It took Kyle Busch 31 starts across NASCAR's top three divisions to collect one of the sport's most coveted trophies, but the talented wheelman finally checked out of Martinsville (Va.) Speedway with a grandfather clock. Busch led four times for a race-high 123 laps, including the final 93 circuits, holding on to the top spot across several restarts in the closing laps to pick up the overtime victory in Saturday's Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at the challenging .526-mile oval.
After pitting on lap 135, Busch and crew chief Wes Ward had planned on pitting for their final set of fresh tires if a caution fell around the lap-200 mark, but as the race played the duo elected to keep track position and were able to make the same set of Goodyear tires last the final 120 laps.
"Wes (Ward, crew chief) and I we both leaned on each other and we both had no idea, so we just dumbed into this I think, but it all worked out, so this Toyota Tundra was awesome," Busch said. "All the guys at KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports), KBM chassis, NOS, TRD (Toyota Racing Development), Joe Gibbs Racing Engines - appreciate them - Camping World of course, the fans - it's neat to win here at Martinsville. I love when they do it up here on the front stretch for everyone to be up close and personal.
We had some pretty good turn through the center of the corner, but we had really good launch up off the corner and we fought that a little bit actually earlier in the race. That's why those were better than us early on, but the couple adjustments that Wes (Ward, crew chief) made on pit road were really good for us. This Tundra was awesome, so again I just can't say enough about everyone KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports). This is a fourth effort. It's hard for us to get this thing to come out here. It's obviously a great opportunity for me and for the team to continue to showcase we've got great stuff and that it's a matter of time before William (Byron) and Christopher (Bell) will be in victory lane too, so good run for the Liberty University Tundra. The JBL truck I saw had trouble. ARRIS truck I think had trouble and looking forward to seeing the JEGS truck back on the track next race."
Busch started from the second position, but was able to lead the first two laps before getting knocked out of the groove by pole sitter Ben Rhodes heading into Turn 1 on lap 3. Busch fell back in line in the third spot, but was able to advance to the runner-up spot before the first caution of the race occurred on lap 43. After communicating to Ward that "the back end is very edgy," he came to pit road for four fresh tires, a trackbar adjustment and a full load of fuel. Thanks to quick work by the over-the-wall crew, he returned to the track with the lead.
The Las Vegas native would remain in the top spot for 10 laps after the lap-50 restart, before getting passed by Kyle Larson. Busch acknowledged that the adjustments helped provide security in the front end of his No. 18 Toyota Tundra, but on the next stop he was going to need help with making the front end turn better at the center of the corner to carry more rolling speed.
KBM's owner-driver was scored in the fifth spot when a two-truck accident slowed the field for the third time on lap 134. When pit road opened, he brought his Tundra to the attention of the over-the-wall crew, who administered a four-tire and fuel stop with an air pressure adjustment to improve the handling of the truck.
With teams on varying pit strategies, Busch took the lap-140 restart from the 15th position, but
"Rowdy" quickly made his move back to the front of the field. He returned to the top 10 four laps later and cracked the top five in just 10 laps. He advanced to the third position on lap 157, into the runner-up spot one lap later and worked his way back around Larson for the lead on lap 163 just before the fourth caution of the day occurred.
Busch and Ward were planning on stopping for tires one more time before the end of the race, but a caution spree over the final 100 laps changed their strategy. A two-truck accident on lap 200 appeared to fall just as planned, but with 21 trucks on the lead lap the duo decided that track position was more important than a fresh set of tires.
Four more cautions would fly before the checkered flag waved, with the No. 18 Tundra holding serve on each ensuing restart. Busch would not be denied his first Martinsville victory. With the elusive win, he has now won at least once at every active track he has made a start at across NASCAR's top three divisions.
It was Busch's first Truck Series victory of 2016, the 45th of his career and his 157th career victory across NASCAR's top three divisions. John Hunter Nemechek finished 0.425 seconds behind Busch in the runner-up position. Busch's KBM teammate William Byron came home third, picking up his first career top-five finish in the Truck Series. Kyle Larson and Timothy Peters rounded out the top-five finishers.
KBM drivers Daniel Suarez and Christopher Bell finished 18th and 19th, respectively.
The second race of the 2016 season featured 11 cautions for a total of 68 laps. There were eight lead changes among four drivers, including Busch who led four times for a race-high 123 laps.
Busch will return to the No. 18 Toyota Tundra May 20 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Live coverage of the N.C. Education Lottery 200 beings with the NCWTS Setup Show at 8 p.m. ET.