- Brant James, Contributor, espnW.com
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DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Kyle Busch ran point on a Joe Gibbs Racing sweep of the first three finishing positions in the Nationwide Series on Friday night, giving the team its seventh victory in its past eight races at this storied 1.36-mile track in rural South Carolina.
And the victory at Darlington Raceway gave Busch yet another trophy in his personal crusade of dominating NASCAR's second-tier developmental series.
No organization had ever snared four of the top five finishing spots in a Nationwide race. Partly because few organizations possess the resources or the drivers to field such a flotilla, but largely because JGR was oppressive on Friday. The team captured the top four spots in qualifying.
Busch went winless last season driving for his personal team, but has won five of eight races he has entered so far in his return to Gibbs. Coming back to drive in the Nationwide Series for his Sprint Cup organization made him realize just how hard it is to build a team, he conceded.
"It's sort of deceiving when you're driving this stuff, just exactly how good it is and how smart these guys are," Busch said. "These guys are pretty smart and do an awful lot of great things to make cars go fast."
Busch dominated in leading four times for 107 of 147 laps, recovering from a mid-race pit stop error in which he fell from the lead to sixth after his crew required an inordinate amount of time to complete a wedge adjustment to tighten the No. 54 Toyota's handling. JGR cars combined to lead all but five laps, and Busch seemed amused by a mid-race tussle with Kenseth for the lead, which included mock hand gestures out his window.
"Kenseth made it not so easy to pass," he said. "It was fun racing with him up there. He was messing with me."
Busch improved his all-time record in Nationwide wins to 56.
Rookie Kyle Larson finished sixth.
Sadler preserved a chance at what became his best finish of the season on Lap 51, when he was able to avoid contact despite spinning out the No. 11 Toyota after admittedly charging Turn 1 too aggressively trying to overtake Busch for the lead.
"I had to make a decision to try and correct it or spin," Sadler said, "so I just spun it out."
Joey Logano eschewed a final pit stop to assume the lead late, but an apparent return to the abrasive, tire-consuming track conditions at Darlington helped undo him. Busch restarted fourth with 23 laps remaining after a caution, but vaulted to second in one lap to begin pressing his former JGR teammate.
Busch took the lead twice with a burst into Turn 3, only to lose it on the front straight, but was able to hold the front permanently when he passed Logano with 17 remaining. Sadler's late rush worked to Busch's benefit, as his battle with Logano over second place allowed Busch to pull ahead by as many as 1.8 seconds. Logano settled into fourth place to break up the JGR flush.
Regan Smith added a point to the lead he claimed in the driver standings last week by winning at Talladega. He finished seventh, one spot ahead of Sam Hornish Jr., who is now 28 points behind him. Smith and Hornish are the only Nationwide regulars to win this season. Moonlighting Cup drivers have claimed seven of nine wins.
2hK. Lee Davis