Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne battle in Prelude To The DreamEnlarge Photo
“This is cool,” said Busch, who outlasted strong challenges from fellow Sprint Cup stars Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer before finishing 2.283 seconds over runner-up Tony Stewart, the track owner and race promoter. “This is what it’s all about when you go dirt racing. It’s a lot of fun. I can’t say enough about (team owner) Scott Bloomquist and all these guys. They give me great race cars every time we come here and I’ve torn them up a few times, including tonight (in qualifying). We were able to come back through, get a good heat race, get a good starting spot for the main event and run up front there with the leaders all night.”
Thanks to an inversion from the four qualifying heats, Busch was able to start the 40-lap feature event in second place. Kahne and Bowyer monopolized the first 24 laps with Kahne leading the first 12, Bowyer taking over from laps 13-21 and Kahne taking it back for laps 22-24.
It was then that Busch took over after Kahne crashed into NASCAR's Bobby Labonte. That was all the Las Vegas driver needed as he pulled away to beat three-time winner Stewart and earn his first victory at Eldora.
"When Kahne had his mishap, we inherited the lead and just were able to set sail from there," Busch confirmed. "I felt like Kahne had a fast car tonight; he was probably the class of the field." When Kasey Kahne and the other leaders came upon lapped cars the field had to slow "and everybody got loose trying to slide each other.
"That was a crazy, freak deal there with Kahne sliding (into Labonte) in [turn] three. I don't know if he didn't see him or what? They call the caution a little late and I bet he didn't even have time to react. From there," Busch added, "we had 16 laps to go and it felt like the longest 16 laps of my career here at Eldora."
In just his second Prelude start, NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie Austin Dillon finished third, while four-time World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series champion Donny Schatz took fourth in his dirt Late Model debut. Stewart's Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Ryan Newman was fifth, Aric Almirola (Richard Petty Motorsports Sprint Cup), NHRA Funny Car two-time champ Cruz Pedregon, NASCAR's Dave Blaney, Ty Dillon (rookie in Camping World Truck Series and Austin's younger brother) and Justin Allgaier (Nationwide) completed the top 10.
The top ten finishers all get a tractor-trailer filled with food from Feed The Children delivered to their hometown or city of the choice.
Stewart took great pride in seeing the sixth different winner in the charity event he started in 2005: "That's what the fun part is," said the three-time and reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. All the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers were commuting between Eldora and Pocono Raceway for this charity event, as they test the new surface before racing on the three-cornered circuit this Sunday.
"I know as a promoter and fellow driver in the Cup Series, I'm honored they were that committed to doing this with us tonight to benefit such a good cause as Feed The Children. 'Honored' is the bst word I can think of to describe it."
Of the 26 invited drivers, 15 were running at the finish and one, Kurt Busch had an accident in his heat race and failed to start. INDYCAR's Tony Kanaan's mechanical problem knocked him out after two laps; NHRA's Ron Capps was in an accident on the third lap, former winner Clint Bowyer fell out on the 22nd lap and Kahne was eliminated on lap 24 with an accident. Danica Patrick was the final finisher, three laps down in 15th.