Kyle Busch on failing inspection, Cup drivers in NNS and getting ‘more noise’ than Keselowski, Logano

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Kyle Busch didn’t appear fazed by the fact his Nationwide Series car failed pre-race inspection and he was forced to start at the back of Saturday’s TreatMyClot.com 300.

When asked by ESPN’s Vince Welch before the race how it would impact his chances in the race, the younger Busch brother was curt and to the point.

“Absolutely none, everything’s fine,” Busch said. “It’s just unfortunate that we weren’t able to qualify and qualify on the pole. We just gave everybody else a chance today.”

It’s that kind of response that gives additional ammunition to fans who are growing tired of Sprint Cup drivers racing – and dominating, particularly Busch and his record 65 career wins – in the NNS.

The younger Busch brother was momentarily taken aback when Welch asked how he would feel if he was a full-time Nationwide driver and forced to compete against someone who is so dominant in the series.

Once again, Busch failing to directly answer the question.

“Well, good thing I don’t have to think about that, so I really won’t,” he said. “I just worry about what I am and what I have to do today with this Monster Energy Camry and get it to victory lane.”

Finally, Welch broke through when he asked Busch what he learned during his Nationwide days.

“I learned how to race,” Busch said. “I learned a little bit how to Saturday race, but also you learn a little how to Sunday race and what those guys (Cup drivers) are doing.

“My (NNS) rookie season (2004), I won five races against those guys and I probably could have won more if it wasn’t for them being in the series, but I still won a lot and learned even more.

“I think it’s something that helps you out if you want to further yourself on up to Cup and get ready for that.”

Saturday was Busch’s 275th career start in the Nationwide Series. In addition to his 65 wins, he came into the race with 154 top-five and 189 top-10 finishes.

Break those down further, and Busch has won 24 percent – essentially one in every four – of the NNS races he’s entered.

He’s finished in the top-five 56 percent of the time and an in the top-10 an unheard 69 percent.

ESPN analyst and former Sprint Cup driver Ricky Craven took Busch’s supremacy  in the series to task. Craven empathized with full-time NNS drivers forced to continually finish behind Cup drivers such as Busch, particularly in the latter part of the season.

Craven is on to something: Of Busch’s 65 NNS wins, only 13 times has the runner-up been a Nationwide driver.

“He doesn’t need 100 Nationwide races in his career to prove he’s great to me,” Craven said of Busch. “He’s a great driver, but running 26 races a year and he’s a top-tier Sprint Cup driver seems like a conflict of interest. I’m not saying he doesn’t belong in the Nationwide Series, but 15 times a year is enough.

“There are (NNS) drivers that have disappeared because of the suffocating effect of not being able to get attention, to sell the sponsorship. I’m not saying what Kyle’s doing is wrong, he loves it, but it’s great for Kyle Busch. And in this business, or in sports, drivers and athletes will be selfish if you allow it.”

Craven likely won’t get an argument from Busch on the selfish part, whether fans love him or hate him.

“I seem to get more noise than when Brad Keselowski or Joey Logano win,” Busch admits.

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Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.