Kyle Busch goes unbeaten in five Xfinity races this year; winning in possibly last career start
HAMPTON, Georgia -- Kyle Busch put a perfect punctuation mark with a victory in his last Xfinity Series start this season -- and likely the last of his record-breaking career -- with a dominant victory Saturday.
Starting on pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Busch won both stages and led 97 of 164 laps for his 102nd career victory on NASCAR’s junior circuit.
It wasn’t easy for the two-time Cup Series champion, who had to fend off spirited challenges by Daniel Hemric and Jeb Burton (whom he outdueled for the victory on a two-lap overtime shootout). Busch took the lead on a restart with six laps to go when he made contact with Hemric in a push that sent his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate out of the lead and into the wall.
POINTS, RESULTS: Stats package from Atlanta
“I meant to push him, and I wanted to hit him, I just wanted to ht him forward and straight but turned him sideways a little bit, and I think he got more help on his right side,” Busch told NBC Sports pit reporter Marty Snider. “Just trying to help a teammate there, and that’s why I restarted behind him. Overall, great day for our 54 car, but (Hemric) was better and deserved this win. So I’m sorry to Daniel and all those guys. I hate it that all that transpired.
“That’s why this win is a little more somber than others have been. You don’t take solace in a win like that. But a win’s a win.”
Hemric finished 30th after leading 45 laps and remained winless in 105 Xfinity starts (and 192 races across NASCAR’s three national series).
“What could have been, right? That’s all you can think about,” Hemric told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns. “On the flip side, you can’t change it. It wasn’t intentional by any means. I did spin the tires a little bit. We were on scuff tires there.
“I thought we got rolling about as best that we could, and Kyle just went to push me to help our momentum in the bottom lane, and I think right when he went to hook on to my back bumper, there was a swell there right before you turn into 1. I think it’s just the way the car loads up there – it was laying on the left-rear tire – must have hit the line and shoved me right. I know it wasn’t intentional, but at the end of the day, it sucks.”
It was the 362nd start of his career for Busch, who has no future races lined up and has said he intended to retire from Xfinity after his 100th victory (which he earned last month at Nashville Superspeedway).
Before Saturday’s race, Busch told NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider that it would be his last start in the Xfinity Series, and he sent some contemplative tweets before the race.
“It’s never say never, but yeah, this is it,” Busch said when asked postrace by Snider if it was his final Xfinity start.
After his record-extending 100th career series win Saturday at Nashville Superspeedway, Busch said he wasn’t expecting to race in Xfinity beyond 2021, and that Joe Gibbs Racing wasn’t selling race sponsorships with the driver for the series next year.
Busch said he would be fine with leaving the circuit as its winningest driver.
“Did you hear the crowd? Nobody likes me here,” Busch joked. “So peace out, Goodbye. If you want me to pay me to quit on the Cup side, bring it on, I’ll be gone.
“I get beat up, whether it’s the fans or here (media center). Why am I doing it? What am I doing it for? Why am I beating up on the little kids and all that B.S.”
NASCAR rules limit drivers who score Cup points and have more than three full-time seasons in Cup to no more than five Xfinity races annually. Such drivers also are not allowed to compete in the final eight Xfinity races of the season (regular-season finale and the seven playoffs races) and the four Dash 4 Cash events.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Busch
STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Busch
NOTABLE: Michael Annett was replaced at the last minute by Austin Dillon, who dropped to the rear in the No. 1 Chevrolet. Annett, who also was replaced for Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race at Knoxville Raceway, missed his first Xfinity race since 2013 (a streak of 173 consecutive races). The Athletic reported that Annett had a leg injury, according to JR Motorsports. NASCAR on NBC analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he learned 20 minutes before the race that the team would need a new driver. The two-time Xfinity Series champion said he would have driven in place of Annett if his HANS device and helmet had been at the track. ... CJ McLaughlin exited his No. 66 Toyota under a caution that started on Lap 118, yielding to David Starr. NBC Sports’ Dave Burns reported that McLaughlin suffered from heat exhaustion. ... The No. 16 (AJ Allmendinger), No. 9 (Noah Gragson), No. 02 (Brett Moffitt) and No. 90 (Ronnie Bassett Jr.) failed twice in prerace inspection and will lose pit selection for the next event.
NEXT: The series will race July 17 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN).