By AMANDA VINCENT
Kyle Busch claimed his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of 2015 Saturday night in the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. He also led the most laps — 163 of the 267 that made up the race — to earn maximum points and work his way closer to the top-30 in the championship points standings. He has to be in the top-30 when the regular season ends at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in September for his wins to get him into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“That right there is what we have to do — just to score as many points as we possibly can and score those wins. That’s what’s going to get us where we need to be,” Busch said. “We led the most laps and we won the race, so that’s all you can score. We’ll just continue to push on and drive and try to strive through our deficit and get ourselves in position to be in the top-30.”
Busch is 87 points behind 30th-place driver Cole Whitt. He has eight more races to make up the deficit.
Joey Logano finished second and was the only non-Joe Gibbs Racing driver to finish inside the top-five. JGR teammates Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth finished third through fifth to give car owner Joe Gibbs four spots in the top-five of the finishing order.
Three of the JGR drivers — Busch, Hamlin and Edwards — waged a three-way battle for the lead on a restart just after lap 200. It was a battled won by Hamlin, but soon after, Logano took the lead.
“Carl was trying to win for his team, and I’m trying to win for my team. Luckily, a Joe Gibbs Racing car won it,” Hamlin said. “We’re all trying to race for a win and I was just shifting from third to fourth when he got to me and hit me and I think he wasn’t trying to hit me. He was just trying to move to the outside and stick us three-wide so he could get position and try to take the lead.”
Busch took second on a restart following the 11th and final caution of the race that came with 47 laps to go. Busch and Logano battled back and forth for the lead with 10 laps to go, with Busch coming away with the position and the eventual win.
Saturday night’s race featured a new aero package aimed at decreasing downforce with the goal of increasing passes up front. The package got rave reviews from many competitors, including Busch.
“He (Logano) got away from me, and I was nervous I wasn’t going to be able to get back to him, but I knew to just try something different to go get him and try something different,” Busch said. Man, that really worked for us.”
Brad Keselowski combined with Busch to lead all but one lap in the first half of the race. In all Keselowski was credited with 62 laps led. Pit strategy and issues on pit road, though, shuffled Keselowski back several positions multiple times throughout the race. And throughout the race, he was able to drive his way back toward the front. A possible tire issue felt late in the race hindered his final charge to the front and he was only able to get up to sixth by the checkered flag.
“It’s easy to play the Saturday evening quarterback, but it just didn’t come together for us,” Keselowski said. “There are, certainly, some things I could have done better, and we didn’t have the best day on pit road. It’s something to build off of, but I thought Kyle and I both had pretty good cars, and we just didn’t put it all together when it counted. We’ll keep working on it.”
Finishing seventh through 10th were Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch.
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