Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Sports

Wreck helps Kyle Busch take control of Monster Cup's ISM 300

LOUDON, N.H. — Kyle Busch saw little but billowing white smoke that engulfed the track and blinded enough drivers that it caused a tremendous wreck that notably altered the race running order.

In his No. 18 Toyota, the driver nicknamed "Rowdy" knew there was only one way to handle the sudden pollution: drive through it. Busch worked through the smoke clouds formed in the multicar crash on the backstretch and dominated the rest of the way to win Sunday's Monster Energy Cup ISM 300 at New Hampshire Motorspeedway.

"That was pretty intense," Busch said. "That was some Days of Thunder stuff over there. You couldn't see anything."

He held on for his third victory this season. Busch earned a berth in the second round of NASCAR's playoffs and took his customary bow on the track. He stuck a bag of M&M's on the claws of Loudon the Lobster, the 18-pound crustacean given to the race winner.

Busch, who won from the pole, put together a complete effort once the wreck derailed race leader Martin Truex. Truex, who won the playoff opener at Chicagoland, and Busch both earned automatic spots in the second round. Kyle Larson and Brad Kese­lowski advanced on points.

Truex led 112 laps until his run ended in the accident, though he rallied to finish fifth.

The playoff standings were shaken up in the wake of massive multicar wreck that sent playoff drivers Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick to the garage. Harvick's car was hit by Austin Dillon on the last lap of the second stage. Harvick spun and smoke billowed over the track, leaving drivers almost blinded to the traffic ahead. Busch, Harvick's teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, slammed into Harvick. Truex backed up to straighten himself out and instead suffered left-rear damage when he smacked another car.

Kurt Busch, the Daytona 500 champion, will likely have to win next week at Dover to advance to the second round.

"It's all-in. We'll go there with everything we've got like we have been," he said.

Harvick, the 2014 series champion, had accumulated enough playoff points that one DNF shouldn't cost him a spot in the top 12.

Playoff drivers filled the top five spots: Larson was second, followed by Matt Kenseth, Keselowski and Truex.

"We had damage and had to fight from the back of the pack the rest of the day," Truex said.

Kyle Busch, who had his shot at victory at Chicagoland end because of pit road miscues, survived the wreckage to lead 187 laps.

"That was a close call," Busch said. "The cloud of smoke was so large that you literally couldn't see anything."

It appeared no drivers, crew or other team members participated in a protest during the national anthem. Several team owners and executives had said they wouldn't want anyone in their organizations to protest.

Richard Childress, who was Dale Earnhardt's longtime team owner, said of protesting: "It'll get you a ride on a Greyhound bus."

Hall of Fame driver and team owner Richard Petty said: "Anybody that don't stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period."

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