Carl Edwards beat Kyle Busch in a race-long battle for victory in the Nationwide Series at O'Reilly Raceway Park.
The two main contenders for this year's title in NASCAR's second-tier series started from the rear of the field after missing qualifying, as they were both practicing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race. From the back of the pack they quickly made their way to the front and alternated the lead of the race between them in a tight battle all the way to the checekred flag.
Busch was the first to lead the race when he came out of the pits in front of his rivals when all the leaders pitted under the seventh caution of the day, close to halfway through the scheduled distance.
However 24 laps later and following a close battle where they seemed to rub each others' fenders more than once, the Roush Fenway racer was able to get by the Toyota of Busch, staying up front until the final round of pit stops. But Busch got another chance to beat Edwards when the leader had to reverse his car in order to leave his box, after being serviced in the pits for the final time. Not only he lost valuable time but also the lead of the race which went back to Busch, whose pit crew seemed unbeatable all night long.
Following the final restart, Edwards started to put Busch under pressure again, racing him side by side for a number of laps until he finally cleared him on the inside with 21 laps remaining.
Busch tried to remain in contention and in doing so, he clipped the wall a few laps later, although the damage was not enough to prevent him from keeping second place as another tight battle unfolded on his rear-view mirrors for third.
Matt Kenseth, who also made his way to the front after starting from the rear of the pack, tried to fend off Steven Wallace, while Brad Keselowski watched the battle unfold in front on him. In the end, the JR Motorsports driver was able to get by Wallace for fourth place, while Kenseth made it a top-three sweep from Sprint Cup regulars.
"Starting from the back it was a lot of fun coming back through the field," said Edwards after winning his second Nationwide Series race of the year "I knew Kyle was going to be really fast and man, I don't know how it looked like on TV but that was one of the most fun races I've been a part of.
"[Kyle Busch] is a really good driver and it means a lot to be able to race with him like that. It's so cool to be back on Victory Lane for the second time this season."
Busch was not disappointed with second place after coming from the back of the field. He expected to lose more in the end after making contact with the wall while trying to keep up with Edwards in the closing stages, but he still was able to extend his run of top-two finishes to seven consecutive races.
"Short-track racing at its finest right there, I guess" Busch said about his battle with Edwards. "We just didn't have a good car today. We fought it in practice and that's a good way to come home second.
"After we fenced it there we should have fell back, fifth, sixth or something. But we didn't give up there and we made one more stop than Carl did and tried to make our car better on adjustments but just didn't have it today."
Behind Kenseth, Keselowski and Wallace, Ron Hornaday was sixth a day after taking his fourth consecutive win at the same track in the Camping World Truck Series. Trevor Bayne, Jason Leffler, early race-leader Scott Wimmer and Kenny Wallace rounded out the top 10.
Busch continues to lead the championship with a slightly smaller gap to Edwards, who ranks second 192 points adrift. Keselowski is equally solid in third, 200 points behind Edwards and more than a hundred ahead of fourth placed Leffler.RESULTS:
Pos Driver Make Laps
1. Carl Edwards Ford 200
2. Kyle Busch Toyota 200
3. Matt Kenseth Ford 200
4. Brad Keselowski Chevrolet 200
5. Steve Wallace Chevrolet 200
6. Ron Hornaday Chevrolet 200
7. Trevor Bayne Toyota 200
8. Jason Leffler Toyota 200
9. Scott Wimmer Chevrolet 200
10. Kenny Wallace Chevrolet 200
11. David Reutimann Toyota 200
12. Brendan Gaughan Chevrolet 200
13. Stephen Leicht Chevrolet 200
14. Aric Almirola Chevrolet 200
15. Tony Raines Chevrolet 199
16. Brad Coleman Toyota 199
17. Morgan Shepherd Chevrolet 199
18. Austin Dillon Chevrolet 199
19. Shelby Howard Chevrolet 199
20. Kevin Conway Toyota 199
21. Justin Allgaier Dodge 199
22. Bobby Hamilton Jr Ford 199
23. Eric McClure Ford 198
24. Jeff Green Ford 198
25. Jason Keller Ford 198
26. Peyton Sellers Chevrolet 198
27. Travis Kittleson Chevrolet 197
28. Michael McDowell Dodge 197
29. Erik Darnell Ford 196
30. Matt Carter Ford 196
31. Ken Butler III Chevrolet 184
32. Chase Austin Chevrolet 179
33. Mike Bliss Chevrolet 115
34. Danny O'Quinn Jr Chevrolet 111
35. Michael Annett Toyota 107
36. Chris Lawson Chevrolet 63
37. Scott Lagasse Jr Toyota 21
38. Chad Blount Toyota 15
39. Kelly Bires Toyota 13
40. Terry Cook Chevrolet 11
41. Johnny Chapman Chevrolet 11
42. Kertus Davis Chevrolet 9
43. Mark Green Chevrolet 9