There was no catching Kyle Busch Saturday afternoon at Kern County Raceway.
Busch led the final 238 laps to win the Spears Manufacturing Winter Showdown, adding another victory to a list that grows every year in every discipline he competes.
“This is a big race, it’s one of the crown jewels of our sport,” said Busch. “I think there are four or five big Late Model races and it’s nice to be able to check this one off the list.”
And he did so impressive fashion, taking the lead for good from Bakersfield’s Derek Thorn and easily maintaining a comfortable lead the rest of the way to earn $30,000.
Bakersfield’s Buddy Shepherd, who won the pole on Friday, finished second, 1.7 seconds back.
While Bush was cruising to victory after a final restart with six laps remaining, Shepherd was locked in a side-by-side battle for the final three laps with Xfinity driver Daniel Hemric.
Both drivers were driving for the Bakersfield-based Wilson Motorsports team, with Shepherd up high and Hemric down low.
“It was a blast,” Shepherd said of the late-race duel. “We doored each other a couple of times. We had a good time I wanted to bring it home second and I think he knew that. I wasn’t giving him any room. It’s racing.”
For his part, Hemic said it was fun, but certainly not the outcome he wanted.
“A wheel and one car (short),” he said. “You come here to win these races but you gotta be here to have a shot and I’m thankful for everybody on this Wilson Motorsports team.”
As for Busch, Hemric said he was the class of the field.
“Those guys really struggled at the start of practice but came to life at the end of happy hour (on Friday) and really hit on something and wore us out.”
Last year it was Bakersfield’s Derek Thorn wearing out the field as he led all 250 laps for the win.
And early on he was putting on another show as he led all but one of the first 62 laps around the half-mile oval. But blistered right-front tires plagued Thorn the rest of the race and he wound up ninth.
“It was fast until it wasn’t,” he quipped. “I didn’t help it by bouncing it off the fence twice by my own doing (lap 60 and around lap 100). Something with the front just wasn’t happy with the way we had the car.”
Busch, on the other hand, was more than pleased with his car.
“Our car was just hooked up,” he said. “We were off to start with because it was a setup from another race track and it just did not like it here so we just had to keep working at it, keep fine tuning and making sure that we fixed it on order to have some good pace here today.”
There were six caution flags, three for crashes and three other for “controlled stops” where laps did not count and crews had several laps to add fuel, change tires make adjustments to their cars.
Busch powered away from the field on the restarts and was way in front when the final caution flew on lap 294 when Mason Mingus his the turn three wall.
“As soon as I saw the kid who had a flat going down the backstretch, I’m like slow down, slow down, slow down, make it to pit road. And he just drove on right in there knowing it was flat, like you idiot.
So it caused a caution for the end of the race. Something for the fans, I guess. Instead of being ahead by three seconds we have another restart but it all was good for us.”
And not too bad either, for Shepherd.
“Coming home to second to the best in NASCAR, that’s not too bad,” he said. “That’s a win in my book. Next year we’ll just to to run him down.”
Ty Majeski finished fourth with Craftsman Truck Series driver, and Busch’s teammate, Noah Gregson fifth.
Derek Kause was sixth, followed by Chris Davidson, Dominic Ursetta, Thorn and Craig Raudman.