INDIANAPOLIS—With a relentless charge that forced Ryan Blaney into a mistake on the final lap, Kyle Busch grabbed the lead with a half-lap left at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and took the checkered flag in Saturday’s Lilly Diabetes 250 NASCAR XFINITY Series race.
Blaney missed his mark in Turn 2 as Busch closed in, and with his momentum broken, the driver of the No. 22 Ford couldn’t stave off Busch’s winning pass on the backstretch. The No. 54 pulled away to win by .421 seconds, as Busch continued his white-hot run with his second XFINITY victory of the season, his second at The Brickyard and the record 72nd of his career.
Since returning to competition in May after an injury absence, Busch has won three times in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and twice on the XFINITY circuit.
Blaney led by more than .6 seconds when he crossed the stripe to complete Lap 97 of 100. But the lapped car of Derrike Cope slowed his progress on the following circuit, and Busch cut the advantage in half.
Busch had closed the gap to .279 seconds when he took the white flag, and constant pressure from the No. 54 Toyota finally forced Blaney into a mistake.
“I just got close enough to make him mess up and made him get tight off (Turn) 2, and then I was able to capitalize underneath him with him losing his momentum off of 2 and being able to get under him,” Busch said. “It was the class of the field. We should have won this thing going away, but I guess we had to make it exciting.
With the XFINITY Series running a higher-drag package this weekend, Busch tried in vain—until the final circuit-to get around Blaney in the closing laps.
“I was trying to back up so I could get some clean air and keep my tires as fresh as possible, but I got too far back and got out of the draft and then I couldn’t make up any ground anymore, so I was kind of stuck back there about eight or 10 car lengths and not really going anywhere,” he explained.
“Fortunately, a couple of lapped cars messed up his momentum and didn’t mess up mine as much, and I was able to get through there. Once I got back close enough to him, I pushed him into a mistake and that was all that it took.”
A despondent Blaney took the blame for the loss.
“It’s my fault, obviously,” Blaney said. “You saw it. I screwed up. This team doesn’t deserve that. I dropped the ball for them today, and I take full responsibility. It’s all my fault… I got tight and I got too deep and didn’t get off the long corner.
“It’s a pretty bad feeling to throw one away here at the Brickyard. There was no pressure for 24 laps, and the last one I just made a mistake.”
Blaney had taken the lead from Busch on a restart on Lap 76, after Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Erik Jones, hit the wall on lap 70, and NASCAR called a caution because of fluid on the track.
Rookie Daniel Suarez ran third in his first visit to The Brickyard, collecting his third straight top-five of the season. Paul Menard finished fourth, followed by Elliott Sadler, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson.
Regan Smith came home eighth and claimed his second straight $100,000 bonus in the XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash program, keeping his hopes alive for a $1-million payday. If Smith is the highest-finishing eligible driver at Bristol (Aug. 21) and Darlington (Sept. 5), he’ll earn a total of $1 million.
Blaney, Suarez, Sadler and Smith are the eligible Dash 4 Cash drivers at Bristol, having secured their spots as the top four finishing series regulars at Indianapolis.
NASCAR XFINITY Series Race – Lilly Diabetes 250
(1) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 100, $77539.
(11) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 100, $61023.
(2) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 100, $52131.
(5) Paul Menard(i), Chevrolet, 100, $39052.
(6) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 100, $42331.
(16) Kevin Harvick(i), Chevrolet, 100, $31957.
(10) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, 100, $30321.
(14) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 100, $35440.
(9) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 100, $34935.
(13) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 100, $35626.
(7) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, 100, $33247.
(20) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 100, $32996.
(4) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 100, $32718.
(8) Aric Almirola(i), Ford, 100, $26365.
(26) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 100, $32564.
(12) Chris Buescher, Ford, 100, $32212.
(15) Alex Bowman(i), Chevrolet, 100, $25836.
(17) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 100, $31685.
(18) Dakoda Armstrong, Ford, 99, $31484.
(22) Ryan Reed, Ford, 99, $31857.
(25) Cale Conley #, Toyota, 98, $31207.
(30) Ross Chastain #, Chevrolet, 98, $31075.
(23) Darrell Wallace Jr. #, Ford, 98, $30924.
(36) Martin Roy, Chevrolet, 97, $30798.
(29) Harrison Rhodes #, Chevrolet, 97, $30898.
(37) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 97, $30673.
(24) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 97, $24521.
(31) Stanton Barrett, Ford, 97, $30445.
(32) Eric McClure, Toyota, 96, $30344.
(38) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 95, $30569.
(19) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 92, $30168.
(28) BJ McLeod(i), Dodge, 90, $30042.
(40) Mike Harmon, Dodge, 87, $29982.
(3) Erik Jones(i), Toyota, 80, $29946.
(34) Peyton Sellers #, Chevrolet, Oil Leak, 77, $29875.
(27) David Starr, Toyota, Accident, 22, $27598.
(21) Blake Koch, Toyota, Accident, 22, $26598.
(33) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Handling, 18, $19598.
(39) Josh Reaume #, Dodge, Electrical, 8, $18598.
(35) Jeff Green, Toyota, Vibration, 2, $17598.
Reid Spencer – NASCAR Wire Service
Image: Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images