FONTANA, Calif. — Kyle Busch rushed into the media center Saturday afternoon after winning the NASCAR Craftsman Truck race.
“It was a great truck … ,” he said before pausing to gasp for air. “I’m out of breath.”
“Getting old?” asked third-place finisher Johnny Benson, who is twice the age of the 22-year-old Busch.
“Yeah, I am,” Busch replied.
Any driver would have been winded after practicing in a Nationwide Series car in the morning, then racing 100 laps around a 2-mile oval in a truck.
After celebrating his win in the San Bernardino County 200 with his truck team in Victory Lane, the Las Vegas native took a half-mile sprint, and it wasn’t a victory lap on foot.
He had to rush to conduct a post-race news conference that made him late getting to his No. 18 Toyota for the final Sprint Cup practice session for today’s Auto Club 500 at the renamed Auto Club Speedway of Southern California.
His pace finally was slowed Saturday when rain washed away half of the Cup practice session and the night’s Nationwide race in which he would have started 23rd.
The California truck victory had added meaning for Busch.
The last time he tried to qualify for a truck race at the track, he was 16 and pulled from his Roush Racing Ford.
The tobacco company that sponsored the weekend event would not allow Busch, a minor, to participate. A few weeks later, NASCAR reacted by officially raising the minimum age for competitors in its three national touring series to 18.
“It’s pretty special and pretty cool to come back here and win this race,” he said. “It definitely means a lot to be able to come back like this and win.”
It was another milestone for Busch at the track, where he won his first Cup pole and race as a rookie in 2005.
Busch is enjoying a remarkable start to the year. Last weekend in Daytona Beach, Fla., he finished second in Craftsman Truck and Nationwide races before leading the most laps of the Daytona 500, in which he finished fourth.
Busch plans to head to Las Vegas after today’s races for a couple of days off before doing a double by driving in Saturday’s Sam’s Town 300 Nationwide race and the following day’s UAW-Dodge 400 Cup race.
• NATIONWIDE — Steady rain Saturday night forced the postponement of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race until today, following the Sprint Cup Series race.
Officials waited more than two hours, making several attempts to dry the 2-mile oval, before finally giving up in the face of a worsening forecast.
The National Weather Service was calling for heavy rain and high wind during the night, with the rain expected to taper off during the day today. The Auto Club 500 is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. PST, and the Nationwide race would be run after its completion.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.WILKERSON CLAIMS NHRA FUNNY CAR POLE
CHANDLER, Ariz. — Tim Wilkerson raced to his second consecutive No. 1 qualifying position of the Funny Car season Saturday, topping qualifying for the Checker Schuck’s Kragen NHRA Nationals at Firebird International Raceway.
Brandon Bernstein (Top Fuel) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) were the No. 1 qualifiers in their divisions in the second NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event of the season.
Wilkerson drove his Chevy Impala SS to a 4.775-second run at 327.03 mph after rain Friday shortened the qualifying sessions from four to two.
Bernstein, who claimed his 12th No. 1 qualifying award of his career, moved to the top of the field in the last qualifying session. Returning to the site of his first career win in 2003, Bernstein drove his dragster to the top spot with a run of 4.515 at 330.31, after rain canceled the first two qualifying sessions Friday.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS