Kyle Busch is the best in the game. With 21 total victories in NASCAR’s big three series last year and nine already in 2009, it’s pretty difficult to argue that point, no matter what you think of him personally.
He’s entertaining, dedicated to his craft and is often overlooked for what he does for the sport that got him to the point he is at today. And we’re not just talking about his NASCAR exploits or even his Kyle Busch Foundation. From a short track perspective, the guy puts butts in the seats, just as he did Wednesday night at Berlin Raceway in Marne, MI, for a non-points race for the CRA Super Series.
In front of a packed house of nearly 5,700 people and live on RaceTalkRadio.com, it was also proven that Kyle can be beat, even if the race name includes the moniker by which you go by.
Brian Campbell proved to be the best and smartest in the game Wednesday during the “Rowdy Busch 125” at Berlin Raceway. The second-generation racer started ninth, dropped out of the top-ten just briefly, saved his stuff and then wheeled his number-20 machine to the front of the field when it counted to score the big payday in the midweek event.
“Just save, save, save; that was the key,” explained Campbell, who has now scored two-straight CRA sanctioned triumphs at Berlin Raceway, his home-track. “The car was pretty ugly early, but later in the race I could actually drive it how I wanted to drive it. It got decent; it was never perfect, but certainly good enough to win.”
It was extremely satisfying to Campbell because he can now breathe a sigh of relief after a difficult start to the season, which saw no wins and a 13th-place stature in ASA Late Model’s Northern Division standings.
“We needed this one. We’ve been struggling since January in the worst sort of way, so this is a good pick me up for the (ASA) Challenge race this weekend,” said Campbell, who will be in the same car when the ASA LM North Series returns to Berlin Raceway on Saturday, June 20th.
Even Brian’s father, legendary short track ace Freddie Campbell, was surprised to be in victory lane.
“We’ve struggled for two days here testing and even two prior tests here. We had no idea this could happen; we thought if we could get a top-five we’d be lucky,” admitted father Freddie. “He just kinda outsmarted them tonight. He saved his stuff and was there at the end when those guys had run their stuff off.”
And when he did make his move, Campbell certainly made it exciting, by moving through the top-five on the high-side of the 7/16 of a mile racetrack. He eventually passed Chris Eggleston for the point on lap 88.
“Sometimes you just got to go there,” Campbell simply stated. “There’s a lot of bite up there if you can make it work. You just gotta get up there in the cushion and come off hard. Hopefully I didn’t show Eggleston too much for the ASA show.”
And, of course, Campbell beat the show on Wednesday night; one by the name of Kyle Busch.
“It’s always a pleasure for the NASCAR boys to come down. It’s good to race him; it’s good to beat him. We pitted right next to him and he surprised a lot of people. Anybody that has a bad opinion of him is wrong. He works his tail off; he’s a good guy.”
Busch fought his #51 car throughout the race and even mad a pitstop late to switch right-side tires, just to throw something at it as crew chief Bond Suss told us. Busch never quite got a hang of Berlin back in the old ASA National Tour days (he finished 14th in debut at Berlin in 2002), and the same could be said again for his effort this time around. He finished fifth.
“This is not particularly one of my best places,” said Busch with a smile. I wish we wound have been just a little bit better. You know, we fell back trying to just save our stuff. I thought I was doing the right thing and I never spun the right-rear tire, but then we got tight and burned the right-front (tire) off of it. It sounds just like a Cup race at Dover; you try to save the right-rear and you blow a right-front.
“It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to run with those guys up front a little more and put on an even better show for the fans, but we still had fun.”
Eggleston Impresses the “Berlin Boys”
Freddie Campbell has won numerous championships and races at the track located just a short distance from Grand Rapids, MI. That’s why, when he pays somebody a compliment, it means something. After Wednesday night’s race, he told ASA rookie Chris Eggleston that his race was the best he had ever seen anybody run at Berlin for their very first time.
Eggleston should take that comment to heart, as the driver of the 5K Motorsports car finished in the third spot after leading a good chunk of the event.
“This is a really, really, really tricky place,” said Eggleston, who is second in ASA LM North points. “I was so scared yesterday because we were just burning up rear tires. We really didn’t know what to do, but we made a few changes and I really think it paid off tonight.
“The whole race I was just conserving, just taking it easy. Everybody was in my ear saying, ‘conserve, conserve,’ and I thought I was. The next thing I know Campbell goes by us like we were sitting on jackstands. And then at the end there, the right-rear just started heating up and I had everything I could do to just hang on.”
Local Berlin Boys Tough to Beat
“It’s tough to come to this place for anyone to win,” said Campbell in Mountain Dew victory lane.
That has been the case for years at Berlin Raceway and this race was no different. Of the top-five finishers in the Rowdy Busch 125, three of them, including winner Campbell, were some of Michigan’s finest.
ASA regular Chris Koslek drove a smart race to finish runner-up to Campbell.
“We were one spot too short. We’ve had a really rough season so far, so this is good. I think it’s the first race we’ve finished all year and now we come here with ASA next, so we’ll have a good shot at that one,” said the driver of the #23.
“Once I saw him (Campbell) try the outside and make it work, I figured I’d try it too and I got around two cars. It’s good when you run well at your home track.”
Terry Van Haitsma is another driver who has run well in past ASA and CRA events at Berlin. His ride in the 125-lap race was more like a rollercoaster adventure without the upset stomach afterwards. Van Haistma led one of the practice sessions, qualified fourth, ran second early, nearly dropped out of the top-10 and then battled back for a fourth-place finish. Yet, his most electrifying moment of the race came in its waning moments when he made it three-wide into turn one to pass both Kyle Busch and Scott Hantz.
“We gotta keep it exciting for the fans I guess,” said Van Haitsma with a chuckle. “I had been side-by-side trying to pass Kyle and Scott Hantz and just couldn’t pull off the pass. I tried it three-wide coming off of four one-time and that didn’t work and I knew squeezing in between them wouldn’t. So they both drifted up a little bit and I figured I could pass them on the inside and that’s what I did. I wasn’t sure it was going to work as loose as I was, but it eventually stuck and I made it.”
A total of six Wolverines finished in the top-10.
“It’s a tough place,” said Koslek. “You know, it’s one of those places where they say if you can run well here, you can run well anywhere and that’s what we like to live by here.”
•Only two CRA Super Series regulars finished in the top 10, led by three-time series champ Scott Hantz (6th), who ran as high as second before losing his tires late in the race. •Johnny VanDoorn was fastest in one of the practice sessions and was up to fourth before something in the right-front of his car gave up late in the race. As of Thursday afternoon, there was still no indication as to what exactly happened to his #61. •Alec Carll had the fast time in qualifying, but was involved with a spectacular wreck on lap two. Carll got the brunt of a three-wide battle going into turn number one. Contact between the cars sent Carll’s racecar hard into the turn one wall. The car climbed the cement wall, nearly flipping, before coming to a rest in between turn one and two while still on two wheels. Carll was not injured. •Local driver Chris Anthony dominated the initial 51 laps of the race. It appeared that he burned up his tires in that run. Anthony faded to ninth at the finish, one lap down. Anthony also finished fifth in the Outlaw Late Model feature. •Rebecca Kasten was spun by Josh Slade early in the event, but battled back for an eighth-place finish, the first car one lap down. Slade was penalized for the altercation with Kasten. •Brian Campbell’s winning machine was a Perfect Circle Racecars chassis. •Scott Thomas won the Coors Light Outlaw Late Model 100-lap feature that preceded the CRA show on Wednesday night. •NASCAR Truck Series champ Johnny Benson is currently without a ride in that series, but he did wheel an Outlaw Late Model at Berlin on Wednesday night where he finished sixth. Benson will be back at Berlin Raceway on Sunday to wheel his ISMA Supermodified. He will also race at Toledo Speedway with ISMA on Friday. •Veteran racer Randy Sweet, who has now been competing for 46 years behind the wheel of a racecar, finished eighth in the Outlaw feature. •Kelsey Steele, daughter of former ARCA champion Tim Steele, won the Young Guns Late Model feature, which opened the show at Berlin. The Young Guns division is aimed for drivers with limited experience from the ages of 14 – 17.