Friday night’s Feed the Children 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta was rain-shortened from its 200-lap scheduled distance to 170 laps and dominated by a couple of Sprint Cup Series veterans, Kyle Busch and reigning Cup champion, Brad Keselowski. The two drivers combined to lead of total of 133 of the 170 laps, and in the end, Keselowski up front when the race was called 30 laps early because of the rain. It was Keselowski’s second Nationwide win of the season and his second series win at Kentucky.
“You know, I didn’t want it to end this way, but we had a great car and we were able to drive to the front,” Keselowski said.
Busch did most of his leading in the first 100 laps of the race after taking the lead from pole sitter Austin Dillon on lap 19. Busch did lose the lead temporarily, though, when most of the field cycled through green-flag pit stops around lap 50 and the first caution came out just a few laps later, before five cars had made stops.
Unlike the rest of the drivers who had already pitted, Busch managed to stay on the lead lap, and when the remaining five headed down pit road during the yellow, Busch stayed out and retook the lead. Meanwhile, the rest who pitted under green took thee wave around to get back on the lead lap.
Matt Crafton, who didn’t pit until the caution, was first off pit road and restarted the race second, next to Busch on the front row. He was able to maintain second spot until Keselowski made his way toward the front from his 19th starting spot to claim second just past lap 70. By lap 94, Keselowski temporarily took the lead from Busch. Busch got by to reclaim the spot a lap later, though, but lost the lead for good on lap 100.
“This is the type of car you get once a year, if you’re lucky,” Keselowski said. “Driving this car, I feel like Jimmie Johnson; this is a rocket.”
Keselowski led the way until varying pit strategies cost Keselowski several spots on the race track during a caution that came out on lap 138. After taking fuel only, Crafton restarted with the lead, and Elliott Sadler was second after taking only two tires. Keselowski and Busch each changed four. Kekkselowski restarted eighth, and Busch was mired back in 13th after overshooting his pit stall.
Sadler took the lead on the restart and Keselowski was up to second on lap 150. A few laps later, Keselowski retook the lead from Sadler and held the position until the final yellow of the race came out for rain on lap 163. The race was red-flagged after seven caution laps and never restarted.
Sadler finished second, and Crafton took third in his first-career Nationwide Series start. Brian Vickers finished fourth and Busch made his way up to fifth by the time the race was called.
“As a racer, you always want to see it restarted, because you want to have that opporunity — that chance to win the race,” Sadler said. “Brad and those guys definitely had a strong car. He got me loose when he was behind me and made a good pass. He was just kind of saving his stuff there in front of me.”
Series points leader Regan Smith lost several points to second-place driver Sam Hornish Jr. on Friday night. Hornish finished just inside the top-10 in ninth spot, while Smith wound up 30th because of a mechanical issue. By the end of the race, Smith’s lead was trimmed to eight points.
The Kentucky race was the qualifier for this year’s Dash 4 Cash program. The four highest-finishing championship-eligible drivers at Kentucky will compete for the first $100,000 bonus in next weekend’s race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Those drivers include Sadler, Vickers, Dillon and Kyle Larson. Dillon finished sixth at Kentucky, while Larson was seventh.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR