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OBSERVATIONS: Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

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Although the racing was a little more spread out than you’d expect for the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series, the same result was seen when the checkered flag was flown in the Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Everybody knows the joy that Kyle Busch gets from winning, and the disappointment he feels with defeat – just look at the frustration in several interviews over the years. So it’s no surprise to see him with a big smile in his face as he celebrated with his own team.

While it’s fun to pad his record book with a career 53rd career victory, there’s actually a method to the madness.

Rudy Fugle told Fox Sports 1 that putting Busch behind the wheel of his own trucks is all about improving them to the program stronger so their young drivers can contend for victories and the championship, making reference to Christian Eckes jumping behind the wheel later this year. While many believe they are where they should be, Fugle reference more work needing to be done to get there. The victory was nice, but Busch fought a tight truck through the night and the team was unable to win the title last year with Noah Gragson.

It goes back to last week, and the expectations that Busch has for the program. When he places a driver in the truck, he expects them to perform. Otherwise, there’s a good chance you may be replaced by the next person in line for the job. Just look at what he said in reference to Todd Gilliland last week.

“Todd (Gilliland) we certainly have to work with him and continue to bring him up and get him filled in on what it takes to be fast at these places,” Busch said. “We’ll hopefully be able to get him places because you know his career is on the line. You don’t get very many chances at this and I’m sure that we’ll hopefully be able to get him going better. He should have run two races last year, no question about it, but obviously it just didn’t happen. He’s got to show up this year and make it happen.

“There were times last year where Todd wrecked every week and we were like dude you got to just slow down, you’ve got to figure out how to finish. To finish first, first you must finish, right?”

Some people may say it is cruel and certainly Busch was criticized for his comments, but it is the nature of business. Sponsors are only going to pay for those who succeed and money is necessary to pay the bills and perform. 

Thus far, both Harrison Burton and Gilliland have scored top-10’s in the last two races, with Burton running as high as second in the late stages last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Though when the action picks back up for the series at Martinsville Speedway, those aren’t the results that KBM is looking for, but rather checkered flags.

Late race heartbreak could be used to describe the nights for small fries Ross Chastain and Jordan Anderson. Both of them were set for respectable finishes given the equipment they were running until running into mechanical issues late. As a result, Chastain failed to finish in the top-10 for the first time this year, while Anderson placed 21st.

Anderson spoke highly of his program entering the year, banking on experience and the alliance with GMS Racing to bring him further up the grid to a solid top-20, possible top-10 performer. He was able to finish 19th at Atlanta last weekend after getting crashed out at Daytona. 

If you’re looking for an underdog to follow this year, the No. 3 Chevrolet Silverado is exactly that as Anderson is impressing as he enters his second season of doing things on his own, and slowly building his team. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.