Kyle Busch earns Nationwide pole for tonight at Bristol

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Kyle Busch captured the pole position for tonight’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 300 with a lap of 125.142 miles per hour in the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Busch unseated Kyle Larson from the provisional pole with roughly seven and a half minutes remaining in the second and final round of knockout qualifying.

He then improved to his final pole time of 15.333 seconds on his next lap (his third timed lap in Round 2).

“It was quite eventful to be honest with you, but that’s pretty quick around here for these Nationwide cars,” Busch said to Fox Sports after claiming his fifth Nationwide pole of 2014.

“…[Crew chief] Adam [Stevens] and the guys again have done a nice job this weekend, so we’ll see if we can capitalize on what we’ve got right now and see if we can win here after 300 laps.”

Joining him on the front row will be Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, who will make his second front row start of the year (pole at Iowa Speedway in May) in the No. 22 Ford.

“I thought I got beat getting into the corner, by my Dad [Dave Blaney] said he killed me off the corner, so I guess I got in a little bit deeper than I expected,” Ryan said.

“I didn’t think we were great the first round – we kinda took it easy a little bit – but [crew chief] Jeremy Bullins did a great job of adjusting it here for the second round, the one that counts. I just needed a little more stability in the corner.”

Kyle Larson and Nationwide Series points leader Chase Elliott will start from Row 2, followed by a pair of Joe Gibbs Racing pilots – Elliott Sadler and young Erik Jones – in Row 3. Ty Dillon and Regan Smith are in Row 4, and Row 5 belongs to Richard Childress Racing teammates Brian Scott and Cale Conley.

The first round was slowed by a red flag following a two-car incident involving Carl Long and Hermie Sadler. About 10 minutes into the 30-minute round, Long spun out off of Turn 4 and slid into the back of Sadler on the frontstretch.

Sadler sustained serious rear-end damage to his No. 19 car, but Fox Sports reported during the qualifying telecast that his team would make repairs to the wounded primary instead of bringing out their backup. He was able to make the field on owner’s points.

Five drivers failed to qualify for tonight’s race: Milka Duno, Derrike Cope, Matt Frahm, Carl Long, and Ryan Ellis.

The green flag for tonight’s 300-lap event should fall shortly after 7:30 p.m. ET.

NASCAR Nationwide Series at Bristol – Food City 300 Starting Lineup

Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato welcomes ‘Baby Borg’ to the family

Photos: Michael L. Leavitt
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Takuma Sato cast a big shadow on the world of IndyCar racing last May when he became the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

But there was another shadow of sorts cast along with Sato’s Indy 500 win: he and the prestigious Borg-Warner Trophy, given to each year’s winner of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, are virtually identical in size.

The Trophy is the same height as Sato, 5 feet, 5 ¾ inches tall. And the respective weight of both the Trophy and Sato are the same: approximately 113 pounds.

Try putting that on a mantle in your house.

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

That’s why Sato was so happy to receive the Baby Borg Trophy — a miniature version of the Borg-Warner Trophy — Wednesday night in Detroit. It’s much more manageable for the mantle in his house: 18 inches tall and five pounds.

“It’s such an honor to win the Baby Borg finally, eight months after the race, it’s been an unbelievable journey,” Sato told NBC Sports. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to win the 500 and it has just gone on and on. It’s just a significant moment in my life. It’s been fantastic.

“Right now, I haven’t really decided yet (where he’ll put the coveted Baby Borg). It’s going to my home in Indiana right now. But of course, everybody wants to see it. After that, I haven’t decided, but I’m sure it’ll get a special place.”

Even though the Baby Borg is a pint-sized version of the real trophy that was presented to Sato in victory lane in Indianapolis last May, it also has the same meaning as the big trophy and served to get Sato’s excitement pumping to where he’s already counting down the days to the 2018 Indy 500.

And even more important, it will be the first time he returns to Indianapolis as the defending champion.

“(Winning the 500) has changed my life,” Sato told NBC Sports. “But what I do is exactly the same, to try and be as fast as possible when racing.

“But all the environment, the people, all the cheering and being called an Indy 500 champion, I never imagined how deep and how far it goes, just the power and energy that the Indy 500 had.

“I just never realized how much the tradition and the prestigiousness of it. It’s been fantastic and I’m sure when I go back there to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in four months as the defending champion, it’ll be a whole other dimension. I’m sure it’s going to be a whole lot of pressure, but I’m sure to enjoy the moment.”

Sato, who turns 41 on January 28, will return to the 500 this year, but with a new team. He left Andretti Autosport after last season and returned to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, for whom he previously raced for in 2012.

Now that he’s won one Indy 500, Sato wants to make it two in a row.

“It’s a huge, another task and a new dream,” he said. “I’m excited for the new season and to go for another 500 (win), it’s another completely new dimension. Like Michael (Andretti, who he drove for last season) said, obviously, we’ll be competing against each other in the new season, but tonight we celebrated together. I think it’s going to be a real good season for me. I’d love to get another win there, of course.”

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Michael Andretti celebrates his 5 Indy 500 wins as a team owner, and Takuma Sato celebrates his first Indy 500 win
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

But not if Andretti has anything to say about it.

“He’s not allowed to win again,” Andretti laughed while also speaking to NBC Sports.

Sato enjoyed a victory lap of another sort last month when he accompanied the Borg-Warner Trophy to his native Japan for a two-plus week tour of the nation.

It marked the first time in the Trophy’s 82-year existence that it has ever been outside the U.S.

Everywhere Sato and the Trophy went drew large crowds, from Honda Racing “Thanks Day” at the Twin Rings track at Motegi to a visit to Mount Fuji, a meeting with 850 members of Sato’s fan club, and also included a two-day run in the atrium of Honda’s World Headquarters in Tokyo that had fans lined up for hours to see the Trophy and take photos of it and Sato.

“The reaction was just massive,” Sato said. “For myself, it was a dream come true, but at the same time, for a country with that history, it was an unbelievable moment, particularly the first time when Hiro Matsushita did it (drove in the Indy 500 in the 1990s) so many years ago.

“So many Japanese drivers have tried to win such a historic race, I was just so proud to be part of it. The people were really excited. The passion, I’m really particularly happy to bring it to Japan.

“To go to Japan was a massive commitment by from Borg Warner and Honda. So many Japanese fans were able to see it physically and now they’re really looking forward to this year’s Indy 500 again. It was a great moment to us.”