By Holly Cain
NASCAR Wire Service
Kyle Busch essentially went to school Saturday afternoon in the NASCAR Xfinity Series to learn the Circuit of the Americas road course in preparation for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race there. The result, however, was that Busch absolutely schooled the field – earning an 11-second victory in the Pit Boss 250, NASCAR’s Xfinity Series debut on the famed Austin circuit.
It marked the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion’s record 98th win in the Xfinity Series. His No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota led a race-best 36-of-46 laps. No other driver led more than three laps at the 3.41-mile 20-turn circuit.
“It’s really really cool to come here for the first race at a new track and to win,’’ Busch said. “Real proud of the effort.
“I think the biggest thing is just all the resources and stuff we have and being able to get laps on the track today, feel the tire, everything like that and then being able to get back out there tomorrow and do everything all over again tomorrow with the Cup car.,’’ the Las Vegas native added. “Thanks to Toyota and TRD, we’ve got some really cool tools we’ve been able to use and I feel like it was a plus for us today.’’
NASCAR Xfinity Series championship contender A.J. Allmendinger – one of NASCAR’s best on road courses – finished second to Busch. Justin Allgaier placed third. Another NASCAR Cup Series champion, Kevin Harvick was fourth, also getting some laps in preparation for Sunday’s race. NASCAR Xfinity Series championship leader Austin Cindric was fifth.
Harrison Burton, Cup regulars Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick and Allmendinger’s Kaulig Racing teammates Justin Haley and Jeb Burton rounded out the Top 10.
Allmendinger and Haley won Stage 1 and Stage 2, respectively. Championship contenders, they opted to stay on track and earn the points rather than join in Busch’s strategy of pitting just prior to the stage breaks. What he conceded in points, he made up for winning the inaugural trophy.
The only laps Busch, 36, didn’t lead were when he pitted or when he made a brief rally after stage breaks. Following the first stage break, for example, he restarted fourth and was leading the field two laps later.
“It’s shocking, Kyle Busch is actually pretty good,’’ Allmendinger said smiling. “It’s always fun to race Kyle. Did everything we could, got a stage win, got a lot of points and finished second. That was as good as we were going to do.’’
The victory marked the 17th season Busch has won an Xfinity Series race and the 27th different NASCAR track where he has hoisted a trophy.
While the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, held hours earlier, had some light rain and was run on rain tires, the weather had cleared nicely by the drop of the Xfinity Series green flag. The vast majority of the field opted to pit for slicks (dry tires) during the parade laps and by the race’s midpoint, it was a sunny afternoon.
Busch will have a chance to earn another COTA victory when he competes in the inaugural EchoPark Texas Grand Prix (2:30 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) tomorrow at the Austin course.
The Xfinity Series next races, Saturday May 29 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Alsco Uniforms 300 (1 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).