Saturday, June 16, 2018
Sports

Kyle Busch earns first Sprint Cup victory at Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kyle Busch sailed away from Kevin Harvick after a late wreck collected several of the leaders Saturday night and finally won a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway after years of misfortunes.

Busch won for the third time this season and now needs only to win at Charlotte and Pocono to knock off every track in the series. Twice he had crashed out of the Chase for the Championship race at Kansas, and he had failed to finish four times on the vexing 11/2-mile tri-oval.

All of which made his bow along the front straightaway feel so much better.

"There's been a lot of rough days at Kansas," he said, "that's for sure."

Harvick was second after making major changes to his car following a poor qualifying effort. Kurt Busch was third, Matt Kenseth fourth and Ryan Blaney fifth.

"You know, it's our best finish of the year. That's the bright side," said Kenseth, who was alongside Busch on the final restart with 19 laps to go. "I thought we were as good as the (No.) 18 if we could have had position, but it was tough restarting on that bottom."

Martin Truex earned his first pole in two years and looked like he'd be the one to finally get the victory that has eluded him at Kansas, drawing away for big leads on every restart.

He still had a comfortable lead entering the final round of scheduled stops with 54 laps to go, but Truex radioed to his team that he had a loose wheel after leaving his stall. He had to come down pit road again and dropped off the lead lap, another late-race gaffe costing him a chance to win.

Truex led 95 laps at Kansas last spring, but fuel and tire strategy conspired to leave him ninth. His team also made a strategic mistake that cost him earlier this season at Texas.

"I couldn't believe it," he said. "Went around (Turns) 1 and 2 and was like, 'Damn, the wheel is loose.' I kept telling myself maybe it's not. … Frustrating, but that's how it goes."

Tony Stewart briefly took the lead in his return to the No. 14 full-time, but everything changed when Ricky Stenhouse slapped the wall moments later. That bunched up the field and led to the only major wreck.

Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin got sideways going through a corner, and that forced Kyle Larson into the wall. Joey Logano had nowhere to go, slamming into Hamlin and ending both of their nights.

"I was going in there, three-wide, and I wasn't letting off," said Hamlin, who was pressing the issue after getting caught speeding twice on pit road. "I have to get better on pit lane to give us a chance."

Logano had won two of the previous three races at Kansas.

"It's just racing, the end of a race," he said. "It kind of stinks, two weeks in a row I'm walking out of the infield care center. … It's just racing. Things happen."

Busch elected to stay on the track to protect his position rather than pit for tires. It was a risky gamble by crew chief Adam Stevens — one that finally paid off for Busch at Kansas.

Dave Blaney in wreck: Sprint car star Dave Blaney, father of Sprint Cup series driver Ryan Blaney, was injured during Friday's qualifying for a World of Outlaws event at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.

Blaney's car flipped multiple times, and after he was extracted, he was transported to a local hospital where CT scans proved negative. He was released shortly after midnight.

Ryan Blaney provided an update from the hospital via Twitter. "Dad is alright, got his bell rung pretty good but is up and being himself," Ryan wrote. "Thanks for all the support."

Though Dave Blaney, 53, is best known for a phenomenal career in the open-wheel ranks, he also has a combined 597 NASCAR national series starts, including 473 in Sprint Cup. His lone national series win came in the fall 2006 Xfinity series race at Charlotte.

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