LEBANON, Tenn. – Kyle Busch may have won his 100th NASCAR Xfinity Series race during Saturday’s Tennessee Lottery 250 at Nashville Superspeedway, but Justin Allgaier made him work for it.
Busch and Allgaier staged a fierce war for supremacy during a sequence of late restarts at the 1.33-mile concrete oval, after five cautions inside the final 50 laps shook up the proceedings.
Allgaier actually took control of the race away from Busch at one point with a brilliant maneuver after a lap-149 restart, clearing Busch with 37 laps left after two laps of side-by-side racing between the pair.
But Busch retook command on a lap-160 green flag, just before a five-car crash exiting turn four sparked when the field checked up due to contact between Busch and Allgaier as they dueled for the lead.
After that, with the outside groove becoming dominant as tire wear got more and more prevalent, there was little Allgaier could do to stop Busch from scooting off into the distance.
On the final restart – a two-lap, overtime dash to the finish – Busch surged clear of Allgaier on the outside and drove away to his milestone triumph by 1.11 seconds at the checkered flag.
“Wanted to give a huge shoutout to Rowdy Nation out there, we appreciate Rowdy Nation,” Busch added, pointing to the grandstands. “I saw a lot of people standing up when Allgaier took the lead … then a lot of them sat back down when I took the lead.
“That’s an awesome day for Rowdy Nation.”
For the Las Vegas, Nev., native, his 100th victory came 17 years, one month and five days after his first Xfinity Series score on May 14, 2004 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway with Hendrick Motorsports.
It was a reminder of the stellar acumen that Busch has maintained in the Xfinity Series for nearly two decades.
“I remember growing up as a kid and watching Mark Martin win every week in that (Roush Fenway Racing No.) 60 car, and when you looked at the domination that he had, he’s second (on the all-time list) with 49 wins,” Busch noted. “It’s just been phenomenal to have years of being able to associate with Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota, M&M’s … it’s so cool to have them onboard for my 100th win here in the Xfinity Series. They’ve been my longest investor in this sport.
“It has just been phenomenal the years that we’ve had in this series. There’s a lot of pride in that.”
After Brandon Brown cut a tire, spewing debris that forced the first of the late yellows at lap 141, the leaders were on even tire strategy and Busch and Allgaier were aligned side by side on the front row.
What appeared to be the turning point of the race was at lap 151, when Allgaier’s Chevrolet powered past Busch’s Toyota with better forward drive on the bottom lane of the Nashville oval.
Busch began fading, but a caution four laps later for a turn-four crash involving Joe Graf Jr. and local favorite Jade Buford brought Busch back into contention and forced Allgaier to make a difficult decision.
Allgaier elected the bottom lane for the next restart, but Busch sucked him back with a well-timed side draft from the high side, pinching Allgaier down as the duo headed into turn three on lap 160.
At that point, the pair made contact in turn four, slowing their momentum as the third- and fourth-placed cars of Daniel Hemric and Michael Annett came barreling up on the scene.
Hemric and Annett made contact that sent Annett sliding sideways down the track, where the No. 1 Chevrolet hooked the Ford of Austin Cindric head on into the outside wall at the flagstand.
Cindric, the series point leader and defending champion, was unhurt. He finished 32nd, out of the race.
Though Brandon Jones swept past both Busch and Allgaier coming to the caution flag, Busch was scored as the leader, giving control of the race back to him for the pair of restarts that were still to come.
Incidents with 14 laps left, for a spinning Ryan Sieg in turn three, and with seven to go, after Landon Cassill crashed in turn two due to contact with Sieg, gave Allgaier brief hope of making one last move.
That hope never materialized, however, particularly after Harrison Burton challenged for second on the final restart and nearly stole the position away in a photo finish at the checkered flag.
“Finishing second sucks, I won’t lie,” lamented Allgaier. “When we took the lead from Kyle I thought we were good, we were able to drive away. But then all those restarts at the end, he just held me down really hard in the middle of [turns] three and four and we got loose and I think that was the difference-maker, after that we just didn’t have the speed after that.
“Again, just proud of my guys – to bring two fast race cars two weeks in a row to have a shot at it and have it come down to late in the races is a big deal. We’ll keep digging.”
Burton ran third by .016 seconds, with Josh Berry rallying from an ill-timed caution flag that forced him to take a wave-around to get back on the lead lap for a fourth-place finish.
A.J. Allmendinger filled out the top five, followed by Brandon Jones, Jeb Burton, Noah Gragson, Austin Hill and Riley Herbst.
Cindric won the first 45-lap stage, leading every lap, while Busch topped stage two and went on to win.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to action on June 27 at Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway.