NASCAR Barometer: Busch Wins His 200th Race

NASCAR Barometer: Busch Wins His 200th Race

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Kyle Busch finished as the runner-up in Saturday's NASCAR Xfinity series race, which delayed his march toward 200 NASCAR wins by a single day. On Sunday, it appeared Busch was shot out of a cannon as he showed that he had the fastest car in the field early. Every time he found himself out of the lead he forced his way back to the front in what seemed to be just a handful of laps. Even a late speeding penalty on pit road couldn't stop his charge to victory, and a commending pass on the top two Penske Racing teammates left nothing else between him and that impressive 200th victory. In doing so, he became the first repeat winner in 2019 and still has yet to finish outside of the top 10 this season.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series heads back east this week to go short-track racing at Martinsville Speedway. Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano won there last season. Drivers like Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney will be getting desperate to add their names to the 2019 list of winners and that could prove the spark needed for explosive short-track excitement this coming weekend.

UPGRADE

Kyle Busch– Busch was the fastest in the first segment of Sunday's race and took command of the one-lap shootout to claim the first stage win of the day. That was just an omen for what was yet to come. He did much of the same to claim the second stage but

Kyle Busch finished as the runner-up in Saturday's NASCAR Xfinity series race, which delayed his march toward 200 NASCAR wins by a single day. On Sunday, it appeared Busch was shot out of a cannon as he showed that he had the fastest car in the field early. Every time he found himself out of the lead he forced his way back to the front in what seemed to be just a handful of laps. Even a late speeding penalty on pit road couldn't stop his charge to victory, and a commending pass on the top two Penske Racing teammates left nothing else between him and that impressive 200th victory. In doing so, he became the first repeat winner in 2019 and still has yet to finish outside of the top 10 this season.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series heads back east this week to go short-track racing at Martinsville Speedway. Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano won there last season. Drivers like Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney will be getting desperate to add their names to the 2019 list of winners and that could prove the spark needed for explosive short-track excitement this coming weekend.

UPGRADE

Kyle Busch– Busch was the fastest in the first segment of Sunday's race and took command of the one-lap shootout to claim the first stage win of the day. That was just an omen for what was yet to come. He did much of the same to claim the second stage but then ran afoul of the pit road speed limit. That relinquished the lead to Brad Keselowski for the start of the final 80-lap run to the finish, but it didn't take long for him to regain the lead and cruise to another win in NASCAR's top series. Busch has two Martinsville wins to his credit and hasn't finished outside of the top five at the track since 2014.

Ryan Blaney – Blaney again showed race-winning speed throughout the Auto Club 400 but couldn't convert it into a win. Regardless, he ran to a top-10 finish as Busch eased away at the front. He would likely be much higher in the standings if his early-season races hadn't all produced finishes outside of the top 20. His last two finishes were top-10s, which have been much more representative of his pace. He remains the only Penske Racing driver yet to win in 2019. He finished 20th at Martinsville last fall despite starting fourth, but he finished third from the fifth starting position in the spring. Blaney should be a confident fantasy selection early this week with a top-10 as his minimum expectation.

Joey Logano – Logano would have been the most likely to visit Victory Lane on Sunday had Busch not been so strong, but in the end, it wasn't to be despite the pace Logano showed throughout the race. Luckily, the Penske Racing driver already has a win this season. He took that checkered flag in Atlanta and also finished in the top 10 two weeks ago in Phoenix. He won at Martinsville last fall and scored a top-10 there last spring, too. While Penske has been beaten by Joe Gibbs Racing the past two weeks, they still run in contention to win every week. Logano has had success at Martinsville in the past, and this week should give fantasy owners plenty of confidence in choosing him.

Brad Keselowski – Keselowski, like teammate Logano, ran in contention in win at Fontana. The teammates raced each other hard for the lead late in the distance, which opened the door for Busch to pass both of them and drive off into the sunset. Keselowski grabbed his third top-five of the season and, like teammate Logano, already has a win this season. He won at Martinsville in the spring of 2017 and should be a contender for the win again this coming Sunday. The Penske Fords have been strong this season and will want to bring Toyota down from the heights of the last two weeks. Keselowski's six consecutive top-10 finishes at this week's track could mean he is the man to do that.

Kurt Busch – Once again, on Sunday Busch proved himself to be the best of the Chevrolet-powered drivers. He was a consistent face inside the top 10 throughout the afternoon in Fontana and walked away with an impressive sixth-place finish. That was his fourth consecutive top-10 finish since the Daytona 500, which firmly puts him among the early championship contenders in just his first year with Chip Ganassi Racing. Martinsville has been good to Busch with two past victories. He finished sixth there last fall and will be looking for yet another top 10, and more, this coming Sunday. Busch has hit the ground running with his new team and fantasy owners should ride that momentum as long as it lasts.

DOWNGRADE

Clint Bowyer– Bowyer felt engine trouble late in the first stage on Sunday but remained out under the final caution of that segment to try to gather some stage points. That plan didn't pan out, as Bowyer's issue dropped him through the field once the green flag waved for the one-lap run to the end of that first stage. Eventually, everything gave up, and Bowyer was forced out of the race. He was the first car out of the running, which was a big blow to a team looking to gain some momentum before heading back east to Martinsville. Bowyer won the spring Martinsville race last season but finished 21st in the return visit in the fall.

Daniel Hemric – A rough brush with the outside wall early in the second stage of Sunday's race was the beginning of Hemric's nightmare. The rookie driver lost a right-rear tire just a few laps later, which sent him to pit road under green to make repairs. By the time the finish came, he was running outside of the top 30 and many laps down to the leader. The issues were even more painful considering Sunday's race had such little attrition as the team searches for way to build momentum. Hemric has shown speed early in his Cup career but needs to begin translating that promise into results. He has a best finish of third from four Martinsville starts in the Camping World Truck series.

Kyle Larson – Larson's 12th-place finish at Fontana was a major disappointment. He has been the recent master of the two 2.0-mile ovals on the schedule, and a top finish was expected of him this week. He ran decently quick during the race, but circumstances put him outside of the top runners in the final segment of the race, and he never pulled his way back through the field. That was his third 12th-place finish this season with only Phoenix and Daytona producing sixth- and seventh-place finishes, respectively. Fantasy owners may want to give him a rest this week, too. He has just one top-10 finish at Martinsville in 10 career tries and has a best finish of just 16th in the last two seasons.

Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. – Wallace has yet to score a decent finish this season, and things may be getting desperate in the garage. He wasn't making an impression on the top runners again on Sunday, and it got even worse when a front tire failed and caused significant front-end damage with the explosion. The failure brought out a rare caution for the race and sent Wallace even further out of contention than he already was. This team is struggling early in 2019 after having some things to cheer about just a season ago. Fantasy owners used to be able to consider Wallace on particular tracks, but his performances so far this season make him an extremely risky choice until the tide truly starts to turn in his favor.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Austin Dillon– Dillon is this week's biggest surprise due to qualifying. NASCAR introduced a pit road speed limit for qualifying this past week and no drivers in the final round got out fast enough to make a timed lap. That left Dillon's time from the prior round the one that determined the top starting spot. Richard Childress Racing has been quick so far this season, but probably wouldn't have been the team expected to post the fastest lap on Friday. To their credit, Dillon and company raced to a 10th-place finish in Sunday's race, which was their first of the season despite them looking like promising fantasy options nearly every week. However, that may not be the case this week, as Dillon finished 30th in both Martinsville visits last season.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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