Saturday, August 15, 2009

Carfax 250 Nationwide race ends in thriller finish

The 2009 visit by the NASCAR Nationwide teams to the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway provided a stunning show in the midst of a steamy hot August afternoon. Brian Vickers' #32 Dollar General Toyota took the field to green with the #99 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota piloted by rookie speedster Trevor Bayne starting alongside. Dominating the front row and sparking fears into the heartland of American automobiles.

The Carfax 250 took little time to provide a pivotal moment to the fight for the Nationwide championship. As Carl Edwards fought to remain in striking distance of Kyle Busch's Nationwide dream season, the combination of a slick track and slight contact between the young Trevor Bayne would spell doom after just two laps into the race. As the #99 entered turn one in the middle of a three-wide battle, Bayne's car swept up into Edward's #60 Ford Fusion. While the initial contact appeared to be light, the slippery Michigan race track surface caused Carl Edwards to fight for control of the #60 car which resulted in the Ford Fusion nosing hard into the outside wall. With he damage to Edward's Ford too severe to repair, this race promised to become a points breakaway for Kyle Busch's championship hopes.

As the race progressed, Michigan claimed several mechanical casualties running hard through the triple degree weather with 10 cars ending the race behind the wall. At the front of the field, Brian Vickers and later Kyle Busch would share the lead for much of the afternoon. At lap 105, a caution resulted in a pit stop opportunity for the lead vehicles with Busch and Vickers taking fuel and four tires. Running steadily in the top five, the #88 Chevrolet of Brad Keselowski was pitted for only two tires under the advise of crew chief Tony Eury Sr. Allowing the #88 to leapfrog the teo fast Toyotas, the Carfax 250 would result in a 12-lap climax. On the restart, Vickers and Busch wasted no time to pass Keselowski's car making it a battle amongst to two of them as they put distance on the third place Chevrolet.

With two laps from the finish, Busch fought to overtake the yellow #32 car as they ran down the backstretch. Entering turn three, Vickers moved high then low into turn four blocking Busch's advances. Little did either driver knew, Keslowski used the battle between the Toyotas as a chance to make a three fight at the white flag. Rushing the #88 through the turn three/four complex, Keslowski allowed his speedy car to run along the outside of Vickers and Busch edging a lead as they take the white flag. Getting three wide at times on the final lap, Keslowski and Vickers made slight contact out of turn two as the race remained side by side until out of the final corner where Brad Keslowski beat the Japanese badged contenders for victory.

As Brad Keslowski celebrated his third win of the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide season in victory lane, Kyle Busch provided some post race drama as he was disturbed (to say the least) by Brian Vickers' determined racing to protect the lead. In the pits, Busch slowly collided with the #32 Toyota of Vickers and was intent to share some choiced words with the rival. Angered that Vickers seemingly allowed Brad Keslowski to win simply by blocking his NOS Toyota, a frustrated Kyle Busch called the actions "Stupid". Brian Vickers, on the otherhand, found it important to say in a post race interview that "this is not the Kyle Busch Show". While the altercation between the Toyota drivers was mild, NASCAR may review the pit road collision and issue any penalties in the days to come for potential reckless driving towards Busch.

Finishing third in the Carfax 250, Kyle Busch should have been happy that his Nationwide points lead grew to 339 over Carl Edwards. Keslowski in 3rd place in the season's standings also prospered after the Saturday race closing to within 50 points of Carl Edwards as they race Bristol this upcoming Friday night.

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