Saturday was a good day for Kyle Busch Motorsports, both at the Nationwide Series race in Dover and at the Camping World Truck Series race in Las Vegas. While Busch dominating in his Nationwide car to complete the sweep for this season at Dover came as no great surprise to anyone, the performance of his racing team in the trucks made everyone watching stand up and take notice.
Fourth in the points standings coming into Saturday’s race, Darrell Wallace Jr. should not be a surprise for too many people either, but for some reason he has yet to see the recognition yet that his talents deserve. It may be that the shadow of his prolific team owner has made this difficult. Posting some of the fastest lap times consistently all season, however, makes it a near certainty that he will not remain in the shadows for long. The No. 54 truck gave a dominant performance on the day, posting the fastest time in final practice and finishing second in qualifying before leading the pack for 84 of the 146 laps. He held off challenges from last year’s champion, Timothy Peters and points leader Matt Crafton repeatedly, giving the impression that he would take the checkered flag without a problem. His great day was interrupted, however, on lap 133 when his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate, Erik Jones in the No. 51 truck passed him and held onto the front spot until the end. Disappointing despite the great second-place finish given the way he drove all night.
Jones, with that finish, posted his second win this season driving for Busch. It was the third of his career. In his post-race interview, he said that he had not thought he could catch Wallace Jr. at first, but when presented with the opportunity, decided to go for it. The No. 54 truck had been posting slower times than the trucks behind him for several laps, and was beginning to lose ground gradually. It was Jones, however, who was ultimately able to take advantage and make the pass. Once in clean air, he held on to close it out. In the interview, he spoke about the strides that the team had made with their 1.5 mile setup, but admitted that the next race would be unfamiliar ground for him. He said that he had never raced on the Superspeedway tracks, and that he would need to get advice from Busch on how to handle the new experience. That said, the man has demonstrated with every opportunity given to him a talent and consistency which makes the proposition of learning how to run the draft-style race effectively not too much of a stretch.
With just five races to go in the season, the team appears to be hitting its stride. Though the tone of their voices in the post-race interviews made it clear that Talladega was not a track they looked forward to facing the next time out, after the great finishes for both Kyle Busch Motorsports trucks on the day, they still had enough optimism to spare. Wallace Jr. in particular, might find conditions right to close the gap for the points lead in the unpredictability of the Alabama track.
Commentary By Jim Malone
Photo Courtesy of NASCARMedia