CONCORD, N.C. — Kyle Busch didn’t have the fastest truck and got into early trouble by spinning out.
Busch, though, is convinced he got some unique help to secure a dizzying 97th win in NASCAR’s top three circuits.
With the name and picture of a slain North Carolina girl on his truck, Busch recovered to pass Clint Bowyer with seven laps to go and pulled away Friday night to win his third consecutive Trucks Series race.
Busch honored Zahra Baker, a 10-year-old girl with disabilities who was reported missing from her Hickory home in October. Police eventually found some of her remains in searches around western North Carolina. Her stepmother has been charged with second-degree murder.
“I had an angel riding with me,” Busch said. “We didn’t have the truck to beat tonight. (Bowyer) did. Somehow I found some more out of it. I’m going to say I had some help tonight.”
Hours after capturing the pole for today’s All-Star race, Busch outdueled a fellow Sprint Cup regular down the stretch to break a tie with Mark Martin for fifth place on the NASCAR national series victory list and move into a tie with Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip for third.
“It feels good to be getting close to 100,” Busch said.
He has 21 Sprint Cup victories, 48 in Nationwide and 28 in Trucks.
Cole Whitt finished third in the wreck-filled race, and the 19-year-old became the first rookie and the youngest driver to hold the points lead. James Buescher placed fourth and Ron Hornaday Jr. fifth.
Former Formula One champion Kimi Raikkonen had a respectable NASCAR debut with a 15th-place finish despite starting 31st in the 36-car field and a couple of scrapes with the wall in the No. 15 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
■ NHRA — At Topeka, Kan., seven-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher topped qualifying in the Summer Nationals with a 3.798-second run at a track-record 324.12 mph.
Jack Beckman topped the Funny Car field at Heartland Park Topeka, and Mike Edwards led the Pro Stock field.
Beckman, coming off a victory last week in the NHRA Southern Nationals, had a 4.054-second pass at 313.66 mph. Edwards finished in 6.640 seconds at 207.05 mph.