ROSSBURG — If it has an engine, Kyle Busch has a good shot at getting it across the finish line first.
Busch is comfortable in any kind of race car, making his win at Eldora Speedway in the Feed the Children Prelude to the Dream on Wednesday night a natural extension of a strong five-year run at the rural Ohio dirt track.
The Las Vegas native who once won three NASCAR-sanctioned races on the same weekend added another accomplishment in versatility, as Busch inherited the lead in the charity Late Model race after Kasey Kahne wrecked into Bobby LaBonte on lap 25 and led the rest of the way for the victory.
“From there, we had 16 laps to go and it felt like the longest 16 laps of my career here at Eldora,” Busch said.
“This is cool,” Busch added. “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.”
The field was stocked with some of the best drivers in the world despite the testing schedule at Pocono this week forcing Sprint Cup drivers to taxi back and forth on Wednesday.
Eldora Speedway owner and defending Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart finished second.
“Five days in a row at Pocono, and for these guys to leave practice at the end of the day today, fly here and race, and then fly back to Pocono tonight and be back in cars at Pocono at nine in the morning, I think that speaks volumes to what this event is all about and what it means for these guys to be here,” Stewart said. “It’s truly an honor with the week we’ve got this week at Eldora and Pocono.”
Austin Dillon took third.
The event raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Feed the Children, with winner Kyle Busch being given a fully-stocked 18-wheeler of food to donate to his hometown area.
The pairing of charity and racing keeps racers like longtime Nascar driver and Eldora favorite Kenny Schrader coming back every year.
“It’s just way too much fun,” Schrader said. “Any time you get to come to Eldora it’s fun. But to race here with this group of guys, with no points and no money — and we’re on a lot better behavior when there’s no money and no points involved — and run and proceeds go to charity, it’s fun.”
Winged-sprint legend Steve Kinser made his debut at the Prelude, finishing 25th after an early wreck.
“I enjoy running Eldora no matter what I’m in,” 20-time World of Outlaws champion Steve Kinser said before the race. “Tony (Stewart) said I definitely would tear the right side off my car. I asked what he had me here for then and he just laughed.”
Four-time World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz finished fourth in his first Prelude. While a veteran of Eldora in a sprint car, Schatz said it was a bumpy ride to fourth in a Late Model.
“It’s a good thing they are stock cars and they’ve got fenders,” Schatz said. “ I think I hit everything there was and I was bouncing off guys. If you did that in a sprint car, you’d be laying out in the weeds.”
Tony Kanaan was the lone Indy Racing League driver in the field for the third straight year.
“I wanted to come here to represent IndyCar three years ago and I’m not giving up that spot until Tony tells me he wants somebody else.”
Kanaan said the shock of driving the cars has worn off a little with experience, but that sliding is still an experience for a driver who is used to the precision steering of an IndyCar.
“Turning right to go left in an IndyCar, that’s not so good,” Kanaan said.
And the Brazilian said racing in a such a unique venue as Eldora is unlike anything he experienced as young racer in his native country.
“Being a Brazilian, I’m not used to that,” Kanaan said. “Having lived in a America a long time, I realize how dirt tracks were so part of the tradition. The first year I was here, you see this big land and all of a sudden a race track right in the middle and a lot of people doing cool stuff with dirt cars.”
Danica Patrick finished 15th. The former IRL driver and current Nationwide driver expressed some reluctance in stepping into an unfamiliar car, and venue saying she turned Stewart down for a few years before finally agreeing.
“I feel like that’s been the story of my life the last recent couple of years,” Patrick said. “Trying new things and expanding my comfort zone. So tonight will be another extension of that.”