BROOKLYN, Mich. – In his first NASCAR XFINITY Series race back from a broken right leg and left foot, Kyle Busch proved conclusively that he hasn’t lost a step.
Taking advantage of contact between the Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick and the Ford of polesitter Joey Logano—as those two drivers were battling for the lead—Busch passed Chase Elliott for the lead on lap 122 of 125 and held on to win Saturday’s Great Clips 250 at Michigan International Speedway.
Busch’s series-best 71st victory, his second at the two-mile track, came nearly two months after the driver of the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was sidelined by a brutal Feb. 21 crash into a concrete wall in Turn 1 at Daytona International Speedway.
Busch returned to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series action in the Sprint All-Star Race in May, but deferred his XFINITY Series comeback to Saturday’s race at Michigan.
“It feels good,” Busch said after climbing from his car in Victory Lane. “This is only a preliminary for what we’ve got to do on Sundays (in the Sprint Cup Series), but it’s a start. You’ve got to start somewhere, right?
“I can’t say enough about this team. (Crew chief) Chris Gayle did an awesome job today with this race car. We messed up a little bit today on a pit call, but we made up for it. Hard racing today, man. It was crazy, the side-by-side action we got here. The track’s kind of widening out, lending itself to some cool action.”
After a restart on Lap 116, the race unraveled for Logano and Harvick. As the two drivers fought for the lead in Turn 3, with Logano to the outside, Harvick’s Chevrolet got loose and washed up the track into Logano’s Ford.
The right rear of Logano’s Ford brushed the outside wall, but both drivers were able to continue, albeit after losing several positions. Harvick finished sixth, and Logano, who led a race-high 54 laps came home seventh.
Harvick took responsibility for the incident.
“I just got loose underneath him,” Harvick explained. “I had a huge run down the back straightaway. That late in the race, I figured I need to try to win the race, and I got in there, and he was on the outside of me, but it was too late to not have contact at that point.
“So totally my fault. I just got loose under him going for the win.”
Harvick’s mea culpa was little consolation for Logano, who had the race’s dominant car for most of the day.
“We were racing for a win here, and it just seems like he drove in there pretty hard trying to slide me,” Logano said. “I drove up in there, too, and he got loose underneath me and got into my left rear and up we both went into the race track.
“It’s unfortunate. I had a fast Discount Tire Ford, obviously the winning car, leading a ton of laps and up there at the end of the race. I was racing hard, and he just drove over his head a little bit.”
Despite his runner-up finish, Elliott left Michigan disappointed he couldn’t find a way to keep Busch behind him in the closing laps.
“I’ll be honest—second does not feel good, to me at least,” Elliott said. “I thought we had a car good enough to compete today… We finally got ourselves in position there. We had two even-numbered restarts where we were six and fourth (in the preferred outside lane) that put us in position there to have an opportunity on that last restart.
“Obviously, the 22 (Logano) would have been really hard to beat, and Kevin got into him by accident and moved him up the race track. Obviously, that opened up our opportunity to have a shot at the win… (Kyle) is really good at what he does, and I don’t really have an excuse for it. So, yeah, he outran me.”
Kyle Larson finished third, followed by Chris Buescher, who extended his series lead to 25 points over Ty Dillon, who came home 13th. Elliott is third in the standings, 35 points back.
NASCAR XFINITY Series Race – Great Clips 250 benefiting Paralyzed Veterans of America
- (11) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 125, $52773.
- (12) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 125, $41458.
- (4) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, 125, $26229.
- (20) Chris Buescher, Ford, 125, $31031.
- (16) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 125, $27396.
- (7) Kevin Harvick(i), Chevrolet, 125, $19450.
- (1) Joey Logano(i), Ford, 125, $28607.
- (14) Aric Almirola(i), Ford, 125, $19040.
- (2) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, 125, $25518.
- (13) Denny Hamlin(i), Toyota, 125, $19490.
- (8) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 125, $24362.
- (6) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 125, $24185.
- (9) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 125, $23932.
- (15) Alex Bowman(i), Chevrolet, 125, $17805.
- (3) Darrell Wallace Jr. #, Ford, 125, $25779.
- (18) Dakoda Armstrong, Ford, 125, $23552.
- (17) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 125, $23501.
- (5) Paul Menard(i), Chevrolet, 125, $17701.
- (19) Ryan Reed, Ford, 124, $23400.
- (10) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 124, $23850.
- (23) Ross Chastain #, Chevrolet, 124, $23273.
- (22) Harrison Rhodes #, Chevrolet, 124, $23218.
- (32) Eric McClure, Toyota, 124, $23168.
- (33) Peyton Sellers #, Chevrolet, 123, $23091.
- (24) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 122, $23191.
- (29) Cale Conley #, Toyota, 122, $22965.
- (35) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 122, $22914.
- (34) Martin Roy, Chevrolet, 122, $22838.
- (36) Josh Reaume #, Chevrolet, 121, $22787.
- (37) Jimmy Weller, Chevrolet, 120, $23037.
- (27) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, Accident, 111, $22682.
- (40) Mike Harmon, Dodge, 107, $22621.
- (21) David Starr, Toyota, Accident, 105, $22580.
- (26) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, Accident, 105, $22559.
- (28) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 79, $22530.
- (25) Blake Koch, Toyota, Electrical, 74, $20909.
- (38) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, Transmission, 32, $19909.
- (39) Carl Long, Dodge, Vibration, 31, $12909.
- (31) Jeff Green, Toyota, Vibration, 2, $11909.
- (30) CJ Faison, Toyota, Electrical, 0, $10909.
Reid Spencer – NASCAR Wire Service
Image: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images