Busch captures Great Clips 250 in triumphant Xfinity return

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Brooklyn — Kyle Busch made sure his return to the Xfinity series was a memorable one Saturday afternoon, winning the Great Clips 250 at Michigan International Speedway after a late pass on defending series champion Chase Elliott.

Busch returned to his No. 54 Toyota after missing 11 races due to injuries suffered to both legs in the series opener in Daytona four months ago.

Busch made his return to the Sprint Cup series last month in the Coca Cola 600 in Charlotte and will be in search of his first win to earn a spot in the Chase Sunday in the Quicken Loans 400.

Busch showed he would be a factor early, battling from his 11th starting position to take the lead by lap 16.

Joey Logano looked to be the driver to beat when he took the lead on a restart with 14 laps remaining, going from sixth to the lead while slipping by the frontrunners on the outside.

Then, on another restart with 10 to go, Logano and Kevin Harvick took turns taking the lead before touching two laps later with Logano ahead, allowing 19-year-old Elliott to take the top spot.

Elliott continued to lead in his No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet for JR Motorsports until Busch went around him on the outside with four laps remaining, then holding the top spot the rest of the way. Kyle Larson finished third, followed by series points leader Chris Buescher.

"He's obviously really good at what he does," said Elliott of Busch's move. "I don't have an excuse for it. He outran us."

Yes, Busch's experience showed, giving him a series-high 71st win. It was his first Xfinity win at MIS since 2004.

"It feels good, but only a preliminary to what we've got to do for Sunday, but it's a start," Busch said. "It was hard racing today, crazy, side-by-side action and everything that we got here. Finally, the track's kind of widening out. It was a fun race for me and I'm proud of the team and proud to get back in Victory Lane."

Busch, Logano and Harvick were three of seven full-time Sprint Cup drivers in the field. Elliott will be replacing Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports next year.

Logano and Harvick talked of the contact that took away their chance at a win.

"We were racing for a win here and it just seems like he (Harvick) drove in there pretty hard trying to slide me," said Logano, who won the pole earlier in the day with an Xfinity track record run of 193.637 mph. "I drove up in there, too, and he got loose underneath me and got into my left rear and up we both went into the race track. It is unfortunate."

Harvick, the defending Sprint Cup series champion and points leader, took the blame.

"I just got loose underneath him," Harvick said. "I had a huge run down the back straightaway and that late in the race I figured I needed to try to win the race. He was on the outside of me and it was too late to not have contact at that particular point so totally my fought. I got loose under him going for the win."

Defending race champion Paul Menard got loose with 12 laps remaining, starting a four-car mishap. He finished 18th.

Buescher entered with a 15-point lead over Ty Dillon, winning the third race of his career at Dover two weeks ago. He left the track owning a 25-point lead over Dillon with Elliott now third, 35 points behind.

Gordon talks of possible rules package move:

Four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon has been strong so far this weekend, qualifying sixth in his No. 24 Panasonic Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, then fastest Saturday in Happy Hour practice.

Gordon is looking for his first win of the season to get an automatic Chase spot. The Sprint Cup field could have a possible rules package to deal with mid-season. So, would he be in favor of a change?

"You always want to go and test it and understand it," Gordon said. "I'm fine with what I'm hearing about a reduction in downforce if they can bring a softer tire. To me that is the whole key in kind of where we are at today. We knew the power was being reduced. A lot of the drivers were really asking for less downforce if the power was going to be reduced, but the key component to that was being able to get Goodyear to match the tire up for that to have a little bit more grip at the beginning of a run and maybe have some fall off.

"That has been one of the biggest challenges this year is that we are actually running harder tires. We are on a harder tire this weekend. Those are some real tricky conditions by the way we had out there (Friday). It was spitting rain, a super rock hard tire and 100 less horsepower. We are flying through the center of the corner. That is what we want to get away from. We want to have a tire that has some good grip, but it gives up each lap. I'm hoping that this is the direction that will get us there."