Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer put on a fantastic show for the fans at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., racing side-by-side for several of the 130 laps of Friday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) Atlanta 200, but veteran Ron Hornaday stole the show late in the race and ended up in Victory Lane for the 49th time in his career.
Bowyer and Busch were running first and second, respectively, until both had to make their final pit stops inside of 20 laps remaining in the race. Hornaday, who came down pit road for the final time on lap 75, used fuel-mile strategy to beat Bowyer to the finish line by 1.596 seconds. Busch, whose Dollar General Tundra was nearly four seconds behind Bowyer's truck before the last round of pit stops, finished 10 truck-lengths behind Bowyer in third place, earning his seventh 10-top finish in as many NCWTS races at Atlanta.
"It was a really good race and certainly we had a good truck. It was definitely a second-place truck. The guys here on this Dollar General Tundra did a good job - just wasn't the best," said Busch, who registered his NCWTS series leading ninth top-five finish this season. "Just want to say that Dollar General has their 'Race in to Win' sweepstakes going on and people can visit their local Dollar General and enter for their chance to win a trip to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion's Week in Vegas. I can't say enough about M&M's, Flexco, NOS Energy Drink and all our other great partners on this No. 18 Toyota Tundra."
Busch started the race from the sixth position, but by lap 11 had already maneuvered his way into the runner-up spot, where he settled in nearly four seconds behind Bowyer. Oil on the track brought out the first caution of the race on lap 20 and allowed teams to make their first round of pit stops.
The 26-year-old communicated to crew chief Eric Phillips that his Dollar General Tundra was too loose all the way around the track. When pit road opened, the over-the-wall crew put four fresh tires, with an air pressure adjustment, filled the Dollar General Tundra with fuel and returned their driver back to the track in the second spot.
Bowyer, who chose the outside line for the restart on lap 27, and Busch raced side-by-side through Turns 1 and 2, remained side-by-side down the backstretch and into turn 3. Bowyer finally cleared Busch off of Turn 4 and maintained the top spot as the pair crossed the start-finish line.
A two-truck accident on lap 37 brought out the second caution of the race. When pit road opened, Bowyer pulled his truck down on the apron and appeared to be coming in for service. At the last minute, Bowyer made a hard right turn back onto the track. In the process, his No. 2 truck failed to maintain minimum speed and Busch assumed the lead under caution on lap 38.
The Las Vegas native chose the outside line for the restart on lap 43 and once again the two competitors raced side-by-side all the way around the track to the start-finish line. The Dollar General Tundra nosed ahead of Bowyer at the stripe and then maintained the top spot until Bowyer reassumed the lead on lap 53.
On lap 59, Johnny Sauter brought out the third caution of the night when he made contact with the wall. When pit road opened, Busch brought his Dollar General Tundra to the Kyle Busch Motorsports over-the-wall crew for four fresh tires, with an air pressure adjustment, and a full tank of fuel. Once again, just as they ran on the track for most of the race, Bowyer and Busch left pit road first and second, respectively.
Bowyer opened a four-second lead on Busch as the race continued caution free towards the closing laps. The two seemed destined for a one-two finish - right where they had run for the majority of the race. Knowing the Dollar General Tundra didn't have enough fuel to make it to the end of the race, Phillips ordered his driver down pit road on lap 111 for four fresh tires and fuel. One lap later, Bowyer surrendered the lead to make his final stop.
A lightning-quick stop by the KBM over-the-wall crew helped, and improved lap times by Busch allowed the talented driver to knock two-seconds off the gap between he and Bowyer as the race wound down, but after pit stops had cycled through, the duo found themselves chasing Hornaday to the finish.
Blake Feese finished fourth and Ryan Newman fifth. Austin Dillon, Matt Crafton, Ricky Carmichael, Todd Bodine and James Buescher completed the top 10.
There were five caution periods for 24 laps, with seven drivers failing to finish the 130-lap race.
KBM's No. 18 Tundra remains in second place in the NCWTS owners' point standings, 36 points behind KHI's No. 2 truck, with eight races remaining.
Kyle Busch Motorsports PR