but came up short.
“We felt like we had something for Kyle. We just needed a caution or something,” Hamlin said. “We couldn’t overcome that track position without another caution.”
Friday’s race saw an abundance of Sprint Cup drivers entered, in part this is the first season Chicagoland hosted night races.
“This will probably end up being the most useful Nationwide race I’ve run this year,” said Brian Vickers, who finished fourth. “This is the first time either series has run at night and I think I’m going to keep what I learned to myself.”
Tony Stewart, driving JGR’s No. 20 this weekend, had an opportunity to tie a series record if he could give the team its 10th victory of the season but he missed a shift at the start of the race and Kevin Harvick plowed into the rear of his Toyota.
Both cars received extensive damage. Stewart was able to make his way back into the top 10 but never contended for the win after that.
Brad Keselowski finished third, Vickers was fourth and David Reutimann completed the top five. Series points leader Clint Bowyer finished seventh.
“Those Toyotas were gone like they’ve been every week,” said Keselowski’s crew chief, Tony Eury Sr. “Brad did a heck of a job tonight. He’s been sick all day and last night. We asked him to do the job today and he did it.”