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Kyle Busch ‘brought a little bit of NASCAR’ to Nitro Rallycross

Travis Pastrana won his first Nitro Rallycross race at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix as Kyle Busch finished one spot short of the podium in his Round 3 debut of the five-race series that can be viewed live on Peacock TV, NBC’s streaming service.

It was a dream come true for Pastrana, who developed the series in 2018, but had to miss 2020 because of challenges related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic just as Nitro Rallycross was hitting its stride.

For Busch, it was never about winning - well, except for the fact that this is ‘Rowdy Busch’ who expects to win anytime he climbs into anything with an engine.

Mostly, it was about learning a new discipline and having a little fun.

Gauging from the huge smile on his face after the race, he certainly accomplished the second criteria.

As for the first: Yes, he accomplished that as well.

On Saturday, Busch was set up in a head-to-head race with Scott Speed, who has immeasurably more experience in rally cars. Busch managed to keep pace with Speed throughout the three-lap race as he learned to navigate the corners and jumps.

“The biggest thing was obviously learning the car and the trade and trying to figure all that out,” Busch said after the race. “I certainly have a long way to go. We’re not even tip of the mountain yet, but I certainly would love the opportunity to come back out and learn some more - learn the tracks.”

On Sunday, Busch finished third in his semifinal to qualify for the Main.

He started that race sixth, fell back a position on the first lap, and then steadily worked his way forward. Busch was seventh on Lap 2, sixth on Lap 3, fifth on Lap 5 and then grabbed fourth in the second half of the final trip around the track.

“That was a lot of fun,” Busch said. “As soon as my guys were telling me ‘P4, good job’, I was like, ‘Damn it, it wasn’t third. At least be on the podium.’ There was a lot of attrition there. I passed two of them at least, so I feel like I fairly got fourth-ish.

“I brought a little bit of NASCAR here. Slowing down for the corner, figuring out how to go slow, (as) fast (as possible). That was kind of the biggest thing, especially in Turn 1.

“Turn 3, you try not to get too far into there, but then cutting the bottom and trying to get out of there and position yourself for the next turns. It’s just like typical road racing stuff that we have only with a lot more jumps in the way.”

Pastrana ranked the win as the most important in his rally career.

“It’s about time,” Pastrana joked on Peacock TV afterward. “If you design the track and create the rules, you should be able to win.”

From here, Pastrana will finish out the last two rounds of Rally Nitrocross at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernadino, California, Nov. 20-21 and The Firm Racetrack in Northern Florida, Dec. 4-5.

Both races will be streamed live on Peacock. Then it’s off to Sweden early next year to race alongside Jimmie Johnson in the Race of Champions.