Kyle Busch (5) drives past Justin Labonte in yesterday's Cabela's 250 at Michigan International Speedway. Busch is only 97 points behind Busch Series points leader Martin Truex Jr.
CARLOS OSORIO / AP Enlarge
BROOKLYN, Mich. - Kyle Busch had to beat the big boys, and everybody else - over and over.
He had the strongest car in the field in yesterday's Cabela's 250 at Michigan International Speedway, but a succession of caution periods kept bringing Busch back to the pack and wiping out his significant leads. And the rookie in the Busch Series kept pulling away again.
Busch finished almost four seconds ahead of Nextel Cup veteran Mark Martin, one of 14 Cup regulars who were in the Busch Series field. Martin, who started last in the 43-car field but moved up to provide the main challenge to Busch, was convinced he would not catch Busch.
"Kyle Busch was just in another league today," Martin said. "I'm pretty proud that we put a whipping on the guys behind us, because there were some really good cars and drivers out there."
19-year-old Kyle Busch had the lead in 90 of the 125 laps including the final 31.
BOB BRODBECK / AP Enlarge
Martin, running in the Busch Series for the first time since 2000, is the all-time leader in Busch wins with 45. Driving the Pennzoil Batman Ford as part of a special group of cars with Justice League paint schemes in the ace, Martin had moved up to 22nd after just 10 laps, and was fifth after only 30 laps.
With 25 laps to go he was second, but still more than five seconds behind Busch. A final caution came out with 12 laps left, giving Martin one final shot at running down Busch.
"He put it on us really bad," Martin said, "but I'm still kind of pleased we could run as strong as we did. The car was great - it ran like the Batmobile today. The only thing keeping my car from being spectacular was Kyle's car.
"It kind of put ours in its place. We were getting beat through the corners and it carried all the way down the straightaway."
The 19-year-old Busch started second, behind pole-sitter and points race leader Martin Truex Jr. who finished third. Busch got the lead on lap 27, and lost it only momentarily on lap 92 coming out of a caution period. Busch reclaimed the lead two laps later and ran away from the field again.
"It takes great horsepower to run here at Michigan, and thanks to Hendrick Motorsports, we had great HP," Busch said. "There were some great drivers out there today - a lot of Cup guys - but we had a terrific car. I just peeked into my mirrors on the restarts to see if Mark was getting bigger or smaller. He was getting smaller and I thought that was good.''
Truex maintained his lead over Busch in the points race, but it dropped from 117 points to 97.
"We were real fast at the start," Truex said, "but for some reason we got real, real loose after the first pit stop. But Kyle's car was so strong, nobody was going to catch him."
Busch led for a total of 90 of the 125 laps, including the final 31. Nextel Cup drivers Casey Mears, Kasey Kahne and Rusty Wallace took the next three spots after Truex, but Matt Kenseth got tangled up early and completed just five laps.
Tim Fedewa finished 23rd, while Elmwood High graduate Gus Wasson was 26th.
MIS 2005 SLATE: The racing schedule at Michigan International Speedway next year will include a Craftsman Truck Series race in June and a pair of ARCA RE/MAX Series races in June and August. The ARCA events will be part of two triple-header weekends at MIS, highlighted by Sunday stops on the Nextel Cup Series. A Busch Series race will be packaged with the August Cup and ARCA events. But the racing season at MIS starts early in 2005 with the return of the World Snowmobile Association Snocross Worldwide Championship Jan. 22 and 23.
This year's event will be held more than a month earlier than last year so it can be the event leading into the X-Games, the WSA's premier event. Last year's MIS event took place in late February. The summer race season starts with the Friday, June 17 ARCA RE/MAX Series race. The first-ever June NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race will take place on June 18, and the MIS opener for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series will take place on Sunday, June 19.
The Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series will run July 31. The IRL and the Menards Infiniti Pro Series will both race on July 31, with practice and qualifying for both series to take place on July 30. The MIS 2005 summer race season will end with three races in three days. The ARCA RE/MAX Series will run on Friday, Aug. 19, with the Busch Series the next day, and the Nextel Cup Series closing out the season on Sunday, Aug. 21.
NEWMAN GOES FOR 3-PEAT: By winning June's DHL 400, Ryan Newman has taken the last two NASCAR Nextel Cup Series races at MIS. He'll be looking to sweep the season at MIS in the GFS Marketplace 400, and if successful would become the first driver to win three-in-a-row at MIS since Bill Elliott won four-in-a-row at MIS in 1985 and 1986. There have been seven drivers who pulled off season sweeps at MIS. The first was Bobby Allison in 1971. Other sweeps include David Pearson in 1972 and 1976, Cale Yarborough in 1983, Bill Elliott in 1985 and 1986 and Bobby Labonte most recently in 1995.
- Matt Markey