Kyle Busch wins NNS event at Texas, goes for only second 3-race weekend sweep in NASCAR history

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It’s two down, one to go this weekend for Kyle Busch.

The younger Busch brother won his second straight race of the weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, capturing Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge.

In so doing, he earned the 100th career Nationwide Series victory for Joe Gibbs Racing, as well as it being the 58th NNS career win for JGR behind the wheel for Busch, and his 70th overall NNS triumph.

“I can’t believe it,” team owner Joe Gibbs told ESPN. “I’m just real proud of Kyle. We got off to a rough start in this (Nationwide Series), it took us almost five years to win a race. So we really appreciate this.

“If (Busch) see’s anything in front of him, he’s after it. Sometimes we don’t give him a good enough car, but he’s still after it. … It’s a big deal for us.”

Coupled with Friday night’s Camping World Truck Series race, Busch goes for a weekend sweep in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 Sprint Cup race.

Busch is the first – and only driver to date in NASCAR annals – to sweep all three races in a weekend, having done so at Bristol in 2010.

“It’s obviously a special moment for all the guys at Joe Gibbs Racing,” Busch told ESPN in Victory Lane. “Everybody in the body shop, chassis shop and engine shop, they’ve worked hard for a long time to get this many wins and have done a great job.

“I’m just glad to be a part of the effort, a small part of the effort. It’s good to be back on top here at Texas and getting another win here.”

Busch led 116 of the event’s 200 laps.

Joey Logano gave Busch all he could handle, leading 59 laps himself, but couldn’t catch Busch at the end and settled for the runner-up finish.

“Kyle was fast there in the long run,” Logano said. “My car was good enough to pass him every time, but then I got loose and he’d come along. Long run speed wasn’t in our game there.

“We needed another caution to make it more interesting for the fans and to have a little more fun.”

Ryan Blaney finished third, followed by NNS points leader Chase Elliott in fourth and Matt Kenseth was fifth.

Sixth through 10th were Brian Scott, Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Elliott Sadler (although Clint Bowyer drove most of the race when Sadler took ill) and Dakoda Armstrong.

Regan Smith was 11th, followed by Kyle Larson, Chris Buescher, Dylan Kwasniewski, Ty Dillon, Brendan Gaughan, Ryan Reed, Mike Bliss, Landon Cassill and JJ Yeley.

While leading on Lap 50, Trevor Bayne suffered a rather frightening incident when what appeared to be a right rear tire suddenly went down, sending him into the wall.

The rear of his car burst into heavy flame, but Bayne was able to work his car down to the bottom of the track and exited his Ford.

“It makes you want to laugh or cry,” Bayne told ESPN. “I don’t know which one to do – probably not laugh because this is the best Nationwide car I’ve ever had.

“Our No. 6 was just hauling the mail today. It had a lot of speed all weekend long, It’s disheartening. These guys deserve it.

“There was no warning. I just wonder why it caught fire so fast, whether that was something after the impact or sometimes that happens when the brake line or oil line comes off. The way that it went, it had to be a tire to me, the way it felt.”

Also, Elliott Sadler began the race, even though he failed to qualify earlier in the day due to some type of stomach illness.

According to ESPN, Sadler was sent to the infield medical care center during qualifying and received several bags of fluids for an apparent dehydration problem.

Sadler felt good enough to start the race, but got out of the car after just eight laps, replaced by Sprint Cup regular Clint Bowyer, who qualified the ride for Sadler, as well.

MORE: Elliott Sadler, reportedly suffering from stomach virus, will start today’s Nationwide race

Bowyer ultimately finished ninth in the race.

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Alexander Rossi hopes to dodge oncoming traffic in second Baja 1000

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One of the great viral videos of last year’s offseason was the sight of Alexander Rossi’s Honda Ridgeline off-road vehicle and its near head-on collision with a passenger SUV coming in the wrong direction of last year’s Baja 1000.

The video of the incident overshadowed an outstanding debut for Rossi in the SCORE OFF Road Desert race.

Rossi (pictured above on the right along with fellow driver Jeff Proctor) told NBCSports.com that driving down the same roads still used by passenger traffic is one of the unique challenges of the Baja 1000.

“The most demanding form of racing is IndyCar racing,” Rossi told NBC Sports.com. “But the big thing for me in the Baja 1000 is mentally being able to understand the terrain that is coming at you at 120 miles an hour in the dust and pedestrians and other cars, people and cattle that come along with this race.”

Rossi is becoming a modern-day Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti. He wants to race anything on wheels and win.

Since the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season concluded with the Sept. 22 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, Rossi competed in the Bathurst 1000 in Australia on Oct. 13. Earlier this year, Rossi drove for Acura Team Penske in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

This weekend, the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and a perennial contender for the NTT IndyCar Series championship will compete in the Baja 1000 for the second straight year.

Rossi will be driving for the Honda Ridgeline Racing team and is the sixth Indy 500 winner to compete in the Baja 1000.

Other Indy 500 winners who have raced in the SCORE Baja 1000 include Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis winner and a two-time Baja 1000 race winner (1971 72); fellow Honda IndyCar Series driver and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, the Indy winner in 2014; Rick Mears, who won the Indianapolis 500 four times, 1985 Indy 500 champion Danny Sullivan and 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice.

NTT IndyCar season champions who have raced in the Baja 1000 include Mears, Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy.

Rossi has a better understanding of what to expect in this year’s Baja 1000 after last year’s rookie experience.

How valuable was last years’ experience?

“It’s hugely valuable,” Rossi said. “The course changes each year. There will be some elements that are the same, but it’s a new route from start to finish this year. That is why we go down a week early. We do pre-running in a similar type of vehicle and take course notes and analyze each individual section of the course, find the danger areas and what you need to do come race day.

“Ultimately, the biggest thing is having the knowledge of how to prepare for the race and what to expect once you roll off the starting line. That is something I will have going for me this year that I didn’t have last year.”

As an off-road rookie, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“I don’t know that I can pinpoint any highlights other than just the whole experience,” Rossi said of last years’ experience. “The whole week and a half I had down there in 2018 was phenomenal. The team made me feel part of the family from Day One. I just love driving a desert truck through Baja California. It’s an experience unlike any other.

“The entire event was a highlight more than one specific moment.”

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Driving an off-road Honda Ridgeline through the desert of Baja California in Mexico is vastly different than Rossi’s regular ride in the No. 27 NAPA Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series. But Rossi believes there are many similarities, also.

“It’s very different, for obvious reasons, but ultimately, a race car is a race car,” Rossi said. “It has four wheels, and you are trying to get it from Point A to Point B quicker than other people. The general underlying techniques of getting a car through the corner efficiently is all the same; it’s just a different style.

“Everyone here is very talented at what they do and very good so in order to win this race, you have to be at the top of your game.”

The Baja 1000, like most forms of off-road racing, is more against the clock than a wheel-to-wheel competition such as IndyCar. Rossi believes it is a different form of endurance racing, similar to IMSA in many ways.

“You have to compare it like an endurance race,” Rossi said. “It’s a race where the first part of it, you are trying to get through and not take chances and stay in touch with the people you are trying to stay in touch with.

“When you get down to the final 20 to 30 percent, that is when you try to either close the lead of extend the lead of whatever position you are in. That is similar to the Rolex 24 at Daytona. It comes down to the last three or four hours, and we take a mentality closer to that.

“The only difference is if you get it wrong at Daytona, you spin in the grass. Here, it can be more dramatic than that.”

As an off-road rookie in 2018, Rossi acclimated to the demands of desert racing as the Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off-Road Racing Team finished second in Class 7. It was the fourth consecutive time the team finished first or second in the Ridgeline Baja Race Truck at the Baja 1000.

“The Honda off-road guys and my co-driver/navigator Evan Weller make it so easy for me to just jump right in and go to work,” Rossi said. “I can’t wait to share the seat with Jeff [Proctor] and Pat [Dailey] once again, and hopefully, bring home a win.”

The Honda Off-Road Racing Team has had an outstanding 2019 season, including class wins for the Baja Ridgeline Race Truck at the Parker 425, the Mint 400 and the Baja 500; where the team successfully debuted the second-generation “TSCO” chassis; and a second-place Class 7 finish at the Vegas-to-Reno event.

Proctor won his class in the Baja 1000 in both 2015 and 2016 with the Ridgeline, finished second in class in 2017 and 2018; and won the companion SCORE Baja 500 race both in 2016, 2018 and again earlier this year. The Ridgeline competes in Class 7, for unlimited six-cylinder production-appearing trucks and SUVs.

“We are stoked to have Alexander back racing with us in Mexico for his sophomore attempt at this iconic off-road race,” Proctor said. “This year’s 52nd annual Baja 1000 course covers ALL of the toughest terrain and areas in Baja Norte….as always, it will be tough.

“Alex is one of the brightest motorsports minds I’ve worked with, and he is a great asset to our team.”

The Baja 1000 begins Friday and runs through the weekend along the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500