Picture perfect: Kyle Busch leads all 250 laps in Richmond NNS win

Leave a comment

If Friday night’s Virginia 529 College Savings 250 were a baseball game, Kyle Busch would have pitched a perfect game.

Busch started in the lead of the Nationwide Series race, held the point midway through and then took the checkered flag at Richmond International Raceway, ultimately leading all 250 laps.

It doesn’t get much better than that, for sure, as Busch claimed his fourth win of the season and 67th of his NNS career. It was also his 22nd win from the pole.

“Good car, good engine and good execution tonight,” Busch said afterward. “I’m pumped about being back in Victory Lane in the Nationwide Series and here at Richmond. It’s been a while.

“It’s fun to come back here and get back on track and get some mojo for tomorrow night (Cup race).

It was the second time in Busch’s career that he has led all laps of an NNS race, having done so previously in February 2011 at Phoenix.

The feat has been done 17 times in NNS history, including NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett’s first NNS win (August 1986, Orange County, N.C.), Jeff Burton (Darlington, March 2002) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (July 2003, Daytona).

However, no driver has ever led all laps in a race that was more than 200 laps.

From the drop of the race-opening green flag, Busch was in his own zip code. Several drivers tried to close the gap on him, including outside pole sitter Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick and Elliott Sadler.

But it seemed that the closer they got to Busch, the more he ultimately pulled away.

NNS points leader Chase Elliott finished second, followed by Harvick, Blaney and Brian Scott.

“We were getting closer and closer than we were in the spring race, but I think that 54 (Busch) got better since the spring race, as well,” Elliott said.

Added Blaney, who won the NNS race at Bristol two weeks ago and last weekend’s Truck race at Atlanta, “Not a bad effort. We’re excited to be at Chicago again next weekend and hope we can do a little bit better there.”

Sixth through 10th were Regan Smith, Dakoda Armstrong, Elliott Sadler, Ty Dillon and Chris Buescher.

Dylan Kwasniewski finished 11th, followed by Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Landon Cassill, Trevor Bayne, Ryan Reed, Cale Conley, Brendan Gaughan, James Buescher and Mike Bliss.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
Leave a comment

SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.