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NASCAR Cup: Kyle Busch dominates, wins at New Hampshire

Kyle Busch (right) with Martin Truex Jr. (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kyle Busch (right) with Martin Truex Jr. (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Kyle Busch claimed his third win of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season in the second race of the 2017 playoffs — Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. With the win, he joined Martin Truex Jr. as drivers already secured round-two advancement by virtue of round-one wins.

Kyle Larson finished second, Matt Kenseth was third, Brad Keselowski fourth, and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top-five.

“I felt like on really long runs, I was fairly equal to those guys in front of me,” Larson said. “But on the short run, there, I could get pointed to the exit, but I couldn’t get the throttle down. I’d get loose. So, he (Busch) just was really good. I think the No. 78 (Truex) was also really good, but he had his trouble. The No. 20 (Kenseth) was also good. We were next best. So, we finished second, again, with our Target Chevy. That’s a lot of second-place finishes this year, but I’m fine with second. Top-fives will get us to Homestead, so hats off to everybody on our Target team. The pit crew was great all day. I think we gained spots every time. Normally, I’m struggling on short tracks, but this year we were pretty good.”

Busch led over half the race, running up front for 187 laps, mostly in the second-half of the race. He and Truex combined to lead all but one lap of the race. Kyle Larson was credited with leading lap 78 during the caution between the two 75-lap stages that comprised the first half of the 300-lap race.

“It was just a great day for our team and for the 18 team,” Busch said. “We were able to execute all day long, and we did everything right. We did everything we were supposed to do, and that’s where you end up when we’re able to do those things, and it was a great race up front too with the 78 (Truex), there. The 20 (Joey Logano) was there for a little. I think he was a little better on that long run that one time, but overall, we had some really good short run speed there at the end. We were able to get out front, there, and kind of set the field because – set the pace – and that was what we needed to do today.”

Truex won the opening stage for his 19th stage win of the season, Busch won stage two.

Truex dominated the first half of the race after taking the lead from pole-sitter Busch on lap 40. He was still leading until the final lap of the second stage when he was among the drivers involved in a multi-car wreck on the backstretch when Kevin Harvick spun. The wreck resulted in a red flag for track cleanup. It also resulted in retirement from the race for Harvick and his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate and fellow-playoff driver Kurt Busch.

“I know as I got sideways, there, I tried to get thing whoaed down and pointed in the right direction, and it snapped back the other way,” Harvick said. ”I tried to lock it down, and it was too far up across the race track. I knew I was probably worse off at that particular point, so once it turned back right, and I was in trouble, I should have just tried to keep it left, but I couldn’t really tell where I was with all the smoke and everything that was happening, but just got hit from behind and spun out.”

According to Harvick, contact from Austin Dillon caused the wreck. According to Dillon, though, Harvick was already out of control when he hit him.

“I think you can look at the replay,” Dillon said. ”He kept coming left and I was in the gas and he bobbled and when he bobbled I tapped him and it spun him out.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeffrey Earnhardt also were collected in the incident.

Truex managed to finish the second stage in sixth but slipped to the back of the top-20 for the final stage and the second half of the race when he spent extra time on pit road for repairs.

“I could not see anything, and I was just approaching the smoke and I’m like, ‘Oh no, where am I going to go?’ I mean, literally, I couldn’t see anything, and my spotter said go low. By then, it was kind of too late, and I was already, like, to the smoke, and I couldn’t commit. I just kind of, like, just kept slowing down and the 33 (Jeffrey Earnhardt) just came by me on the outside and hit me and spun me down through there, so just unfortunate, you know? We were coming to the green-white-checkered to win the second stage, which would have been another bonus point, which would be helpful, and, of course, you know we had damage and had to fight from the back of the pack the rest of the day, so proud of our effort to run fifth after all that, but it definitely hurt our day.”

Truex raced back into the top-10 with just under 75 laps remaining and retook the lead from Kyle Busch by taking only two tires during a caution for a Kasey Kahne mechanical problem with 37 laps to go. But with four new tires, Busch was able to retake the lead on the restart that followed.

Erik Jones finished sixth, Clint Bowyer was seventh after running as high as second late in the race, Daniel Suarez finished eighth, Ryan Blaney was ninth and Joey Logano rounded out the top-10 after starting last and overcoming a pit-road penalty for his pit crew going over the wall too soon.

Playoff drivers finishing outside the top-10 included Chase Elliott in 11th and Denny Hamlin in 12th. Hamlin fell off the lead lap just past the halfway point of the race when he was forced down pit road for an unscheduled pit stop for a loose right-rear wheel. He was back on the lead lap by the end of the race.

Other playoff drivers, Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Jamie McMurray finished 13th through 16th.

“We had a lug nut not on our last pit stop on the left-front, so when I went to leave the box, I had to stop and back up and put a lugnut on, so I fell from fifth to 15th or something and, then, just stuck in traffic and couldn’t go anywhere.”

Dillon was 19th, while Kahne, Harvick and Kurt Busch were credited with finishes between 35th and 37th.

Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on September 24, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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