Kyle Busch has a Hall of Fame-worthy stat sheet, both in NASCAR’s top divisions and in the short track ranks. He’s done just about everything there is to do in stock car racing. He’s the guy to beat just about every time he’s in a racecar, especially in a template-bodied Super Late Model.
But for the second-straight time that he strapped into his No. 51 Super Late Model to battle with the ARCA/CRA Super Series, Busch’s talents were tested lap after lap before he could go to victory lane.
Last month, Busch hounded teenager John Hunter Nemechek before taking the lead off turn four on the final lap at Indiana’s Lucas Oil Raceway. Wednesday it was three-time series champion Johnny VanDoorn who gave Busch everything he could handle up front.
VanDoorn drove to Busch’s left-side door numerous times in the final 40 laps of the ARCA/CRA portion of the Kalamazoo Klash event at Michigan’s Kalamazoo Speedway, but in the end Busch was too strong on the top side. Busch held off VanDoorn to the checkered flag to score his 10th career CRA victory in his first visit to Kalamazoo.
“I don’t think we (touched),” said Busch in victory lane of his battle with VanDoorn. “That’s a true testament to the racer Johnny is. I had a blast here tonight. It’s cool to come here to a new racetrack and succeed in front of all these fans.”
Busch set fast time for the 100-lap event, but an inversion put him ninth at the drop of the green flag. Michigan racer Jay Niewiek and Chris Koslek showed the way early on, but VanDoorn flexed his muscle and took the lead from Koslek on the high side on lap 20.
VanDoorn led through the halfway point of the race, but Busch was lurking behind. Busch got the lead cleanly a handful of laps after halfway. From there, Busch stayed committed to the high lane around the 3/8-mile track, leaving VanDoorn bogged down on the inside groove.
“I was searching, trying to find something besides the top and keep letting Johnny get to my inside, but there was nothing left to go for it,” said Busch. “I couldn’t really find anything that was any faster so I could pull away. Those guys have got good stuff, fast racecars and it was fun to race him.”
VanDoorn was left noticeably disappointed with finishing second to Busch.
“He raced me clean and I could’ve put the bumper to him, but I didn’t have the chance,” said VanDoorn. “So close, but so far away.”
Travis Braden started deep in the field, 13th, and picked up 10 spots through the 100-lapper to earn a spot on the podium in third. Chad Finley was fourth, with Ross Kenseth fifth.
The victory started off a shot at a Kalamazoo Klash sweep for Kyle Busch, who competed in the prestigious Outlaw Super Late Model event at Kalamazoo Speedway later in the evening. Busch’s No. 51 Outlaw, owned by Bobby Blount and prepared by past Klash winner Terry Senneker, Jr., broke early on in the Klash and he finished 23rd.
Busch admitted to Speed51.com that Wednesday’s race was his final Super Late Model race of the 2014 season as he begins what could be a run at his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Busch ended his Super Late Model schedule with three straight victories, sandwiching a PASS North race win in Canada in between his ARCA/CRA triumphs at Lucas Oil and Kalamazoo.
The next event for the ARCA/CRA Super Series is this Saturday, August 16 at Flat Rock Speedway in Michigan.
By Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director. Twitter: @MattKentfield. Photo credit: Tom De Vette