Kyle Busch wasn’t about to let two straight NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races slip away.
Leading 102 of 130 laps and pulling away in the final stage of Saturday’s Fr8Auctions 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Busch notched his first victory of the season, his sixth at the 1.54-mile track and the 60th of his career—extending his own series record.
Busch beat runner-up Austin Hill to the finish line by 4.133 seconds. Third was John Hunter Nemechek, who had held off Busch, his car owner, to win the last Truck Series outing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“I thought we had a great truck at the start of the race,” said Busch, who collected his 214th NASCAR national series win. “We just kept working on it all day. We were loose to start, and we got it a lot better there. That final stage, we just took off, and it was super-fast, super-good. Can’t say enough about everybody at Kyle Busch Motorsports.”
Busch led most of the first two stages, but at the end of each, he surrendered the top spot to Nemechek, who picked up a pair of Playoff points for the stage wins. But Busch beat Nemechek off pit road on Lap 63 during the Stage 2 break and held it the rest of the way, save for a cycle of green-flag stops that put Chase Purdy out front from Lap 102 through 105.
The race featured three cautions, one for a planned competition yellow after Lap 15 and two for the stage breaks. With the race going green for the final 63 circuits, Hill never had a chance to test his No. 16 Toyota against Busch’s No. 51.
"When we had that last restart, I was trying to save my tires a little bit," Hill said. "I didn’t want to kill them right off the bat. When it was go time, I started matching Kyle’s (Busch) lap times. We had a green flag pit stop, got out in second. The pit crew did an awesome job today, but yeah, I kind of gave that gap up and I could never close it. I was matching his lap times, but I need to be a little bit quicker.
"Our United Rentals Toyota Tundra was really fast today. We had to fight a little bit of adversity today with restarts and stuff that happened on the race track. We had to rebound, but all in all, a solid day. I wish we were racing here again because I love Atlanta Motor Speedway. It’s my home track. I can’t thank the fans enough for coming out and watching today. It was awesome to have you guys back. I just wish I could have got the job done. This is a fun place to run.”
The victory was the first for crew chief Mardy Lindley, who joined Kyle Busch Motorsports this year. The only improvement Busch could have wished for was a 1-2 finish for KBM instead of a 1-3.
“Anytime I’m in my truck, I want to be able to go out there and score the victory,” Busch said. “With good competition and good competitors, it’s not easy. With John Hunter coming on board, at Vegas he was super-fast and did everything right, no mistakes.
“We’ll go back and regroup and make sure that 4 truck (Nemechek) can stay in front of that 16 truck (Hill) the rest of this year.”
Johnny Sauter ran fourth, followed by GMS Racing teammates Sheldon Creed and Zane Smith. Ross Chastain, Matt Crafton, Brett Moffitt and Stewart Friesen completed the top 10. Friesen recovered from a penalty for an uncontrolled tire during a stop under caution on Lap 63.
Bill Lester finished 36th, seven laps down, in his first NASCAR national series start since 2007.