Kyle Busch’s worst track throughout his career has always been Kansas Speedway. Four DNF’s (did not finish), four top ten finishes, and two top-five finishes in 16 previous starts at the 1.5-mile tri-oval haven’t had him smiling after the races there.
That was, until Saturday evening. Busch won the Go Bowling 400 for his first Sprint Cup victory at the track that has been less than kind to him over the years. The trip to victory lane is Rowdy’s third of the 2016 season, and this one was pretty sweet.
“There’s been a lot of rough days here at Kansas that’s for sure,” the defending champion said in his post-race interview with Fox Sports 1. “This thing was awesome tonight. The No. 78 (of Martin Truex Jr.) was probably the fastest car, but we kept ourselves in the game. The call to stay out was a good one. I thought clean air was best.”
Clearly, he was correct, as the No. 18 led the final 36 laps. The only tracks he has not won on in NASCAR’s top division are Pocono Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway – where the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads twice this summer.
“At the beginning of the race, we weren’t very good. (Crew Chief) Adam Stevens and the guys just keep working on it. It’s pretty impressive,” he said to FS1. “I had trouble in traffic all night long. I wasn’t the best at being able to pick my way through that stuff, but when we had green flag pit stops, I really got some good holes and was able to make some good time.”
The aforementioned Truex Jr. was snake bitten yet again, as he has only won once out of ten races where he leads over 100 laps. The trouble came late for the No. 78 as after the final round of green flag pit stops, he felt a huge vibration and had to come back to pit road.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Truex said to FS1 after his eventual 14th-place finish after leading 172 of 267 laps. “I went around (turns) one and two, and I was like, ‘The wheel’s loose.’ I kept telling myself that maybe it’s not, maybe it’s just shaking because it has tape on it or something stupid. It was loose, and I knew it right away. Frustrating, but that’s how it goes. We’re going to win races for sure. It’s frustrating when you’ve had it happen so many times in your career.
The big crash in the race came on lap 240, where Denny Hamlin stuck his No. 11 inside Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski to make it three-wide. The No. 2 of Keselowski and Hamlin didn’t touch,but both got loose, lost control, and went spinning. Keselowski escaped without damage, but Hamlin was pounded by Joey Logano on the wall and both drivers nights were done.
Hamlin, who wound up finishing in 37th, has his playoff spot locked up by virtue of his Daytona 500 win, so he can afford to take risks. The incident didn’t hurt Keselowski either. The No. 2 car has two wins this season, with his most recent coming last week at Talladega. However, Logano and Larson haven’t punched Chase tickets yet, and with the No. 22 finishing in 38th, and the No. 42 of Larson coming home 35th, they’re glad to see this weekend come and go.
Kevin Harvick, who had the freshest tires on the second to last restart, ended up finishing in second place behind Busch. On the final restart, he was catching and most likely was going to pass the eventual winner, but the racing gods had different plans.
“I hit a big piece of debris and knocked a big hunk out of the nose and knocked the splitter down (about seven laps into the final run),” Harvick said to FS1. “From that point on, (the car) was tight. Otherwise I would have drove around him. All in all, it just didn’t play out that way and they (the No. 18 team) were able to win the race. We overhauled this thing this morning to try to get it close, and they did a great job.”
Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch came home third, Matt Kenseth fourth and Ryan Blaney fifth. Blaney’s father, Dave, was involved in a scary sprint car accident, but is okay and is expected to make a full recovery. The career-best finish from his son in the No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing will surely put a spring in his step, and a smile on his face.
Austin Dillon finished sixth, Ryan Newman seventh, AJ Allmendinger eighth, and Chase Elliott ninth. Just outside the top ten, Carl Edwards rebounded from a tire problem midway through the race to finish 11th. Tony Stewart, who led 12 laps during a pit road exchange, finished 12th. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was 13th and Dale Earnhardt Jr. 15th.
Some other notables included Jimmie Johnson in 17th, Clint Bowyer in 19th, Jamie McMurray, who was penalized for an unapproved adjustment and lost two laps early on, in 26th and Paul Menard in 40th after an early race accident in his No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevy.
Next week, the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series head to Dover International Speedway, where a tripleheader will take place. Yours truly will be there to see/cover/enjoy it all!
The NSCS race will be on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET, the NXS race will be Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. ET,following two heat races, and the NCWTS race will be Friday evening at 5:30 p.m. ET.
Remember to subscribe to the Victory Lane podcast on iTunes as there will be another episode will be coming out this week). Be sure to follow myself and WDBM sports on twitter to keep up with all the happenings in NASCAR and Michigan State athletics!