Pit stop gamble pays off in latest Craftsman win for Busch

HAMPTON, Ga. -- So far this year, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series has been Kyle Busch's playground.

The 23-year-old Sprint Cup star, moonlighting in trucks and the Nationwide Series in the early part of the season, grabbed his second truck victory in three tries this year, winning the American Commercial Lines 200 on Friday night.

Busch's crew chief, Richie Wauters, made the call of the night when rain, which had been threatening throughout the evening, began falling lightly 10 laps from the end of the scheduled 130-lap event.

With Busch running second to reigning series champion Ron Hornaday Jr., about 4 seconds behind, Wauters gambled, bringing the Toyota into the pits just as Hornaday passed the pit entrance at the end of lap 112. Hornaday and most of the other lead-lap trucks pitted the next time around the 1.5-mile oval, leaving Busch trailing only Chad McCumbee and Matt Crafton, the two drivers who didn't pit.

The green flag came back out on lap 116 and Busch charged past the two drivers with older tires, taking the lead in just over half a lap.

Hornaday restarted fifth and was back to second place on lap 118, but rain began falling again on lap 120 and the trucks were brought onto pit lane on lap 123. There was a 9-minute, 51-second red flag as NASCAR waited out the light rain.

The green flag came back out for the final time on lap 127 and it was no contest, with Busch easily holding off Hornaday for his eighth truck win and his fifth finish of first or second in a row in a Billy Ballew truck.

"It wasn't a tough call at all when you've got Kyle," Wauters said of the stop. "We knew the only way we were going to win was to put on fresh tires."

"I was surprised when nobody followed me (into the pits late in the race)," Busch noted. "Hornaday didn't come and nobody followed me. Richie made a great call."

Busch, whose nickname in the truck series is Rowdy, lived up to the monicker early in the race as he drove on the apron to pass slower trucks at least twice after a long pit stop for major adjustments on lap 20 dropped him all the way to 21st.

NASCAR warned Busch on the radio to "settle down," so the youngster took to the high side of the track and continued zooming through the traffic until he moved to the top spot on lap 48.

"The truck was really, really, really loose and we made some really big changes," Busch said. "But it was definitely fast."

Busch, who will only run a part-time schedule in trucks the rest of the year, remained the points leader over former series champion Todd Bodine, who struggled all night before finishing ninth.

"How he can drive that truck so out of control is just unbelievable," Hornaday said. "He beat me last fall in the green-white-checker finish and he beat me again. I don't like finishing second."

Mike Skinner, another former truck champion, wound up third, followed by Crafton, McCumbee, former series champions Jack Sprague and Ted Musgrave and Terry Cook.