Busch overcame a costly penalty to snap a seven-race drought on the truck series by winning Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch dominated the race early, but had to overcome a penalty for leaving the pit stall with a gas can still in his truck, a mistake that forced him to the back of the pack on lap 84 of 134. However, he battled back from 19th place in the No. 51 Toyota for his first truck victory since Sept. 24, 2011, at Loudon, N.H.
“We sure do like to make it interesting, don’t we?” Busch said, laughing while celebrating his 113th win in NASCAR’s top three series.
Busch said the penalty was frustrating but the team stayed focused and didn’t panic despite their recent string of bad luck.
“We had to work our way back and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it all the way back,” Busch said.
The 28-year-old Busch took the lead for good on lap 123 after a four-car wreck brought out the race’s eighth and final caution flag and held on for his 31st career truck series win and fifth in the series at Charlotte. He has won more truck series races at Charlotte than at any other race track.
Busch said he’s gone through six engines between the last two races at Kansas and Charlotte.
“We have been having some engine issues and these guys have been working too much overtime trying to change these motors out left and right,” Busch said.
The win was the first for Busch’s crew chief Rudy Fugle.
“We didn’t have the truck we were hoping for yesterday during the test session but we played with some things and Rudy made some good calls overnight and this morning it was an entirely different piece,” Busch said. “Great job to these guys for giving me a great truck.”
Brendan Gaughan finished second, and Max Gresham was third. Series points leader Matt Crafton was fourth, followed by Ty Dillon, James Buescher, Miguel Paludo, John Wes Townley, Ross Chastain and 2012 winner Justin Lofton.
It was the first top-10 finish for Gresham who called the finish “a win for our team.”
Jeb Burton started on the pole for the third time in five truck events but failed to win that elusive first race of the season. He finished 13th. Burton is alone in second place in the points standings, 22 points behind Crafton.
Three-wide racing off the restarts led to several wrecks.
Brad Keselowski lost his chance for his first truck series victory when he collided with Darrell Wallace Jr. with 14 laps remaining. He finished 14th.
Johnny Sauter’s tough luck continued after Buescher ran into the back of his No. 98 Toyota on lap 115 and forced him into the wall in turn four.
Sauter had been leading the standings before being docked 25 points on April 24 when NASCAR announced it found a modified fuel cell found during inspection following the Kansas race. That dropped him into a tie for second place in the standings despite having two victories and four top-five finishes in four races.
In addition, NASCAR suspended Sauter’s crew chief Joe Shear for four races.
Sauter finished 28th.
There were five cautions in the first 100 laps, including a two-car wreck on lap 94 when Ron Hornaday Jr. had a tire go down and began sliding up the track. Jake Crum couldn’t avoid Hornaday and slammed hard into his rear bumper taking both drivers out of the race.
Jennifer Jo Cobb, who had her team trailer taken from her race shop earlier this week, had more troubles on Friday before the race.
She was unable to get her truck started prior to qualifying and didn’t race.
Mike Harmon, the man arrested and charged with felony larceny for stealing her trailer, finished 24th. Harmon, who normally drives on the Nationwide Series, has repeatedly said he was not involved in the theft and maintains his innocence.
Cobb has said she feared racing against Harmon because he might seek retribution on the track.