Formula 1

Two-time NASCAR champion Kyle Busch goes back to his short track roots, races at Lee USA

Two-time NASCAR champion Kyle Busch goes back to his short track roots, races at Lee USA

LEE – Kyle Busch has won two NASCAR championships, and is currently one of the biggest names in the NASCAR Cup Series.

On Friday night, Busch, who began his NASCAR career in 2003 and is just one of six drivers who have won a championship in both the Cup Series and the Xfinity Series, came to Lee USA Speedway for the Keen Parts 150 to compete against 24 local drivers.

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Two-time NASCAR champion Kyle Busch takes time during a rain delay to sign autographs for fans on Friday at Lee USA Speedway.

With a $10,000 purse on the line, the locals shined as Joey Doiron of Berwick, Maine and Brandon Barker of Scarborough, Maine battled it out. Barker edged Doiron in the waning moments in what he called the biggest win of his life. Busch struggled to a sixth-place finish, but there was no doubt he had an impact on the race, as the stands were packed.

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“For a guy like Kyle to come over here and race with us is so important,” Barker said. “He’s exactly what we need at short tracks. He brings in more fans, and he comes here to win. It’s not just an appearance. He brings people in, and that’s what we need to keep short tracks going.”

Busch supports short tracks whenever he can

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Busch signed autographs and took photos with fans prior to the race, and took some extra time with fans when a rain shower passed through and delayed the event.

Two-time NASCAR champion Kyle Busch waits in his car to go back out for practice at Lee USA Speedway on Friday night.

“It’s what I grew up doing,” said Busch of why he races the short tracks when he can. “I like getting out there and going and being able to run in some of those short track races. I’m looking forward to going up to Oxford (Plains Speedway) and do that one in a couple of weeks.”

Busch was disappointed to not be in contention for the win after finishing second a year ago. He aid it wasn’t for a lack of effort by his team.

“It was a struggle, that was tough,” Busch said. “A lot of hard work went into that. We slung some stuff at that to make it better, and qualified good, but we definitely didn’t have longevity with saving tires for the long run.”

Busch one of first to arrive at track Friday

Lee USA Speedway General Manager John Esburnett said Busch was one of the first people at the track on Friday, getting ready to try to find a way around the local competitors and finish one spot better than his second-place finish in 2023.

Things didn’t go his way on Friday, but Busch still made the most of the opportunity, finishing one spot outside of the top five, and one spot behind Derek Kneeland, his spotter on NASCAR Cup Series race days.

Kneeland is the connection, along with Archie St. Hilaire, that has brought Busch to Lee the past two years. Both Kneeland and St. Hilaire said it was a love of short-track racing that motivated them to bring Busch, who was driving St. Hilaire’s car Friday, to Lee to race.

“I just love short-track racing,” said St. Hilaire, who also owned Barker’s race-winning car. “I’ve got a bucket list to race at every track in the country. Bringing (Busch) in here is really a way to support the fans and tracks that mean so much to this sport.”

St. Hilaire, who used to own the GoFas NASCAR Cup Series team, has since focused his effort on short tracks. As excited as he was to bring Busch in, he was even more excited to see his other car, with Barker behind the wheel, get the win.

“We just try to bring the best car we can every week,” St. Hilaire said. “I think we did that today. Kyle’s car wasn’t where we wanted, but (Barker) was up against the absolute best of the best in the Norhteast, and was able to get it done. I couldn’t be happier.”

Kneeland, who finished fifth in his family-owned car, will bring Busch back to Lee for as long as he can.

“I try to give back to short track racing, however I can,” Kneeland said. “It’s a struggle. It’s expensive for these drivers and these tracks to put on these events. If I can help bring a guy like (Busch) in here, and he brings fans to the track, that helps everybody.

“(St. Hilaire) and I are good friends, and we want to do what we can, and Kyle has been great to come here the last two years,” Kneeland continued.

Friday’s Top 10; support winners

The top 10 in the Keen Parts 150 were Barker, Doiron, Eddie MacDonald, Joey Polewarczyk, Kneeland, Busch, Max Cookson, Wayne Helliwell Jr, and Skeeter Bearce.

Robbie Bodwell, Christin Destefano, Sean Nadeau and Carl Gagnon won the support division races.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Kyle Busch, two-time NASCAR champion races at Lee USA Speedway Friday

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