Kyle Busch

NASCAR: Kevin Harvick wins rain-delayed NASCAR race at Bristol

This gallery contains 1 photo.

BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — Kevin Harvick wasn’t worried about his poor qualifying at Bristol Motor Speedway. In fact, starting 24th gave Harvick exactly what he wanted to win at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“It kind of motivates me,” Harvick said Sunday. “I think it’s exciting. I like to pass cars.”

Harvick made the biggest pass with 70 laps to go, sweeping by Denny Hamlin and holding on to take the rain-delayed race at the half-mile concrete track.

The victory was Harvick’s second of the season and second at Bristol — his first in 11 years. It also moved him atop the points standings and gave his program a jolt with only three races left until NASCAR’s Chase starts.

Harvick had 13 top-10 finishes in the 18 races since winning at Phoenix in March.

“It’s been one of those deals where things have just not gone exactly right,” said Harvick, who led 128 laps. “But to have the win now and just try to get that momentum before we get into the Chase and get things rolling is really what we needed.”

Fittingly for a race halted because of Saturday night storms, Harvick had to sit out one last rain delay before easily pulling away on the restart and cruising to victory.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Harvick said over the radio as he crossed the line.

Harvick enticed his car owner — and retiring driver — Tony Stewart to do burnouts with him to celebrate the three-time champion’s last race at Bristol. He wanted Stewart to share the victory lap, but “Tony and I aren’t very good at sign language from one seat to another,” he said.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was second, followed by Hamlin, Austin Dillon and Chris Buescher.

Kyle Busch, who led 256 laps, clearly had the strongest car, leading a race-high 256 laps. But he spun on Lap 358 when a part broke and Justin Allgaier, driving in relief of Michael Arnett, hit the No. 18 car flush to end the defending series champ’s race.

Busch was angered by his equipment failure and said the race shop “was going to hear about it Tuesday.” He also blasted Allgaier and his spotter, saying they should’ve seen Busch’s spin and moved clear instead of hitting him. “I don’t know. Frustrating day. Let’s go home,” Busch said.

Allgaier apologized to Busch. “That is the worst possibly scenario when the leader spins out and you hit them,” Allgaier said.

That was the sentiment of many at Bristol. The end was a welcome relief for race teams, track officials and those who came back out after last night’s soaking rains.

It was the second time in three races — Pocono’s Sunday race ended on a Monday three weeks ago — that rain impacted a Sprint Cup race and only a fraction of the 160,000 in the stands Saturday night returned for the conclusion.

The finish also meant Bristol could begin the massive conversion of its race track to a football field for No. 9 Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech, an event that track GM Jerry Caldwell expects will draw in excess of 155,000 fans.

WHO’S HOT: Austin Dillon, the surprise winner of the Xfinity race here Friday night, found himself competing for the victory on the final restart with 51 laps to go. He got as high as second before finishing fourth. The result was a boost to Dillon’s Chase chances, too, who came in as one of the drivers qualifying on points and left with that intact.

WHO’S NOT: Tony Stewart was hoping to lock up his Chase spot — he’s got a win but stands 27th in points — with a strong Bristol finish. Instead, he went behind the wall with a vibration just past the halfway point. Stewart finished 30th.

THEY SAID IT: “The person that’s really the biggest moron out there is the spotter of the 46 and driver of the 46 (Justin Allgaier). I’ve been wrecking half a lap and they just come up and clean us out. That’s stupid,” said Kyle Busch, who wrecked on lap 373 after leading 258 laps.

THE BIG ONE: It came on lap 373 on a restart after Kyle Busch was knocked out by an accident. Kurt Busch slid up and was hit by Brad Keselowski, touching off a 10-car wreck that caught up contenders Kyle Larson, Blaney, Chase Elliott and Matt Kenseth. Keselowski said Kurt Busch got loose “and by the time I saw it, I was already making contact. It was one of those Bristol things.”

UP NEXT: Michigan International Speedway, Aug. 28. Matt Kenseth is the defending champion.

Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race

Sunday’s results from the .533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (24) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 500 laps, 0 rating, 44 points.

2. (25) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 500, 0, 39.

3. (2) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 500, 0, 39.

4. (13) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 500, 0, 37.

5. (12) Chris Buescher, Ford, 500, 0, 36.

6. (1) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 500, 0, 36.

7. (16) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 500, 0, 34.

8. (28) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 500, 0, 33.

9. (8) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 500, 0, 32.

10. (10) Joey Logano, Ford, 500, 0, 32.

11. (11) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 500, 0, 30.

12. (22) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 500, 0, 29.

13. (19) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 500, 0, 28.

14. (17) Aric Almirola, Ford, 500, 0, 27.

15. (6) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 500, 0, 27.

16. (34) Greg Biffle, Ford, 500, 0, 25.

17. (18) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 500, 0, 24.

18. (30) Brian Scott, Ford, 499, 0, 24.

19. (26) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 499, 0, 22.

20. (32) Landon Cassill, Ford, 497, 0, 21.

21. (37) David Ragan, Toyota, 497, 0, 20.

22. (29) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 496, 0, 19.

23. (7) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 496, 0, 18.

24. (23) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 495, 0, 17.

25. (21) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 495, 0, 16.

26. (33) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 491, 0, 15.

27. (36) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 489, 0, 14.

28. (15) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 487, 0, 14.

29. (38) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Ford, 479, 0, 12.

30. (27) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 471, 0, 11.

31. (31) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 470, 0, 10.

32. (20) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 458, 0, 9.

33. (9) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 458, 0, 8.

34. (35) Cole Whitt, Ford, 442, 0, 7.

35. (4) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 437, 0, 6.

36. (40) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 416, 0, 5.

37. (5) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, accident, 373, 0, 4.

38. (14) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, accident, 372, 0, 3.

39. (3) Kyle Busch, Toyota, accident, 357, 0, 4.

40. (39) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, accident, 354, 0, 0.

———

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 77.973 mph.

Time of Race: 3 hours, 25 minutes, 5 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 1.933 seconds.

Caution Flags: 9 for 106 laps.

Lead Changes: 20 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders: C.Edwards 0; D.Hamlin 1-8; C.Elliott 9-22; Ky.Busch 23-87; B.Scott 88-92; R.Newman 93-101; Ky.Busch 102-160; C.Edwards 161-189; Ky.Busch 190-226; C.Edwards 227; Ky.Busch 228-250; C.Edwards 251; Ky.Busch 252-285; K.Harvick 286-309; Ky.Busch 310-347; K.Harvick 348-366; J.Logano 367-403; K.Harvick 404-417; J.Logano 418; D.Hamlin 419-429; K.Harvick 430-500

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): Ky.Busch, 6 times for 250 laps; K.Harvick, 4 times for 124 laps; J.Logano, 2 times for 36 laps; C.Edwards, 4 times for 28 laps; D.Hamlin, 2 times for 17 laps; C.Elliott, 1 time for 13 laps; R.Newman, 1 time for 8 laps; B.Scott, 1 time for 4 laps.

Wins: Ky.Busch, 4; B.Keselowski, 4; C.Edwards, 2; D.Hamlin, 2; K.Harvick, 2; J.Johnson, 2; M.Kenseth, 2; C.Buescher, 1; Ku.Busch, 1; J.Logano, 1; T.Stewart, 1; M.Truex, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. K.Harvick, 762; 2. B.Keselowski, 735; 3. Ku.Busch, 692; 4. C.Edwards, 689; 5. J.Logano, 684; 6. Ky.Busch, 674; 7. D.Hamlin, 659; 8. M.Truex, 630; 9. J.Johnson, 612; 10. M.Kenseth, 604; 11. A.Dillon, 596; 12. C.Elliott, 588; 13. J.McMurray, 583; 14. R.Newman, 576; 15. T.Bayne, 541; 16. K.Kahne, 537.

NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol suspended until Sunday

This gallery contains 1 photo.

BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — The water-logged Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway was called after just 48 of 500 laps were run because of rainstorms throughout Saturday night.

The race will resume Sunday at 1 p.m.

NASCAR officials finally called it after more than three hours of delays. The race started more than an hour late because of rain, lightning and hail near the track. After just 38 laps, the race was halted as rain, somewhat heavy at times, hit the half-mile track.

Things cleared after a delay of 1 hour, 24 minutes and drivers got back in their cars. But after 10 slow caution laps, the heavy rain returned and things ended for good.

Kyle Busch had the lead, followed by Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth.

“We haven’t really even got going so I think until we get some laps and get racing it is really kind of hard to say how it’s going to go,” Elliott said. “I’m looking forward to the NAPA Auto Parts team getting back going tomorrow.”

Pole-sitter Carl Edwards, the winner at the track in the spring, led a top five qualifying filled with Joe Gibbs Racing racers. Along with Edwards, JGR teammates Hamlin was second, Busch was third and Kenseth fifth on Friday.

All four Gibbs’ drivers remained in the top seven with Edwards sliding down from No. 1 to seventh.

It’s the second time in three races weather has altered the Sprint Cup schedule. Rain at Pocono Raceway three weeks ago pushed that finish until Monday when rookie Chris Buescher won his first Sprint Cup title as continued bad weather shortened that race.

NASCAR may have looked hard for any free, dry windows of race time given that Bristol will begin transforming the race track into a football field to host Tennessee and Virginia Tech on Sept. 10. The track’s timeline gave them 19 days to convert the infield to a football field and make things ready for what Bristol executive vice president and general manager Jerry Caldwell figured would be more than 155,000 fans coming out to watch the game.

The conversion was expected to start early Sunday once the last NASCAR hauler had left the track. Now, that time line is crunched as the track must finish with its main attraction, the Sprint Cup series.

_____

People look at the threatening sky as stormy weather delays the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016 ,in Bristol, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

NASCAR: Dillon wins Xfinity race at Bristol in wild finish

This gallery contains 1 photo.

BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — Austin Dillon figured fourth place was about all he could get Friday night until the old Brad Keselowski-Kyle Busch rivalry reared up at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Keselowski hit the back of Busch’s car as the defending Sprint Cup champ tried to clear him from the lead, cutting down a tire and sending Busch into the wall four laps from the scheduled end. Then just as suddenly Keselowski ran out of gas during the caution — leaving a happily surprised Dillon out front to win the Xfinity race in overtime Friday night.

“I was actually just enjoying what was going on (up front) trying to get there,” Dillon said about the chaos.

For the last 50 laps, the race looked like a classic faceoff between Busch and Keselowski who no one would consider friends.

While Keselowski’s tactic to many diehards was just a traditional Bristol bump-and-run, it’s sure to stir up a Busch-Keselowski tussle that’s frequently goes from zero-to-60 in seconds.

Keselowski described Busch as another name for a donkey during driver intros at Bristol in 2010. Keselowski detailed their rocky relationship on and off track in a blog last year.

The two get a chance to tangle once more here Saturday night in the Sprint Cup event.

“We were battling really hard and definitely didn’t want to see it end that way,” Keselowski said.

“He’s a dirty racer,” Busch responded when asked by ESPN.

Dillon didn’t care about the circumstances only that he was broke cleanly in the green-white-checkered finish to beat Justin Algaier in second and Kyle Larson in third.

“Even when they were pushing us, we had to remain calm,” said Dillon’s crew chief, Justin Alexander. “Things unfold and you’re sitting there pretty much where you need to be.”

Larson had led for 200 of 308 laps, but was overtaken the Keselowski and Busch.

Dillon’s younger brother, Ty Dillon, made it a three-car race as he mixed it up between the two Sprint Cup champs. In fact, it was Ty Dillon, who emerged on top when that trio raced three-wide on Bristol’s slippery, tight track. But Dillon couldn’t sustain his edge and his chances ended for good when he hit the back of Busch’s slowed machine.

Dillon thought the Keselowski-Busch dustup might increase the walk-up sales for Saturday night’s next round. “We should sell some tickets tomorrow night,” he said.

All the fussin’ and fuedin’ up front was just fine with Dillon, who won his eighth career Xfinity victory and first at Bristol.

“It was just a war of attrition and we had a pretty good car,” Dillon said. “Maybe not the fastest car, but the car that won.”

WHO’S HOT: Justin Algaier figured on finishing seventh until the late chaos lifted him to second. It was his fifth top-10 finish in his past six Xfinity races at Bristol.

WHO’S NOT: Daniel Suarez, who had a strong run at Bristol Motor Speedway ruined for the second time in three days. Suarez led 77 laps in the truck series here Wednesday night when a late crash doomed him to 29th. He led Xfinity practice Thursday and was bidding for a top-10 finish when another accident knocked him back.

THEY SAID IT: “I’ve never seen the fans get that involved in something like that that really wasn’t a major deal, nobody wrecked each other in a caution or something like that. But fans were definitely getting excited,” runner-up Justin Algaier said of the Busch-Keselowski tangle.

THE BIG ONE: Teammates Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez clipped each other on lap 245, causing significant damage to the two Joe Gibbs Racing entrants. Jones, the pole sitter, was running ninth at the time. The crash collected four other cars. Jones had won the Xfinity race here this past April.

UP NEXT: Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, Aug. 27. Paul Menard is the defending race winner.

Full results:

Lap length: .533 miles(Start position in parentheses)

1. (5) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 308 laps, 0 rating, 0 points.

2. (8) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 308, 0, 39.

3. (7) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 308, 0, 0.

4. (15) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 308, 0, 37.

5. (14) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 308, 0, 36.

6. (12) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 308, 0, 35.

7. (6) Darrell Wallace Jr, Ford, 308, 0, 35.

8. (17) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 308, 0, 33.

9. (4) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 307, 0, 32.

10. (20) Corey Lajoie, Toyota, 307, 0, 31.

11. (9) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 306, 0, 0.

12. (11) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 306, 0, 0.

13. (21) Gray Gaulding, Ford, 303, 0, 28.

14. (28) Ray Black Jr, Chevrolet, 302, 0, 27.

15. (18) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 301, 0, 26.

16. (30) David Starr, Chevrolet, 301, 0, 25.

17. (25) Mario Gosselin, Chevrolet, 301, 0, 24.

18. (29) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 301, 0, 23.

19. (26) B J McLeod, Ford, 300, 0, 22.

20. (27) Travis Kvapil, Ford, 299, 0, 0.

21. (32) Brandon Gdovic, Chevrolet, 299, 0, 20.

22. (31) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 299, 0, 19.

23. (38) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 299, 0, 18.

24. (2) Kyle Busch, Toyota, accident, 296, 0, 0.

25. (10) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, accident, 296, 0, 17.

26. (39) Camden Murphy, Ford, 295, 0, 15.

27. (19) J.J. Yeley, Toyota, 293, 0, 14.

28. (13) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 291, 0, 13.

29. (35) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 290, 0, 12.

30. (3) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 286, 0, 11.

31. (37) T.J. Bell, Chevrolet, 286, 0, 10.

32. (16) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, accident, 278, 0, 9.

33. (1) Erik Jones, Toyota, accident, 244, 0, 9.

34. (36) Hermie Sadler, Toyota, fuelpump, 228, 0, 7.

35. (22) Ryan Reed, Ford, 226, 0, 6.

36. (40) Mike Harmon, Dodge, brakes, 168, 0, 5.

37. (23) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, suspension, 165, 0, 4.

38. (34) Harrison Rhodes, Toyota, engine, 36, 0, 3.

39. (33) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, handling, 27, 0, 2.

40. (24) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, brakes, 3, 0, 0.

———

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 84.815 mph.

Time of Race: 1 hour, 56 minutes, 7 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 0.277 seconds.

Caution Flags: 8 for 54 laps.

Lead Changes: 16 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders: E.Jones 1; D.Wallace 2-5; E.Jones 6-31; K.Larson 32-33; E.Jones 34; K.Larson 35-77; E.Jones 78; K.Larson 79-153; E.Jones 154; K.Larson 155-234; E.Jones 235; B.Keselowski 236-287; K.Busch 288; B.Keselowski 289; T.Dillon 290; B.Keselowski 291-304; A.Dillon 305-308

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): K.Larson, 4 times for 196 laps; B.Keselowski, 3 times for 64 laps; E.Jones, 6 times for 25 laps; A.Dillon, 1 time for 3 laps; D.Wallace, 1 time for 3 laps; K.Busch, 1 time for 0 laps; T.Dillon, 1 time for 0 laps.

Wins: K.Busch, 7; E.Jones, 3; A.Dillon, 1; K.Larson, 1; E.Sadler, 1; D.Suarez, 1.

Top 10 in Points: 1. E.Sadler, 700; 2. D.Suarez, 675; 3. T.Dillon, 667; 4. E.Jones, 648; 5. J.Allgaier, 646; 6. B.Gaughan, 631; 7. B.Poole, 618; 8. B.Jones, 595; 9. D.Wallace, 539; 10. R.Reed, 526.

———

NASCAR Driver Rating Formula

A maximum of 150 points can be attained in a race.

The formula combines the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish.

NASCAR: Ben Kennedy passes William Byron to win NASCAR Truck race at Bristol

This gallery contains 1 photo.

BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — Ben Kennedy moved past NASCAR Truck season leader William Byron with 19 laps to go and held at Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday night for his first series victory.

Kennedy, the son of International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy and great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., became the first France family member to win a NASCAR national series race. He was making his 63rd career start.

“I can’t put it into words,” Kennedy said. “Someone asked me earlier today what it’s like going to Bristol for your first time and to win here is just so cool. I’m speechless. The guys gave me an awesome truck. Everyone at GMS Racing, Jacob Companies, the fans in the stands, everybody watching on TV, gosh this is just the coolest day of my life.”

Byron, a rookie won has won five races this season, looked as he would make it six when he took the lead from teammate Daniel Suarez with 21 laps left. But Byron went high into a turn and Kennedy was able to sweep past him. Kennedy had to hold on through a restart with seven laps to go, fending off Brett Moffitt the rest of the way for the victory.

“I was just thinking go as fast as possible on this last lap,” Kennedy said. “I knew Brett was putting pressure on me from behind. I appreciate him racing me clean. This is just so cool. These guys deserve it. They work so hard.”

The victory locked up a spot for Kennedy in the series’ eight-driver championship chase that begins in New Hampshire next month.

Daniel Hemric was third, followed by Byron and Johnny Sauter.

Kennedy had not led a lap all season before moving in front on a damp night at Bristol. The race’s start was delayed more than an hour when storms hit the area. When the green flag dropped, it looked as if Christopher Bell and Suarez had the strongest machines.

Each, though, couldn’t sustain things.

Bell led a race-high 101 of 200 laps until spinning out while racing Suarez up front. Suarez led 77 laps until he was passed by Byron.

Bell held on for seventh, while a late spin dropped Suarez to 29th in the 32-car field.

WHO’S HOT

Byron has not cooled off. The rookie driver followed up a win at Pocono, his fifth of the season, with a fourth-place run at Bristol. It was his eighth top-10 finish in 13 races this season.

WHO’S NOT

Two-time series champion Matt Crafton continued his disappointing summer, going only 70 of 200 laps before having to leave the track after he said “something broke.” Crafton started the season with six top-10s, including two victories, over the first eight races. He’s had only one top-10 finish in the past five times out and was dead last at Bristol, his worst finish of 2016.

THAT WAS FAST

Pole-sitter Tyler Reddick qualified at 128.917 mph, nearly 2 mph hour quicker than the 12-year-old qualifying record held by Ken Schrader since August 2004. Reddick led nine drivers who finished under Schrader’s speed in setting the grid for the truck race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

WET WEATHER

The start was delayed more than an hour because of rain. A caution came out early on Lap 28 when drizzle began to fall. NASCAR had scheduled a competition caution 40 laps in to see if the machines would be affected by the soggy conditions.

UP NEXT

Michigan International Speedway, Aug. 27. Kyle Busch is the defending race winner.

FULL RESULTS

Lap length: .533 miles(Start position in parentheses)

1. (13) Ben Kennedy, Chevrolet, 200 laps, 107.3 rating, 36 points.

2. (8) Brett Moffitt, Toyota, 200, 110.4, 31.

3. (12) Daniel Hemric, Ford, 200, 84.6, 30.

4. (6) William Byron, Toyota, 200, 94.5, 30.

5. (7) Johnny Sauter, Chevrolet, 200, 94.4, 28.

6. (9) Cole Custer, Chevrolet, 200, 79.1, 27.

7. (5) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 200, 129.2, 28.

8. (16) John Hunter Nemechek, Chevrolet, 200, 84.0, 25.

9. (15) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 200, 74.1, 0.

10. (19) John Wes Townley, Toyota, 200, 80.1, 23.

11. (10) Kaz Grala, Chevrolet, 200, 68.4, 22.

12. (14) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, 200, 62.5, 21.

13. (25) Timothy Peters, Toyota, 200, 69.5, 20.

14. (1) Tyler Reddick, Ford, 200, 93.4, 20.

15. (21) Caleb Holman, Toyota, 200, 85.6, 18.

16. (22) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, 200, 53.0, 17.

17. (11) Jesse Little, Toyota, 200, 58.5, 16.

18. (27) Austin Cindric, Ford, 199, 39.5, 15.

19. (18) Austin Hill, Chevrolet, 199, 56.9, 14.

20. (24) Parker Kligerman, Ford, 199, 46.8, 13.

21. (26) Austin Wayne Self, Toyota, 198, 41.5, 12.

22. (23) Stewart Friesen, Chevrolet, 198, 40.0, 11.

23. (28) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 197, 47.1, 10.

24. (3) Cameron Hayley, Toyota, 197, 87.6, 9.

25. (30) Travis Kvapil, Chevrolet, 197, 34.4, 8.

26. (20) Rico Abreu, Toyota, 194, 44.4, 7.

27. (31) Matt Mills, Chevrolet, 191, 28.6, 6.

28. (32) Bryce Napier, Chevrolet, 191, 27.8, 5.

29. (2) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, accident, 186, 113.8, 0.

30. (4) Ben Rhodes, Toyota, engine, 128, 88.4, 3.

31. (29) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, garage, 71, 29.0, 2.

32. (17) Matt Crafton, Toyota, engine, 70, 56.3, 1.

———

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 74.382 mph.

Time of Race: 1 hour, 25 minutes, 59 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 0.274 seconds.

Caution Flags: 9 for 55 laps.

Lead Changes: 7 among 5 drivers.

Lap Leaders: T.Reddick 1; D.Suarez 2-39; C.Bell 40-135; D.Suarez 136; C.Bell 137-141; D.Suarez 142-179; W.Byron 180; B.Kennedy 181-200

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): C.Bell, 2 times for 99 laps; D.Suarez, 3 times for 74 laps; B.Kennedy, 1 time for 19 laps; W.Byron, 1 time for 0 laps; T.Reddick, 1 time for 0 laps.

Wins: W.Byron, 5; M.Crafton, 2; C.Bell, 1; J.Nemechek, 1; J.Sauter, 1.

Top 10 in Points: 1. W.Byron, 319; 2. M.Crafton, 294; 3. D.Hemric, 282; 4. T.Peters, 282; 5. J.Sauter, 278; 6. C.Bell, 268; 7. J.Nemechek, 256; 8. C.Hayley, 251; 9. B.Kennedy, 251; 10. T.Reddick, 250.

———

NASCAR Driver Rating Formula

A maximum of 150 points can be attained in a race.

The formula combines the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish.

NASCAR: Buescher emerges in the fog at Pocono for 1st career Cup win

This gallery contains 1 photo.

LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Chris Buescher sat in his Ford, hoping that the fog would stick over Pocono and the cloud over the rookie’s middling season would start to lift.

Buescher idled in his car, then stood with his arms folded on pit road.

“I tried not to get my hopes up,” he said.

Buescher emerged from the fog to become a surprising winner in Monday’s shortened Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway. He is now on the verge of being in the mix for NASCAR’s championship after not finishing better than 14th all season before Monday.

Imagine a title push that kicks off with Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and little-known Buescher in the field.

“The plan was to always make the Chase,” Buescher said. “We’re that much closer now.”

He’s not there yet. Buescher is six points behind David Ragan for 30th to reach the cutoff needed to become eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

Buescher, who drives for underfunded Front Row Motorsports, was the beneficiary on a rare Monday race postponed a day by rain. With nasty weather punishing the track, NASCAR called the red flag with 22 laps left and parked the cars on pit road. Buescher was as much a spectator in the No. 34 Ford as the few fans left in the stands, though NASCAR let drivers get out of their cars after about 10 minutes as they waited out gloomy conditions.

“I’m a little scared to get out,” Buescher said.

No need. He was declared the winner after about an 80-minute delay. He was doused with beer and water in a makeshift victory lane celebration inside a garage stall, his Ford covered on rainy pit road instead of bathed in confetti.

Brad Keselowski was second, followed by Regan Smith, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart. Jeff Gordon finished 27th driving for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr.

In order to qualify for the Chase, drivers must rank 30th or better in points. Buescher will need to find a way to climb higher over Ragan in the final five races before the Chase field is set.

Buescher won twice last season in the Xfinity Series and won the series championship. He will spend 2016 as basically the fourth Jack Roush driver because of a shared technical alliance between the organizations.

He finished 30th or worse 10 times this season. Ragan had Front Row’s only victory 118 races ago in fall 2013 at Talladega.

Veteran crew chief Bob Osborne gambled with the decision to keep Buescher on the track while others made pit stops with 28 laps left. Once the cars were halted, Buescher and his crew rooted for the rain and fog to stick around. At one point, the 23-year-old Buescher, a former ARCA champion, rested against a fence and was swarmed by fans and photographers wanting a picture before the race was even called.

“I’m trying to remember every rain dance I’ve ever learned,” he said in the car.

Buescher is now on the brink of becoming the first Chase bracket buster. Led by four-time winners Busch and Keselowski, there are 11 slots seemingly set for race winners, and Buescher would make 12. Jamie McMurray, Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman, and Kyle Larson are among the four winless drivers battling for the final four spots.

“This is going to change our whole year right here,” Buescher said.

Drivers with a Chase spot secured enjoyed Buescher’s feel-good victory that broke up the recent Toyota hot streak.

“I told him, ‘If I couldn’t win, it was cool to see him win,'” Keselowski said.

NASCAR defended dragging out the decision to call the race, even as severe storms hit a track where a fan was killed by a lightning strike in 2012.

“We never lost the track,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer. “I think most NASCAR fans want to see a complete race.”

Here are other items of note from Monday’s race:

SO CLOSE

With rain looming toward the halfway point, Larson and Dillon engaged in a thrilling five-lap battle for first. Larson kept his tight lead with a timely block of Dillon just two laps shy of the halfway point. Dillon dipped low and briefly snagged the lead, only for Larson to snatch it right back at the halfway point that made the race official.

But Larson and Dillon took their door-to-door battle on the high line, allowing Joey Logano to swoop low and seize the lead in one of the most exciting mid-race moves of the season. Logano, the 2015 Daytona 500 champion, pulled away in the fog — but Elliott got loose and turned Logano into the wall with 55 laps left in the race and sent his 22 to the garage.

FLAT TRUEX

Martin Truex Jr. run up front from the pole was a short one, the former Pocono winner’s race derailed by a flat right front tire. Truex led 16 laps early until the tire blew and forced him to pit road for repairs. He had multiple issues once he returned to the track and finished 38th.

Truex has one win this season and won the June 2015 Pocono race. Truex said his No. 78 Toyota was strong enough to contend for a victory.

“A lug nut spun off, hit the ground, bounced behind the wheel somehow and knocked the inner valve stem off,” he said.

GORDON’S RUN

Jeff Gordon’s track record for wins remains at six. Gordon, filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the second straight week, battled a seat belt issue and finished 27th. Earnhardt missed his third straight race because he suffers from symptoms of a concussion. Hendrick Motorsports has not said who will drive the No. 88 Chevrolet on Sunday at Watkins Glen.

UP NEXT:

Logano is the defending race winner at Watkins Glen.

___

MONDAY’S RESULTS

Lap length: 2.5 miles

(Post position in parentheses)

1. (22) Chris Buescher, Ford, 138.

2. (7) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 138.

3. (30) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 138.

4. (17) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 138.

5. (6) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 138.

6. (11) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 138.

7. (4) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 138.

8. (2) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 138.

9. (16) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 138.

10. (15) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 138.

11. (18) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 138.

12. (5) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 138.

13. (12) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 138.

14. (13) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 138.

15. (23) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 138.

16. (21) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 138.

17. (9) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 138.

18. (14) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 138.

19. (31) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 138.

20. (19) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 138.

21. (20) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 138.

22. (26) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 138.

23. (29) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 138.

24. (35) Brian Scott, Ford, 138.

25. (25) Greg Biffle, Ford, 138.

26. (28) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 138.

27. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 138.

28. (34) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 138.

29. (39) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 137.

30. (32) Landon Cassill, Ford, 137.

31. (36) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 137.

32. (33) David Ragan, Toyota, 135.

33. (8) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 134.

34. (38) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 132.

35. (3) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 119.

36. (37) Jeb Burton, Ford, 117.

37. (10) Joey Logano, Ford, 115.

38. (1) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, Accident, 82.

39. (27) Aric Almirola, Ford, Accident, 66.

40. (40) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Engine, 29.

———

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 127.581 mph.

Time of Race: 02 Hrs, 42 Mins, 15 Secs. Margin of Victory: Caution.

Caution Flags: 7 for 31 laps.

Lead Changes: 19 among 11 drivers.

Lap Leaders: M. Truex Jr 1-16; B. Keselowski 17-18; G. Biffle 19-32; J. Logano 33-50; K. Harvick 51; J. Logano 52; A. Dillon 53; R. Newman 54; B. Keselowski 55-60; K. Harvick 61-66; K. Larson 67-77; A. Dillon 78; K. Larson 79-80; J. Logano 81-99; K. Larson 100-108; Kyle Busch 109; K. Larson 110-124; A. Dillon 125; A. Allmendinger 126; C. Buescher 127-138.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): J. Logano 3 times for 38 laps; K. Larson 4 times for 37 laps; M. Truex Jr 1 time for 16 laps; G. Biffle 1 time for 14 laps; C. Buescher 1 time for 12 laps; B. Keselowski 2 times for 8 laps; K. Harvick 2 times for 7 laps; A. Dillon 3 times for 3 laps; R. Newman 1 time for 1 lap; Kyle Busch 1 time for 1 lap; A. Allmendinger 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: K. Harvick, 709; B. Keselowski, 687; Kurt Busch, 658; Kyle Busch, 634; C. Edwards, 626; J. Logano, 612; J. Johnson, 577; M. Truex Jr, 577; D. Hamlin, 576; M. Kenseth, 569; A. Dillon, 549; R. Newman, 537; C. Elliott, 533; J. Mcmurray, 517; K. Larson, 508; K. Kahne, 488.

This story has been corrected to show that winning is not a requirement to qualifying for the Chase.

NASCAR: Busch turns weekend into clean sweep with Brickyard 400 win

This gallery contains 1 photo.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kyle Busch heard all about the potential to pull off a historic sweep at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

On Sunday, he accomplished the feat.

Busch led a record 149 of 170 laps and beat teammate Matt Kenseth to the finish line in a second overtime to win his second straight Brickyard 400. Coupled with an Xfinity Series victory a day earlier, Busch became the first NASCAR driver to win both poles and both races on the same weekend.

“I’ve never had a dominant car like this,” Busch said after celebrating his fourth win of the season with his wife and son. “This is obviously a special day and a special car.”

The impressive feat even overshadowed two other major story lines — Jeff Gordon’s comeback and Tony Stewart’s farewell.

Stewart finished 11th in his final race at Indianapolis, while Gordon was 13th. Gordon came out of retirement to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has battled concussion-like symptoms and has missed two consecutive races and will also sit out next week at Pocono. Gordon will replace him there, as well.

Afterward the two drivers who grew up in Indiana drove side-by-side around the 2.5-mile oval one last time.

“I have gained so much respect and admiration for Tony,” Gordon said. “I love this guy. I have always respected his talent.”

Everybody respected Busch’s talent this weekend, too.

The reigning Sprint Cup Series champion, who used last year’s win at the Brickyard to jumpstart his title campaign, joined third-place finisher Jimmie Johnson as the only back-to-back winners of NASCAR’s race at Indy. Johnson won in 2008 and 2009.

Busch surrendered the lead for 14 laps after his first pit stop, regained it when Brad Keselowski pitted, then gave it up again for only five laps when he made his second pit stop.

Everyone else spent their day chasing Busch.

The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was so strong that Roger Penske’s drivers started with a strategy of trying stretch their runs long enough to make one fewer pit stop. It didn’t work — Joey Logano finished seventh and Keselowski wound up 17th.

The only real challenge for Busch came with a series of late crashes that delayed his inevitable trip to victory lane.

The crashes began when Carl Edwards’ car wiggled in the first turn on a restart with seven laps to go. His car slid up the track, hitting Keselowski, as well as Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick. The wreck brought out a red flag for almost eight minutes.

On the ensuing restart, with three to go, Busch again pulled away only to have a collision between Trevor Bayne and Clint Bowyer behind him to send the race into first overtime.

It happened again when Jamie McMurray slid through the first turn and into the wall on the next restart, but Busch pulled away one more time for a historic win in a race that actually took 425 miles.

“I certainly didn’t want one, let alone five (overtimes) or however many there were,” Busch said. “We just wanted the race to go green till the end. We had a really good long-run car till the end, so I felt like we’d be able to hold off all those guys behind us and then we had all those restarts.”

WHO’S HOT: Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota. The team had three cars finish in the top five and heads to Pocono with back-to-back victories. Toyota, meanwhile, had three of its cars place in the top four.

WHO’S NOT: Hendrick Motorsports. Yes, Johnson ended a four-race streak with no top-threes but nobody else finished in the top 10 and none of the four cars was even in contention for the lead.

TOUGH WEEK: Greg Biffle wanted this weekend to be a tribute for his late father, who died Tuesday. Instead, Biffle’s day ended early after he crashed on Lap 52.

EMPTY SEATS: It’s tough to fill roughly 250,000 seats. But the estimated crowd of about 50,000 left plenty of seats empty at a race that has seen attendance steadily dwindle over the past eight years. The lone exception came in 2015 — in what was supposed to be Gordon’s “final ride.”

HE SAID IT: When Busch was asked whether his success over the past two years at Indy would prompt him to follow in the footsteps of his brother, Kurt, and run in the Indianapolis 500, Kyle Busch responded: “Well, I won’t be following in his footsteps, I’ll be doing my own footsteps. It certainly may open up some avenues, I’m not sure.”

UP NEXT: Pocono Raceway, July 31. Kenseth is the defending race winner.

____

SUNDAY’S RESULTS

Lap length: 2.5 miles

(Start position in parentheses)

1. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 170.

2. (18) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 170.

3. (13) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 170.

4. (4) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 170.

5. (10) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 170.

6. (7) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 170.

7. (14) Joey Logano, Ford, 170.

8. (8) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 170.

9. (12) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 170.

10. (23) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 170.

11. (3) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 170.

12. (16) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 170.

13. (21) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 170.

14. (22) Chris Buescher, Ford, 170.

15. (15) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 170.

16. (11) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 170.

17. (5) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 170.

18. (26) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 170.

19. (9) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 170.

20. (33) Landon Cassill, Ford, 169.

21. (31) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 169.

22. (24) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 169.

23. (27) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 168.

24. (34) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 168.

25. (29) Aric Almirola, Ford, 168.

26. (37) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 168.

27. (32) Brian Scott, Ford, 168.

28. (38) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 167.

29. (35) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 167.

30. (20) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 167.

31. (6) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, Accident, 166.

32. (36) Ryan Ellis, Toyota, 166.

33. (39) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 165.

34. (40) Patrick Carpentier, Ford, 164.

35. (2) Carl Edwards, Toyota, Accident, 154.

36. (17) Ryan Blaney, Ford, Accident, 152.

37. (28) David Ragan, Toyota, Accident, 117.

38. (25) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, Overheating, 71.

39. (19) Greg Biffle, Ford, Accident, 53.

40. (30) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, Engine, 4.

———

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 128.94 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 17 Mins, 46 Secs. Margin of Victory: 2.126 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 8 for 34 laps.

Lead Changes: 4 among 3 drivers.

Lap Leaders: Kyle Busch 1-26; B. Keselowski 27-41; Kyle Busch 42-55; J. Logano 56-61; Kyle Busch 62-170.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Busch 3 times for 149 laps; B. Keselowski 1 time for 15 laps; J. Logano 1 time for 6 laps.

Top 16 in Points: K. Harvick, 671; B. Keselowski, 647; Kurt Busch, 627; J. Logano, 606; Kyle Busch, 601; C. Edwards, 593; M. Truex Jr., 573; J. Johnson, 552; M. Kenseth, 545; D. Hamlin, 542; C. Elliott, 525; A. Dillon, 520; R. Newman, 507; J. Mcmurray, 496; K. Larson, 472; K. Kahne, 462.

NASCAR: Kyle Busch wins NASACAR Xfinity Series race at Indy _ again

This gallery contains 1 photo.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kyle Busch spent Saturday climbing in and out of brutally hot cars in Indianapolis.

All that work finally got him back to a pretty cool spot in victory lane — and some ice cold water.

After claiming two poles Saturday afternoon, Busch returned to the track and led all but one lap to win his second straight NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at the track by 0.415 seconds over hard-charging Kevin Harvick. Paul Menard was third, 1.338 seconds off the pace.

“I’d like to hope so,” the 2015 Cup season champion said after being asked if he can keep this up after earning his seventh Xfinity win this season and record-extending 83rd of his career. “I don’t know exactly how many (races) I have left, that’s changing every day. But, hopefully, with whatever we have left, we can have the same amount of success we’ve had here.”

Busch has been virtually unbeatable on Indy’s 2.5-mile oval all weekend.

He posted the fastest practice times in both the Xfinity and Sprint Cup Series on Friday, won the poles, captured the first of two heat races to establish the rest of the starting order and put himself in position second straight sweep of the two races in Indy.

No NASCAR driver has ever won both poles and both races here.

The only prize Busch didn’t get his claim Saturday was the $100,000 dash-for-cash prize, which he was ineligible for. That payout went to fifth-place finisher Justin Allgaier — who was the best of the non-Cup regulars. Allgaier said the thermometer in his car reached 137 degrees.

How dominant has Busch been?

The Joe Gibbs Racing star held off two former Brickyard 400 winners and one, Harvick, couldn’t even catch the leader after taking new tires during the final caution period, which extended the race to 63 laps.

The difference: Busch’s perfectly-timed restarts.

“New tires for those guys were good for them, not so much for us,” Busch said after completing the final 36 laps without a stop. “On the restarts, the second-to-last one was really good. The last one was OK.”

It was at least good enough.

Busch only surrendered the lead once — when he pitted after 27 laps — and retook the lead when Brendan Gaughan made his pit stop.

The only other time Busch’s lead was even in jeopardy came after rookie Roy Black Jr. hit the wall in the second turn, slid down the track and was hit by Harrison Rhodes, bringing out a caution six laps to go.

Harvick, who drives for Stewart-Haas Racing, and Kyle Larson, who drives for Chip Ganassi Racing, both stopped and changed tires. But they wound up battling one another so hard, they couldn’t catch Busch.

“Our goal was to overachieve today, and we did that,” Harvick said. “We had a couple of good restarts and wound up second. Not a bad day.”

Even if Busch’s day was much more rewarding.

“I think our chances are pretty good,” Busch said, referring to the Brickyard 400. “Starting up front means a lot here in Indy. I think our Toyota today was strong, I think our Toyota tomorrow will be even stronger.”

____

Lilly Diabetes 250

Saturday’s results from the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 63.

2. (4) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 63.

3. (8) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 63.

4. (3) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 63.

5. (6) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 63.

6. (9) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 63.

7. (7) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 63.

8. (5) Joey Logano, Ford, 63.

9. (12) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 63.

10. (13) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 63.

11. (10) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 63.

12. (11) Jeb Burton, Ford, 63.

13. (15) Ryan Reed, Ford, 62.

14. (14) Darrell Wallace Jr, Ford, 62.

15. (17) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, 62.

16. (16) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 62.

17. (19) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 62.

18. (18) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 62.

19. (21) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 62.

20. (20) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 62.

21. (22) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 62.

22. (2) Erik Jones, Toyota, 62.

23. (25) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 61.

24. (30) David Starr, Chevrolet, 61.

25. (27) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 61.

26. (28) BJ McLeod, Ford, 61.

27. (26) Brandon Gdovic, Chevrolet, 60.

28. (38) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 60.

29. (32) Mario Gosselin, Chevrolet, 60.

30. (34) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, 60.

31. (31) Stanton Barrett, Chevrolet, 59.

32. (36) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 58.

33. (24) Ray Black Jr, Chevrolet, Accident, 52.

34. (29) Harrison Rhodes, Toyota, Accident, 51.

35. (33) Mike Harmon, Dodge, Too Slow, 32.

36. (23) Jeff Green, Toyota, Rear Gear, 31.

37. (35) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Handling, 17.

38. (39) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, Brakes, 13.

39. (37) Timmy Hill, Dodge, Vibration, 9.

40. (40) Todd Peck, Ford, Engine, 0.

———

Race statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 136.298 mph.

Time of Race: 1 hour, 9 minutes, 20 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 0.411 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 2 for 10 laps.

Lead Changes: 2 among 2 drivers.

Lap Leaders: K. Busch 1-27; B. Gaughan 28; K. Busch 29-63.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Busch 2 times for 62 laps; B. Gaughan 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 10 in Points: D. Suarez – 608; E. Sadler – 594; T. Dillon – 558; J. Allgaier – 542; E. Jones – 539; B. Gaughan – 535; B. Jones – 520; B. Poole – 519; D. Wallace Jr – 486; R. Reed – 433.

NASCAR: Kyle Larson rallies to capture Truck Series victory at Eldora Speedway

This gallery contains 1 photo.

(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —-    ROSSBURG, Ohio — Kyle Larson rallied from a lap down to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Wednesday night at Eldora Speedway.

The 23-year-old Sprint Cup driver had a flat right rear tire while leading about a third of the way through NASCAR’s lone dirt race in its top three series. He got back on the lead lap with a free pass on a caution and quickly worked his way to the front.

“I knew we’d get the Lucky Dog,” Larson said about the free pass. “I just didn’t know that I could get back to the top three as quick as I did.”

Driving GMS Racing’s No. 24 Chevrolet Silverado, Larson held off Christopher Bell, the Oklahoma dirt racer who won last year for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Larson led 48 of 150 laps on the half-mile clay oval owned by Sprint Cup star Tony Stewart.

Bobby Pierce, the leader for 102 laps, finished 24 laps down in 25th after fighting Larson for the top spot. The 19-year-old driver hit the wall and had a flat right rear tire on his MB Motorsports entry.

“The carburetor was flooded and I couldn’t get off the corner at all. Larson drove a great race,” Pierce said. “When that happened on the restart, I caught him a little bit, he hit the wall and I tried to slide him. I went in there a little too hard, it was super-slick and I got the wall and knocked the right rear off the rim and that was that.”

Larson raced to his second Truck series victory in 12 career starts. He also has four victories in the second-tier Xfinity Series, winning this year at Pocono.

“It just worked out where I got by Bell when he got in the wall and I think Bobby had a gear issue,” Larson said. “He was definitely better than I was for sure.”

Larson finished 0.767 seconds ahead of Bell.

“We got going pretty good there for a while,” Bell said. “But the more it got built up on the fence … the worse we got.”

Rico Abreu was third in a ThorSport Racing Toyota, also rallying from a lap down.

Jake Griffin was fourth, followed by Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer, Cameron Hayley, Daniel Hemric, Austin Wayne Self and Matt Crafton.

Points leader William Byron was 14th. He has a nine-point lead over second-place Crafton.

Results

At Eldora Speedway, Race distance: (75 miles, 150 laps)

(Starting positions in parantheses)

1. (7) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 150.

2. (10) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 150.

3. (27) Rico Abreu, Toyota, 150.

4. (11) Jake Griffin, Toyota, 150.

5. (2) Tyler Reddick, Ford, 150.

6. (23) Cole Custer, Chevrolet, 150.

7. (20) Cameron Hayley, Toyota, 150.

8. (15) Daniel Hemric, Ford, 150.

9. (28) Austin Wayne Self, Toyota, 150.

10. (22) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 150.

11. (17) Ben Kennedy, Chevrolet, 150.

12. (3) Ken Schrader, Toyota, 150.

13. (8) Johnny Sauter, Chevrolet, 150.

14. (18) William Byron, Toyota, 150.

15. (4) JR Heffner, Chevrolet, 150.

16. (25) Sheldon Creed, Chevrolet, 148.

17. (32) Travis Kvapil, Chevrolet, 146.

18. (29) Wayne Edwards, Chevrolet, 145.

19. (26) Cody Coughlin, Toyota, 144.

20. (24) Tyler Young, Chevrolet, 143.

21. (16) Brady Boswell, Chevrolet, 143.

22. (14) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 139.

23. (5) Ben Rhodes, Toyota, 136.

24. (21) John H. Nemechek, Chevrolet, 129.

25. (1) Bobby Pierce, Chevrolet, Accident, 126.

26. (30) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, 124.

27. (19) Timothy Peters, Toyota, 116.

28. (12) Stewart Friesen, Chevrolet, Accident, 111.

29. (9) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, 107.

30. (6) Caleb Holman, Chevrolet, Accident, 37.

31. (13) Justin Shipley, Ford, Overheating, 11.

32. (31) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, Engine, 5.

***

Average Speed of Race Winner: 41.971 mph.

Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 47 Mins, 13 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.767 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 9 for 52 laps.

Lead Changes: 3 among 2 drivers.

Lap Leaders: B. Pierce 1-34; K. Larson 35-50; B. Pierce 51-118; K. Larson 119-150.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): B. Pierce 2 times for 102 laps; K. Larson 2 times for 48 laps.

Top 10 in Points: W. Byron – 282; M. Crafton – 273; D. Hemric – 271; J. Sauter – 253; T. Peters – 252; C. Bell – 245; T. Reddick – 243; J. Nemechek – 232; B. Kennedy – 225; C. Hayley – 220.

NASCAR: Kenseth pulls away late to win Cup race at New Hampshire

This gallery contains 1 photo.

LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Matt Kenseth was always near the front of the pack. He stalked the leaders and waited for contenders to wilt.

Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. faded down the stretch. So did Denny Hamlin.

It almost seemed like a repeat scenario for Kenseth.

Just like last fall on the same track when Kevin Harvick’s lead evaporated when he ran out of fuel, Kenseth pounced. He pulled away down the stretch to win the Sprint Cup race Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Truex and Busch each led more than 120 laps before faltering over the final 75 laps, paving the way for Kenseth to win for the second time this season.

Kenseth also won the New Hampshire race last September. He has 38th career victories.

“Last fall, we squeaked one out, a little more fuel than Kevin and a little different strategy, but not quite as good a car,” Kenseth said. “Today, I felt like we had the best car.”

NASCAR said Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota failed the post-race laser inspection station and will be brought to the research and development center in Concord, North Carolina, for more evaluation. The penalty for that kind of failure has traditionally been a 15-point penalty. But this was the first time a race winner was busted since the lasers were instituted in 2013.

Tony Stewart finished second and strengthened his spot inside the top 30 in the points standings. Stewart has a win this season and needs to secure a spot in the top 30 in points to clinch a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He inched from 30th to 28th in points.

Joey Logano was third, followed by Harvick and Greg Biffle.

Alex Bowman had a solid day ruined when he hit the wall late and finished 26th driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt was sidelined because he suffered from symptoms of a concussion.

Truex tumbled to 16th when his Toyota suffered a broken shifter and Busch dropped to eighth when he could never break free on late-race restarts.

“We’re doing everything right, but we’re taking some on the chin here,” Truex said.

That allowed Kenseth, Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, to cruise to the top and snatch the lead with fellow JGR teammate Denny Hamlin with 30 laps He drove away on the final restart with 11 to go in the 301-mile race and soon the traditional lobster plopped on the hood of his Toyota.

But this race could be the one remembered for truly solidifying Stewart in Chase contention. He snapped an 84-race losing streak last month at Sonoma and was fifth last week at Kentucky Speedway. Smoke is heating up this summer and could be racing for a fourth championship in his final NASCAR season.

“Everyone wants this last year to be good,” Stewart said. “Sonoma, I think really helped relax everybody.”

Kenseth became the first driver since Kurt Busch in 2004 to win consecutive starts at New Hampshire. He didn’t win in his first 27 Cup starts at the track but has three wins in his last three races at the 1.058-mile track.

“It used to be one of my worst places and now I feel like it’s one of our better places,” he said.

Here are other items of note from Sunday’s race:

___

BOWMAN’S RUN

Bowman enjoyed perhaps the final race of his Sprint Cup career, running inside the top 10 and seemingly in position for his best finish in 72 starts.

But Bowman’s run in the No. 88 Chevrolet ended with a thud when a tire issue slammed his car into the wall and he finished 26th in his first Cup race of the season.

“I’ve never got to actually race with guys like Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, all those guys,” he said. “I had a lot of fun passing really good cars.”

With four-time champion Jeff Gordon set to take the wheel next week if Earnhardt isn’t cleared, Bowman is out of options for the rest of the year.

“The result will not show what a great job @AlexBRacing and the @nationwide88 gang did this weekend. Proud of them guys,” Earnhardt tweeted.

Bowman had no top-10 finishes in 71 starts over the 2014-2015 seasons with BK Racing and Tommy Baldwin Racing.

“I don’t think I’ve gotten out of a Cup car with a smile on my face in a while,” he said. “It’s just so much fun to be able to run up front like that. I’ve spent two years of my career wondering if I can really do this at the Cup level and today I answered that for myself.”

_____

UNHAPPY HARVICK

Harvick was hardly happy over his top-five finish.

He went on TV after the race and blasted his Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet pit crew for continued poor stops that cost him a serious shot at the checkered flag.

I’m disgusted to tell you the truth. It’s the same thing every week. We just make mistake after mistake and until we clean that up we don’t have a chance to win races putting ourselves in a hole every time we make a mistake,” Harvick said.

He added, “It’s really going to have to come from the top. I mean, they are going to have to clamp down and there is no way we can win a championship like this unless they straighten some of this stuff out.”

Harvick’s crew had problems with lug nuts and the air gun on two separate spots that sunk him from contention.

“We always do something wrong,” he said.

_____

KEZ’S STREAK

Brad Keselowski failed in his bid to win three races. He followed wins at Daytona International Speedway and Kentucky Speedway with a 15th-place finish on Sunday.

_____

JUNIOR UPDATE

Team owner Rick Hendrick does not think the concussion symptoms that sidelined Earnhardt are career threatening. He hoped to have NASCAR’s most popular driver back in the car next week at the Brickyard.

Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon will come out of retirement and drive the 88 next week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway if Earnhardt does not return. Hendrick says Gordon will likely remain in the car should Earnhardt need an extended absence.

Earnhardt will have more tests early this week. Hendrick Motorsports will likely make a decision on Earnhardt’s availability on Wednesday.

_____

UP NEXT

Kyle Busch heads to the Brickyard as the defending winner at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

NASCAR: Kyle Busch wins another Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire

This gallery contains 1 photo.

LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Kyle Busch had an expected result in his unexpected NASCAR start.

Busch led all but a handful of laps and simply dominated in his latest Xfinity Series victory Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Busch raced to his sixth Xfinity victory of the season and record-extending 82nd of his career.

The 2015 Sprint Cup champion also won the last race at Kentucky Speedway and his six wins have come in just 10 races.

Busch has 164 career wins across all three of NASCAR’s national series, and is 36 wins shy of matching Richard Petty’s total of 200. Petty, of course, won all 200 in the Cup series to go with seven championships and a spot in the Hall of Fame.

Busch topped the 17,000 laps-led mark in his career and was never seriously challenged, pulling away off every restart and he eventually took his traditional victory bow.

“I guess they’re big numbers,” Busch said. “Running in this series is something fun for me to do, cool for me to do and it also helps me out and gets me a little more experience.”

Busch was not scheduled to drive this season at New Hampshire in the No. 18 Toyota. But he was pulled into duty when Joe Gibbs Racing developmental driver Matt Tifft was forced out following surgery last month to have a tumor removed.

“He’s going through some rehab right now, so can’t wait to see him come back,” Busch said.

Erik Jones was second, followed by Brad Keselowski, Daniel Suarez and Austin Dillon. Jones, who clinched a spot in Xfinity’s version of the Chase, said he bought a car with the $100,000 earned in the series’ “Dash 4 Cash” promotion for winning at Dover.

“I bought a car, but I can’t talk about it,” he said.

Alex Bowman finished eighth, a day before he subs for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Cup race. Earnhardt will sit out because he suffers from symptoms of a concussion.

“Dale’s probably sitting at home super bored, watching TV,” Bowman said.

Hey, he wasn’t the only one bored watching Busch rout the field and lead 190 of 200 laps.

Busch continued to roll at New Hampshire, a track that served as one of his turning points last season.

He crashed into a concrete wall the day before the Daytona 500 and broke his right leg and left foot. Busch rebounded from his injuries to win his first career Sprint Cup championship.

But he had missed the first 11 races and was left needing a midsummer hot streak to even think about racing his way into the Chase.

He got one.

Busch sat 35th in the points standings when he won the New Hampshire Cup race last July, the second of three straight victories that propelled him into the Chase. He started the streak with a win at Kentucky Speedway and capped it by kissing the bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“That was awesome. That was just something really, really special that actually gave me some confidence going to Indy,” Busch said. “I was like, ‘Man, you know how cool it’s going to be to win three in a row? But you know how cool it’s going to be to win the Brickyard 400?’ There was certainly some thoughts that we had going into that week, and we just set our mind to it and we were able to capitalize and that was good.”

Busch starts second on the front row with pole winner Jimmie Johnson on Sunday.

With three victories this season, Busch has no worries about making the Chase.

____

FULL RESULTS: AUTOLOTTO 200

1. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 200 laps, 150.0 rating, 0 points.
2. (2) Erik Jones, Toyota, 200, 125.2, 40.
3. (3) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 200, 119.9, 0.
4. (4) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 200, 111.7, 37.
5. (7) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 200, 110.6, 0.
6. (9) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 200, 96.3, 35.
7. (8) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 200, 103.7, 34.
8. (5) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 200, 101.5, 34.
9. (17) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 200, 81.5, 32.
10. (6) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 200, 97.5, 31.
11. (13) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 200, 83.7, 30.
12. (15) Darrell Wallace Jr, Ford, 200, 88.8, 29.
13. (18) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 200, 82.7, 28.
14. (22) Ryan Reed, Ford, 199, 74.5, 27.
15. (16) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 199, 72.4, 26.
16. (26) J.J. Yeley, Toyota, 199, 68.7, 25.
17. (19) Dakoda Armstrong, Toyota, 199, 67.0, 24.
18. (14) Justin Marks, Chevrolet, 199, 73.7, 23.
19. (12) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 198, 76.6, 22.
20. (27) B J McLeod, Ford, 197, 57.8, 21.
21. (30) Ray Black Jr, Chevrolet, 197, 55.3, 20.
22. (34) Timmy Hill, Toyota, 197, 53.8, 0.
23. (29) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 196, 46.7, 18.
24. (33) Mario Gosselin, Chevrolet, 196, 48.0, 17.
25. (36) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 195, 46.7, 16.
26. (35) Scott Heckert, Ford, 195, 42.3, 15.
27. (31) T.J. Bell, Chevrolet, 194, 45.6, 14.
28. (39) Matt Waltz, Chevrolet, 191, 39.0, 13.
29. (40) Chris Cockrum, Ford, 191, 36.0, 12.
30. (38) Mike Harmon, Dodge, 188, 35.7, 11.
31. (21) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, accident, 170, 54.7, 10.
32. (11) Blake Koch, Chevrolet, transmission, 159, 72.0, 9.
33. (10) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 144, 71.0, 8.
34. (24) Jeff Green, Toyota, brakes, 109, 53.2, 7.
35. (32) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, suspension, 99, 39.8, 6.
36. (25) David Starr, Chevrolet, overheating, 82, 46.0, 5.
37. (20) Corey Lajoie, Toyota, accident, 64, 56.2, 4.
38. (28) Carl Long, Dodge, brakes, 38, 26.0, 3.
39. (37) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, handling, 25, 27.3, 2.
40. (23) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, vibration, 3, 23.2, 0.

RACE STATISTICS

Average speed of winner: 98.795 mph.
Time of race: 2 hours, 8 minutes, 31 seconds.
Margin of victory: 1.499 seconds.
Caution flags: 7 for 37 laps.
Lead changes: 3 among 3 drivers.
Lap leaders: K.Busch 1-92; E.Jones 93-95; A.Bowman 96-102; K.Busch 103-200
Leaders summary (driver, times led, laps led): K.Busch, 2 times for 188 laps; A.Bowman, 1 time for 6 laps; E.Jones, 1 time for 2 laps.
Wins: K.Busch, 6; E.Jones, 2; A.Dillon, 1; E.Sadler, 1; D.Suarez, 1.
Top 10 in points: 1. D.Suarez, 537; 2. E.Sadler, 528; 3. T.Dillon, 518; 4. E.Jones, 480; 5. B.Gaughan, 477; 6. J.Allgaier, 472; 7. B.Jones, 459; 8. B.Poole, 454; 9. D.Wallace, 430; 10. R.Reed, 378.

NASCAR: Busch dominates NASCAR Xfinity race at Kentucky Speedway / Harvick gets Kentucky pole after rain cancels qualifying

This gallery contains 1 photo.

SPARTA, Ky. (AP) — Being good all night long at Kentucky Speedway helped Kyle Busch get the luck he needed for another impressive finish.

Busch led 185 laps and caught a huge break before surviving a final restart to win Friday’s 300-mile NASCAR Xfinity Series race for his first victory on the 1.5 mile tri-oval since 2004.

“It feels good to score that victory,” said Busch, who entered with five top-fives and 200 laps led here. “Been a long time since I got a win.”

The defending Sprint Cup Series champion needed overtime to get the win in his No. 18 Toyota, with the race going one circuit past its scheduled 200 laps after a late caution. Busch then outdueled Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suarez and Austin Dillon in a three-wide restart and went on to win by .455 seconds.

Busch benefited from a late mistake by Erik Jones. He passed Busch for the lead after a lap 174 restart just before the fourth yellow, but inadvertently shut off his car and fell to third as a penalty for failing to keep up with the pace car.

Dillon was second in a Chevy, with Suarez third in a Toyota and Jones fourth in a Toyota.

“I wasn’t trying to save fuel, I was doing something else and trying to get the best restart I could and unfortunately I hit the wrong button,” Jones said.

One night after his Camping World Truck Series team became that series’ winningest outfit, the Xfinity career wins leader earned his fifth victory and ninth top-10 this season. For a while the question was whether anybody would get close to Busch.

After claiming the pole with a speed of 187.318 mph, Busch set his own groove and pace on the resurfaced, reconfigured track and had all the grip he needed after a full day of Cup practice. He led six times after starting on the pole.

Only on that one restart did Busch show vulnerability as Jones made a gutsy pass on the outside. Jones never got the chance to put room between him and Busch as Ray Black Jr. quickly spun out to draw the yellow flag.

Jones’ No. 20 car then appeared to stall during the caution, creating the penalty and a turn of events that handed the lead to Busch for good.

“I didn’t think the outside would carry the speed as much as the inside and Erik Jones proved me wrong,” Busch said. “I certainly learned from that and when he had his problems not being able to get the car re-fired, it just kind of handed the race back to us and from there I chose to restart the race on the outside from there on out. That’s what won us the race.”

_____

Harvick gets Kentucky pole after rain cancels qualifying

SPARTA, Ky. (AP) — Storms washed out qualifying at Kentucky Speedway on Friday, putting Kevin Harvick on the pole for Saturday night’s Sprint Cup Series race based on owner points.

Severe weather moved over the track near midday and shortened practice to around 30 minutes. A brief sprinkle followed but cars were able to return to the track for practice.

In any event, Harvick’s No. 4 Chevy will lead the field to green alongside Brad Keselowski in the No. 2 Ford.

It is the first Kentucky pole for Harvick, who has two top-five starts in five trips here. But he and other drivers likely will have to reboot their strategy after rain washed the 1.5 mile tri-oval clean of rubber they put down in hopes of widening grooves on the resurfaced and reconfigured track.

“Hopefully, being able to get some more practice will be beneficial,” Harvick said. “We still don’t really have a good idea of exactly where we need to be as far as balance and what is going to happen the longer you run the car.”

Given the 2014 champion’s consistency this season, Harvick seems likely to figure it out.

Harvick hasn’t won since the fourth race at Phoenix, but has posted 13 top-10 finishes in 17 starts. He has led the points after the past eight races but has generated less buzz compared to counterparts such as Keselowski or defending champion Kyle Busch, who are tied with a series-best three wins.

Harvick thinks his steady results will translate into victories.

“We are cleaning a lot of things up as we go from week to week,” he said, “and hopefully we are ready as we get into the Chase and have everything hitting on all cylinders. I feel good about the performance and good about the progress that we have made with adjusting and adapting and the things that we have been able to achieve have been OK. Hopefully we can keep making them better.”

The rest of the top 10: Kurt Busch (Chevy); Joey Logano (Ford); Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch in Toyotas; Martin Truex Jr. (Toyota); rookie Chase Elliott (Chevy); Jimmie Johnson (Chevy) and Denny Hamlin (Toyota).

SECOND FIDDLE

Johnson and Kurt Busch will race in backup Chevys after wrecking their primary cars. Johnson’s No. 48 got loose in turn 4 in the morning session and smacked the outside wall, sustaining heavy damage after posting the second-fastest speed of 188.121 mph. Busch hit the wall in the final evening practice and went to his backup No. 41 Chevy. Both drivers will move to the back of the field per NASCAR rules.

MAKER’S MARK

Toyota and Chevy each has four spots in the top 10 with seven drivers coming from three teams. Harvick is joined by Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch, while Johnson has company in Hendrick Motorsports stablemate Elliott. Hamlin, Edwards and Kyle Busch will represent Joe Gibbs Racing.

ON THE VERGE

Though Keselowski is tied with Kyle Busch for the most Kentucky wins with two each, don’t be shocked if Penske Racing teammate Logano breaks through. He was second last July and has three consecutive top-10s with 60 laps led combined the past two years.

RUBBER MATCH

Cup cars will feature a different Goodyear tire package from last month’s test after the manufacturer noticed blistering afterward. The new package is harder with the right-side tire using the same construction as the one used at Michigan. Harvick crew chief Rodney Childers voiced his displeasure with the change Thursday with a tweet that said, “We will never ever go test for 2 days on an off week again, on the wrong tires.”

Keselowski seemed to like the change, saying Friday that “the tire change seems to have not only been warranted, but very successful. We haven’t seen any issues as of now, but of course that can always change throughout the weekend.”

NASCAR: William Byron rolls to fourth Trucks win at Kentucky

This gallery contains 1 photo.

SPARTA, Ky. (AP) — William Byron didn’t know which record-setting achievement to appreciate more.

He took the lead on lap 82 and withstood several challengers to win Thursday night at Kentucky Speedway, making Kyle Busch Motorsports the winningest Camping World Truck Series team in NASCAR history.

Byron’s victory also claimed a spot in the series’ inaugural Chase for the championship this fall, giving the 18-year-old additional reasons to celebrate in a breakout season.

“It’s great to get that Chase spot and make sure we got that,” he said. “It’s exciting and I can’t wait for the Chase.”

Daniel Hemric and John H. Nemechek battled side-by-side at time down the stretch in hopes of catching Byron, but neither could chase down the series points leader, who passed Timothy Peters and didn’t look back en route to KBM’s 51st career victory.

Byron led twice for 70 laps in the 225-mile race in the No. 9 Toyota for his fourth win this season and second in three starts. Nemechek finished second in a Chevy, followed by Hemric (Ford), rookie and KBM driver Christopher Bell (Toyota) and Johnny Sauter (Chevy).

Byron’s win provided consolation and satisfaction for the team owner and Sprint Cup Series champion, who finished 30th after hitting the wall following contact with Spencer Gallagher on lap 58.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Busch, whose team passed Roush Fenway Racing for the record.

“It’s been a lot trying times, it’s been a lot of blood, sweat and tears by both my wife and myself and all these guys that are on this team now and all the people that have been a part of Kyle Busch Motorsports in the years past. We wouldn’t be here without all them. This is a special moment.”

For a while it seemed like the race would belong to KBM teammate Daniel Suarez after he led three times for 59 laps from the pole. He ended up finishing 11th as Byron went on to dominate another Trucks race.

That’s usually the domain of Busch, who entered the night seeking his third Kentucky win in hopes of jump-starting a weekend of triple duty. His quest took an early hit as he was penalized for having too many crew members over the wall on pit road before the spin that ended his night.

It still ended well team-wise as his three other drivers navigated the resurfaced and reconfigured 1.5 mile tri-oval to claim three of the top 11 spots.

Byron leads Matt Crafton by 13 points.

NOTES: Sprint Cup rookie of the year Brett Moffitt drove the No. 11 Toyota in place of Matt Tifft as he recovers from brain surgery but made an early exit when his truck blew an engine on lap 27.

NASCAR: Tony Stewart wins at Sonoma to snap 84-race drought

This gallery contains 2 photos.

SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — For at least one weekend, Smoke was back.

Tony Stewart returned to victory lane for the first time in three years in vintage fashion — refusing to let Denny Hamlin steal a win at Sonoma Raceway away from him on the final lap Sunday.

Now he’s probably got a shot to run for a fourth NASCAR championship in his final season before retirement.

Stewart, mired in an 84-race losing streak dating to 2013, finally won to stop a slide of poor performances, injuries and personal turmoil that has tarnished the end of his career. He missed the first eight races of this season, his last as a NASCAR driver, with a back injury suffered in an off-road vehicle accident one week before the season opened.

It meant Stewart would have to win a race and crack the top 30 in points to have one last shot at glory before he stepped out of the No. 14 Chevrolet for good. It was a long shot considered the way he has run the last three years, but those who know Stewart knew not to count him out.

“My guys have been through this whole disastrous roller-coaster the last three or four years and never backed down. They’ve never quit on me. There’s days I’ve quit on myself,” Stewart said. “In this day of social media where everybody is a cricket … on social media, they sit there and chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp until they are in front of you and then they don’t say a damned word. (So) I and listened to people say I’m old and washed up — I know how old I am, I know I haven’t ran good for the last three years. But I’ve felt like if we got things right, that it was still there.”

Anyone who has followed his career knows that Stewart is best when he’s in a bad mood, and Smoke was ornery all weekend in the picturesque wine country.

He complained about young drivers, snarked that NASCAR will be without any tough guys once he retires and grumbled he has no fun driving a Cup car anymore.

Well, he sure had fun on Sunday.

The 45-year-old took the lead on fuel strategy during a caution with 24 laps to go, and had to hold on after another yellow flag stalled the race. The final restart came with 14 laps remaining — the same number as Stewart’s car — and he held off a trio of Toyota drivers for his third career victory at Sonoma.

Hamlin made it interesting by pouncing on a Stewart mistake to snatch the lead away from Stewart in the seventh turn of the final lap. Stewart grabbed it back in tricky Turn 11, where he dove to the inside of Hamlin and as the two raced side-by-side, Stewart pushed Hamlin toward the wall.

Stewart got past Hamlin and charged to the checkered flag with the entire side of his car crumpled and his tires slightly smoking from the contact with Hamlin.

“I made mistakes the last two laps, I had just a little bit too much rear brake for Turn 7, and wheel-hopped it two laps in a row,” Stewart said. “I felt a nudge when I got down there and he knew where it was and he did the right thing doing it there, but if I could get to him, he knew what was coming.”

It was Stewart’s 49th career Cup win and eighth on a road course, one shy of Jeff Gordon’s record. Gordon, who retired at the end of last year, made his way to victory lane from the broadcast booth to congratulate his longtime rival.

Dozens of drivers then pumped their fists out their window to salute Stewart on his victory lap while his father, Nelson, wiped away tears. Crew members lined the wall to slap his hand, and teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch were among the drivers to rush to speak to Stewart while he was still inside his car.

So did Hamlin, a former teammate of Stewart’s who has become somewhat of a protector to his one-time mentor. As leader of the Driver Council, Hamlin got the council to split the cost of a $35,000 fine Stewart received this year for criticizing NASCAR.

“He told me he was proud of me, he knows what it means,” an exhausted and emotional Stewart said in victory lane. After chugging a Coca-Cola, he slumped to the ground and sat alongside his car.

“We were teammates for a long time and we respect each other a lot.”

Hamlin, meanwhile, didn’t indicate he gave the win to Stewart but chalked it up to his own mistake to allow Stewart to snatch the lead away from him.

“Looking in the rearview more than looking out front,” Hamlin said. “I just slid up a little bit in the middle and allowed him to get inside me. I knew he was going to put me in the wall. All is fair in love and war.”

Hamlin finished second in a Toyota and was followed by Joey Logano in a Ford, pole-sitter Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Jr. as Toyota drivers took three of the top-five spots.

Harvick was sixth, Kyle Busch seventh, while Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch rounded out the top 10.

Other Notes of Interest from Sunday’s race:

ALL HAIL SMOKE: The reception for Stewart by his peers was similar to the reaction the late Dale Earnhardt received when Earnhardt finally won the Daytona 500. As drivers decompressed after their own day, many offered words about Stewart’s win.

“To have three cars in the Chase, to have Tony’s confidence up, to have him battle Denny Hamlin like that this is the best way for a champion like him to go out,” teammate Kurt Busch said. “He deserves this now.”

Added six-time champion Jimmie Johnson: “Just stoked for him. He is a great friend and has been through so much. I hope there is a big smile on his face right now.”

tony-stewart-career-june-26-2016

___

ALLMENDINGER ERROR: AJ Allmendinger was a contender, as usual, on the road course until a mistake by his pit crew cost him a shot to race for the win.

Allmendinger exited pit road after his final stop and lined up sixth, but NASCAR penalized his team for losing control of a tire during the stop. It dropped him deep into the field but he powered back to a 14th-place finish.

“It’s racing, you know you are not guaranteed anything until the checkered flag,” Allmendinger said. “It is part of life we win and lose as a team. We have to get our stuff straight if we actually want to be a Chase team and consider ourselves a Chase team. Another fast race car that is all I can ask for.”

___

UP NEXT: Saturday night’s race at Daytona International Speedway, an event that ended last year with a frightening accident that sent Austin Dillon airborne into the fence. He was not hurt.

___

SUNDAY’S RESULTS

1. (10) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 110.

2. (6) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 110.

3. (7) Joey Logano, Ford, 110.

4. (1) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 110.

5. (3) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 110.

6. (25) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 110.

7. (8) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 110.

8. (17) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 110.

9. (19) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 110.

10. (4) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 110.

11. (13) Dale Earnhardt Jr, Chevrolet, 110.

12. (5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 110.

13. (15) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 110.

14. (2) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 110.

15. (12) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 110.

16. (9) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 110.

17. (21) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 110.

18. (32) Greg Biffle, Ford, 110.

19. (11) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 110.

20. (23) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 110.

21. (16) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 110.

22. (24) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 110.

23. (26) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 110.

24. (14) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 110.

25. (28) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 110.

26. (27) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 110.

27. (29) Aric Almirola, Ford, 110.

28. (31) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 110.

29. (37) Landon Cassill, Ford, 110.

30. (36) Chris Buescher, Ford, 110.

31. (33) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 110.

32. (30) David Ragan, Toyota, 110.

33. (22) Brian Scott, Ford, 110.

34. (35) Cole Whitt, Toyota, 110.

35. (38) Dylan Lupton(i), Toyota, 110.

36. (40) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 109.

37. (34) Patrick Carpentier, Ford, 108.

38. (39) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, Engine, 97.

39. (20) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 91.

40. (18) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, Electrical, 5.

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 80.966 mph.

Time of Race: 02 Hrs, 42 Mins, 13 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.625 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 4 for 10 laps.

Lead Changes: 12 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders: C. Edwards 1-8; A. Allmendinger 9-24; P. Menard 25-27; K. Harvick 28-30; C. Edwards 31-46; A. Allmendinger 47; Kyle Busch 48-49; D. Hamlin 50-70; A. Allmendinger 71-72; D. Patrick 73-75; D. Hamlin 76-87; A. Allmendinger 88; T. Stewart 89-110.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): D. Hamlin 2 times for 33 laps; C. Edwards 2 times for 24 laps; T. Stewart 1 time for 22 laps; A. Allmendinger 4 times for 20 laps; D. Patrick 1 time for 3 laps; P. Menard 1 time for 3 laps; K. Harvick 1 time for 3 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 2 laps.

Top 16 in Points: K. Harvick, 562; Kurt Busch, 527; C. Edwards, 510; B. Keselowski, 506; J. Logano, 493; C. Elliott, 473; J. Johnson, 469; M. Truex Jr, 469; Kyle Busch, 452; M. Kenseth, 430; D. Hamlin, 421; D. Earnhardt Jr, 413; R. Newman, 402; A. Dillon, 400; J. Mcmurray, 398; K. Kahne, 385.

NASCAR: Erik Jones wins NASCAR Xfinity pole in Iowa / Byron wins in Iowa for 2nd straight NASCAR Truck victory

This gallery contains 1 photo.

NEWTON, Iowa (AP) — Erik Jones will start first Sunday in the NASCAR Xfinity race at Iowa Speedway after winning his sixth pole of the season.

Jones has twice as many qualifying victories in 2016 as Kyle Busch, who is second in the series with three. But Jones is just fourth in the point standings, 55 points behind teammate Daniel Suarez, largely because he failed to finish two races.

“Just staying up on it and making good adjustments,” Jones said when asked about the keys for Sunday’s race. “Everybody is going to getting their stuff better all day long, and we need to make sure we’re ahead of the curve.

Suarez will look to make it back-to-back wins after becoming the first Mexican winning in a NASCAR national series last week at Michigan.

Sam Hornish Jr. will start third in his first race of 2016, giving Joe Gibbs Racing the top three spots on the grid.

Justin Allgaier was fourth, followed by Elliott Sadler, Ben Kennedy and Sprint Cup regular Brad Keselowski.

Kennedy, who topped both practice sessions Friday, will be making his first series start.

Keselowski has won three times in Iowa, including his last two starts in 2013 and 2014.

______

William Byron, center, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Truck Series auto race, Saturday, June 18, 2016, at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

NEWTON, Iowa (AP) — High school diploma in hand, William Byron seems to have already found his calling.

Byron held off the field on a late restart to win the NASCAR Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway on Saturday night for his second straight victory.

The 18-year-old Byron held off a hard-charging Cole Custer by less than a half-second for his third victory in just nine career starts.

Byron also is 2-0 in trucks since graduating from Charlotte Country Day school in North Carolina — and he’s just 11 points behind Matt Crafton in the season standings.

“We’ve kind of hit our stride in May and now June, and we’ve been able to focus on what we need to do better,” said Byron, who will attend Liberty University, the sponsor of his No. 9 truck, in the fall. “I wouldn’t say it’s related to graduating high school, although it’s definitely a relief.”

Custer was second, followed by ThorSport Racing teammates Cameron Hayley and Ben Rhodes.

Tyler Reddick, who led 37 laps, was fifth.

The first 150 laps or so didn’t provide much action, with only a mandatory caution clock keeping things interesting.

The finish showed why drivers often rave about Iowa’s 0.875-mile oval.

Reddick had clean air and the lead with 22 laps to go. But Tommy Joe Martins and Derek Scott Jr. got collected in the backstretch, drawing a red flag to clean up fluid on the track.

The restart saw multiple drivers jump out in front, and at times the battle for first went three-wide.

But another accident drew the final caution flag of the race. Once the green flag was raised, no one had enough to overtake Byron.

“After that red flag, things definitely multiplied by about a thousand,” Hayley said. “(Byron) made the best moves at the right time.”

John Hunter Nemecheck earned his first career pole earlier Saturday, and he led the first 53 laps before Byron surged ahead after a caution.

Byron seized control from there, leading by as much as five seconds over Ben Kennedy. That big lead was largely wiped out by the caution clock halfway through the race, but Byron was still able to set a personal best with 107 laps led.

Kaz Grala went sideways with just over 50 laps left. Byron’s truck stalled as he left his stall, pushing him down to 11th and Reddick into the lead ahead of a wild finish.

“When it came down to those last couple of restarts, I just knew that we could try the outside. I just kept moving up and up and up. I kept getting blocked, and finally I made it three-wide. It just worked out,” Byron said.

Despite failing to catch Byron, Hayley and Rhodes put forth strong showings for ThorSport, which saw its headquarters rendered unusable after a fire tore through the building on Monday.

“We only had two trucks for this race. We only have two trucks for the next race. So it’s really hard to try to race for a win and have that in your mind,” Rhodes said.

NASCAR: Drivers applaud new NASCAR package at Michigan but expect more changes

This gallery contains 1 photo.

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today)    —   BROOKLYN, Mich. — NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers said immediately after the FireKeepers Casino 400 that they liked the low downforce package used at Michigan International Speedway today.

“I absolutely love it,” said Tony Stewart, who finished seventh. “The package is good. The aero package is starting to catch up now, the whole equation to this to make it all where everybody wants it to be are tires and aero. Up to this point, Goodyear has been way ahead of NASCAR. NASCAR is finally catching up. So, now we are all getting the split between the two groups closed up.

“The good thing is Goodyear is primed and ready to do all the stuff they need to do. They have been waiting on NASCAR. It’s coming around. It’s going back to … you know how today we got to drive the cars. We got to make a difference in the cars and manipulate things. That is what we have all been wanting. We are not running Mach 12 around here in the middle of the corner. I don’t know what everybody else is going to say, but I thought it was pretty good. It may not be perfect yet, but it is more than definitely going in the right direction for sure.”

Kasey Kahne, who finished 13th, said it was “definitely hairy” driving in traffic.

“If you chose the right spot or got put in the right spot you were good,” he said. “If you didn’t you were in bad shape. There was a lot going on with this package for sure. We are going to test Kentucky the next two days so hopefully we can make a few gains and understand it a little better for that race. That surface is going to be very interesting I would imagine.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was involved in a multi-car accident on Lap 60, didn’t have much to say: “It’s not a whole lot different than the other package. I think we talk about packages too much.”

Carl Edwards, who finished sixth, said the package was a work in progress.

“I applaud NASCAR for taking downforce away and the speeds are still so high because the surface is good and the Goodyear tires are good and everybody is working hard on their cars,” Edwards said. “They just keep working in this direction and we’re going to keep having better and better races. Those restarts, as crazy as they were, they were actually kind of fun.”

Joey Logano, who piloted his Ford to victory, described the cars as “out of control”. But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“I remember after qualifying. … I was signing an autograph and my hand was shaking,” he said. “I couldn’t even write my name. That’s cool. That’s how on edge you have to be to go fast, and it was like that for 400 miles today, you know, and that’s awesome. We don’t want to – I don’t want to drive slow. That ain’t no fun. That’s the sport part of this. It should be a challenge. It should be on the edge. It shouldn’t be easy, and at this level it definitely isn’t.”

Sipple writes for the Detroit Free Press, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK

NASCAR: Logano wins pole at Michigan / Rookie Byron passes veteran Crafton for Texas truck win

This gallery contains 1 photo.

BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) — Joey Logano improved his chances of racing to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory of the year, posting a lap of 199.557 mph Friday to win the pole at Michigan International Speedway.

Logano said the cars are “out of control,” on the two-mile oval.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he insisted. “You’re booking down to the corners at 200 and something.”

Logano, who won 11 times the previous two years, will start first for the second time this year and the 16th in his career.

“Track position always plays when you’re making decisions,” he said.

Martin Truex Jr. will start second, his ninth start among the top 10 this season. Tony Stewart, who plans to retire at the end of the season, will start third in the 40-car race in his best qualifying performance of the year.

A new aerodynamic package along with wide and slick 2-mile oval, which had drivers going “sideways,” according to Truex, should set up for quite a race.

“Sunday is going to be a blast,” Truex said. “With that sun being on the racetrack all day, it’s going to be slick and fun.”

Truex was among 26 drivers who failed their initial NASCAR pre-qualifying inspection due to not meeting the new aerodynamic guidelines that are debuting this week. His qualifying run almost did not happen because his car failed NASCAR pre-qualifying inspection twice due to not meeting the new aero guidelines. His crew was able to get the car approved just as the qualifying was starting.

Logano was the second in qualifying the last two weeks at Charlotte and Pocono.

“The latest couple of ones have stung a lot,” he acknowledged. “We’ve won the first two rounds and come in second in the last one. So we figured it out. We won the same amount of rounds, but the right one. This is the one that counts.”

STREAKING: Denny Hamlin will begin fourth, keeping his streak of being the only driver to start in the top 12 in every race this season.

ROUGH ROAD: NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Kevin Harvick was among the drivers who failed to advance out of the first round of qualifying. He was only able to complete three qualifying laps in the final four minutes of the session due to early caution flags for debris on the track and David Ragan hitting the wall on Turn 3. He will start from the 29th position, equaling his worst qualifying spot this season.

“Well, there was not a lot of common sense on when to throw the cautions out there on the race track,” Harvick said. “There was debris up out of the groove and you could hold the cars at the end of pit road.”

RACE AGAINST RACISM: A campaign to promote diversity, inclusion and equality within and outside of sports was unveiled Friday by NASCAR. The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality will include a public service announcement during Sunday’s NASCAR race featuring Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Kyle Larsen and Darrell Wallace Jr.

_____

Rookie Byron passes veteran Crafton for Texas truck win

William Byron crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Trucks Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, Friday, June 10, 2016, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Larry Papke)

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A rookie driver and recent high school graduate put an end to Matt Crafton’s chance for a Texas triple the day before his 40th birthday.

William Byron passed Crafton’s beat-up No. 88 Toyota with five laps to go Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway for his second career victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

“It was impressive what the kid did,” Crafton said. “I was a little bit worried with him under me and he got a loose a couple of times, I gave him room and he did a very job. Hats off, the kid did a very good job.”

Crafton, who finished second, had won the series’ last two races this season. The two-time series champion and current season points leader was also trying to win the June race at Texas for the third year in a row, and led 133 of 167 laps at the 1 1/2-mile, high-banked track in the Rattlesnake 400.

Byron also won at Kansas last month in the No. 9 Toyota owned by Kyle Busch, and joined Crafton as the only multiple winners this season.

“It’s huge, for our team to get another win this year really solidifies us, especially me,” Byron said. “It gives me a lot of confidence.”

After a restart with 43 laps left, Byron was inside of Crafton as they went side-to-side for six laps in a row and never separated by less than .03 seconds in that span before the veteran finally pulled ahead until the final pass.

“I was sideways a few times and I hopefully showed him I could do it, and hopefully have his respect,” Byron said.

Even after taking the lead, Byron had to hold off a final charge. Rico Abreu was on his bumper in the closing laps before getting loose and making contact with the wall, and then slipped back to finish ninth.

Crafton had overcome a cut rear tire in the early laps that damaged the truck and forced him to restart 25th. He led six different times, including the first lap after starting fourth.

“It says a lot about this team,” Crafton said. “Looking at the right side of that truck after the race, I still don’t know how we ran as good as we did. The tail was moved over at least three inches, and to have the speed we did was impressive.”

WHO’S HOT: Tyler Reddick was in the top five when his No. 29 Ford got loose. Reddick spun coming out of Turn 4, though he managed to keep the truck out of the wall on lap 52. He was able to immediately get to pit road, but missed his stall and had to go do another lap around the track before coming back in again. He recovered to finish fifth.

THE GRADUATE: There was some “Pomp and Circumstance” for Cole Custer. The 18-year-old JR Motorsports driver donned the traditional cap and gown over his firesuit during a prerace ceremony when he was presented his high school diploma by Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage. The rest of the Class of 2016 from Tesoro High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, had its graduation ceremony Thursday night, when Custer was already in Texas.

QUIROGA’S RETURN: Before a one-race deal with Red Horse Racing to drive the No. 11 Toyota on Friday night, German Quiroga’s last NASCAR truck series race had been in 2014. The Mexican driver qualified second, and went on to finish eighth.

UP NEXT: Iowa Speedway, June 18.

NASCAR: Martin Truex Jr. dominates NASCAR race in Charlotte

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. didn’t avoid ladders or black cats, never worried about cracking mirrors or stepping on cracks. He knew his bad luck on the Sprint Cup circuit would change.

Truex showed that in a big way Sunday night, leading a NASCAR-record 588 of 600 miles to win the Coca-Cola 600 — and break free of the bad luck that seemed to hit him when dominating races.

“The whole weekend was one of those fairytale weekends,” said Truex, who started from the pole. “But even leading at the end, I thought, ‘All right, when’s the caution going to hit.’ Amnd it didn’t.”

Especially when things have gone as wrong as they had for Truex and his single-car Furniture Row team the past year.

He led 141 laps at Texas, yet got strung up by poor pit strategy and finished sixth. In Kansas this month, he was out front for 172 laps until a loose wheel knocked him back to 14th.

A year ago here, Truex led the most laps at 131, but fell to fifth when he pitted for fuel late and four cars, including winner Carl Edwards, stayed out.

Truex never let it get to him.

“I had confidence. I had faith,” Truex said.

Truex won the fourth time on the series and the first time since last June at Pocono.

“We’re going to keep pushing hard and work toward that championship goal,” Truex said.

Kevin Harvick was second, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch.

Truex’s win finished Memorial Day weekend’s mega-day of high-end racing that began with Lewis Hamilton’s win at the Monaco Grand Prix and continued with American rookie Alexander Rossi’s surprise triumph in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Truex took the surprise out of this one early and was barely touched by the field. He was passed by Johnson on a restart 55 laps from the end, but Truex went back in front a lap later and was not pushed again.

He bettered Jim Paschal’s mark of leading 335 laps to win at Charlotte in 1967.

Truex’s single-car Furniture Row Racing team outclassed the armada of multi-car Sprint Cup powerhouses.

Four-time Coca-Cola 600 winner Johnson was on Truex’s door a handful of times on restarts, then would fade back. Harvick, who won here in 2011 and 2013, was the best of rest as he got by Johnson 44 laps from the end — yet never made a serious run at the top.

“I mean they have had a few runs where they have just been the class of the field and things have kept them from Victory Lane,” Johnson said. “Tonight he wasn’t going to be denied there was no way around that.”

Owner Roger Penske, who had a disappointing day at Indianapolis, hoped to rebound with his NASCAR duo of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, who won the All-Star race at the track last weekend.

But Logano was set back by a pit road penalty and Keselowski could never make a serious challenge.

Hamlin, who won the Xfinity event Saturday, topped the Joe Gibbs Racing entries, with Matt Kenseth in seventh.

WHO’S HOT: Martin Truex Jr. finally cashed in win a victory when he had the most dominant car. Truex locked up a spot in Chase for a Championship and marked himself as a car to beat heading into the summer.

WHO’S NOT: Kyle Busch has suddenly gone cold with his second straight finish in the 30s after spending much of the season in the top five. Busch wound up 33rd at Charlotte after finishing 30th at Dover. He had nine top-five finishes, including three victories, in the first 11 races.

WHAT WRECKS?: NASCAR’s longest race of the season was also among its cleanest, with just four cautions — and one of those was to check tire wear over the first 25 laps. The four caution periods took up just 19 laps, leading to Charlotte records for fastest average speed (160.644 mph) and fastest race (three hours, 44 minutes, eight seconds). Both marks eclipsed records from 2012 (average speed of 1555.687 mph; time of three hours, 51 minutes, 15 seconds)

THEY SAID IT: “I kind of felt like he was playing with us. He was so fast” — Johnson on Truex’s showing.

DID YOU SEE THAT? The biggest wow moments probably came pre-race when the United States military put on a Memorial Day weekend display for the large crowd. There were tanks, soldiers marching down the steps of the stands, a flyover and a paratrooper display.

UP NEXT: Pocono Raceway, June 5. Truex is the defending race winner.

______

Coca-Cola 600

Sunday’s results from the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (1) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 400.

2. (8) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 400.

3. (7) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 400.

4. (4) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 400.

5. (5) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 400.

6. (13) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 400.

7. (27) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 400.

8. (12) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 400.

9. (2) Joey Logano, Ford, 400.

10. (14) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 400.

11. (6) Greg Biffle, Ford, 400.

12. (28) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 400.

13. (24) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 400.

14. (25) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 400.

15. (3) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 400.

16. (15) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 399.

17. (11) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 399.

18. (9) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 399.

19. (23) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 399.

20. (18) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 397.

21. (19) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 396.

22. (29) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 395.

23. (26) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 395.

24. (21) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 395.

25. (10) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 395.

26. (20) Aric Almirola, Ford, 395.

27. (33) Landon Cassill, Ford, 395.

28. (31) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 395.

29. (30) Brian Scott, Ford, 394.

30. (17) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 394.

31. (35) David Ragan, Toyota, 393.

32. (34) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 393.

33. (16) Kyle Busch, Toyota, Accident, 392.

34. (32) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 391.

35. (36) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 391.

36. (38) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 390.

37. (22) Chris Buescher, Ford, 388.

38. (37) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 387.

39. (39) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Ford, 382.

40. (40) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Clutch, 200.

———

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 160.655 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hours, 44 Minutes, 5 Seconds.

Margin of Victory: 2.572 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 4 for 19 laps.

Lead Changes: 9 among 4 drivers.

Lap Leaders: M. Truex Jr. 1-77; J. Johnson 78-79; M. Truex Jr. 80-164; J. Johnson 165; J. Logano 166; M. Truex Jr. 167-298; P. Menard 299-300; M. Truex Jr. 301-343; J. Johnson 344-345; M. Truex Jr. 346-400.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): M. Truex Jr. 5 times for 392 laps; J. Johnson 3 times for 5 laps; P. Menard 1 time for 2 laps; J. Logano 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: K. Harvick – 457; Kurt Busch – 421; J. Johnson – 409; Kyle Busch – 405; C. Edwards – 404; B. Keselowski – 404; M. Truex Jr. – 381; C. Elliott – 374; J. Logano – 373; M. Kenseth – 347; D. Hamlin – 345; A. Dillon – 344; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 341; J. Mcmurray – 318; . Blaney – 309; R. Newman – 309.

____

Martin Truex Jr poses with the trophy after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., Sunday, May 29, 2016. (AP Photo/Matthew Bishop)

NASCAR: Kyle Busch finally gets first Sprint Cup win at Kansas

This gallery contains 1 photo.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kyle Busch has seemingly dozens of reasons to despise Kansas Speedway, from the two times he crashed out of Chase races to the innumerable misfortunes in other series.

Now he has one big reason to speak fondly of it.

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 one of three tracks that had eluded him.

“I didn’t know we’d have that much speed in our race car. I guess I should have known,” said Busch, who still needs to win at Charlotte and Pocono to knock off every current track in the series. “We had a top-five car in the middle part of the race. We kept making improvements to it, kept making it better.”

Busch won for the third time this season, and gave team owner Joe Gibbs his sixth victory already this season. But this one may have been the sweetest given Busch’s history at Kansas.

“This is a place that’s been tough on me over the years, and probably almost caused me to go into retirement,” Busch said, laughing. “There’s been a lot of rough days at Kansas, 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 finished fourth and Ryan Blaney wound up 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 18 if we could have had position, but it was tough restarting on that bottom.”

Martin Truex Jr. won 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 left 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 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 Jr. slapped the wall moments later. That bunched up the field and ultimately led to the only major wreck after last weekend’s crash-filled race at Talladega.

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 just going for it. We got to win. It’s win or nothing with this type of format, so why not go in there and take a chance?” said Hamlin, who admitted to pressing the issue after two speeding penalties on pit road cost him track position. “I have to get better on pit lane to give us a chance.”

Logano was strong once again after winning two of the past 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, hoping that the clean air of running in front would pay off. It was a risky gamble by crew chief Adam Stevens, but one that he was willing to make to change his team’s fortunes at Kansas.

“It’s always cool to get to Victory Lane, but to knock off another place we haven’t won at is really special,” Stevens said. “He’s had a really storied career and done a lot of great things, and to help him accomplish one of the things he hadn’t done is really cool.”

NASCAR’s Talladega wreckfest comes at a price

This gallery contains 1 photo.

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Nobody needs to be reminded that racing is inherently dangerous. We all know drivers assume the risks. It’s understood that no one forces a driver to compete.

That shoulder-shrug approach doesn’t make the scorecard from Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway any easier to accept.

The delicate line between sport and entertainment was dangerously straddled by 40 drivers roaring along in a pack of cars at 200 mph. When the dust settled, 35 cars had been involved in at least one accident and two cars went airborne. When Kevin Harvick’s car lifted off the track in a last-lap crash, it finally put an end to the chaos.

Yes, driver after driver exited their race car unharmed. Save for some bruises to her arms and legs and soreness when she took her breath, Danica Patrick scrambled to safety following the most frightening crash of her career.

So, yes, we celebrate on Monday that no one was injured, and better yet, no one died in the carnage that was a typical Talladega race.

But all that wrecking came at a price.

The cost of damaged race cars on Sunday neared $10 million in losses across the grid, according to an informal survey Monday by The Associated Press of five top race teams. Within that series-wide estimate, some teams estimated they lost $500,000 per car — total loss situations — while others estimated $250,000 without including any engine damage.

Those losses, the terrifying tumbles taken by Chris Buescher and Matt Kenseth, the hard licks into the wall, the parking-lot effect from a 21-car accident, all of it is accepted as part of the show. Racing at Daytona and Talladega, the only two tracks in NASCAR that require the use of horsepower-sapping restrictor plates to slow the cars, simply is what it is.

That’s all fine and well because everybody knows what they signed up for, right?

Not exactly.

Cars should not be going airborne anymore. IndyCar faced this same issue in the buildup to the Indianapolis 500 last year, when three cars took flight in terrifying crashes. Rules were immediately implemented to keep the cars on the track, and IndyCar again issued a mandate in car design for this month’s race.

NASCAR is in the same position and went to work Monday studying the wrecks to see what can be altered to keep cars from lifting off the track.

“We never want to see cars get up in the air,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, told AP.

Improved communication between NASCAR, owners and drivers should lead to solutions. O’Donnell said the new collaboration gives NASCAR a new “ability to work with the race teams and their top engineers” on how to keep cars on the track.

Kyle Busch, who broke his leg and foot in a crash at Daytona last year, said after his second-place finish Sunday that he’d rather stay home than participate in plate races. Third-place finisher Austin Dillon admitted: “We all have to do it; I don’t know how many really love it.”

Dillon walked away from a frightening airborne accident on the last lap of last July’s race at Daytona, an incident he said is “not a fun thing to be a part of.” He has faith that NASCAR understands the drivers’ concerns.

“I know NASCAR will put their efforts toward fixing it,” he said. “They’ve made the car safer. That’s the reason why we’re walking away from these crashes. I think as a group, all of us want it to be where we’re not leaving the ground.”

It’s important to put Sunday’s demolition derby in at least a little bit of perspective. Yes, the destruction was unusually high. But the threat of rain played a huge role in the multiple accidents.

Normally, the aggression in plate races doesn’t come until about 30 laps remain and many drivers spend most of the race riding around in the hope they can stay out of trouble to make a late run for the win. They couldn’t wait Sunday because rain could have ended the race with no notice.

It meant the pace was much faster from start to finish.

“It was almost like the entire race was overtime,” O’Donnell said. “Everybody was on the gas each and every lap. There was one point where we had weather 100 yards away, four laps to go until the halfway point and two laps to go in the fuel runs. That certainly produced three-wide racing from start to finish.”

Plate racing isn’t going away anytime soon, though various measures could be taken to reduce the pack element — remove the restrictor-plates, slow the cars, knock down the banking at Daytona and Talladega — nothing should be eliminated from conversation as NASCAR tries to “fix” the issues plaguing the four events each year.

Not everyone is convinced the racing needs to be fixed. Brad Keselowski picked up his fourth Talladega victory and had few complaints after the race.

Of course, he ran up front and ahead of much of the chaos.

“I’m a capitalist,” he said. “There’s people still paying to sit in the stands, there’s sponsors still on the cars, drivers still willing to get in them. Kind of sounds like it’s self-policing, and there’s enough interest to keep going, so we’ll keep going.”

NASCAR: Brad Keselowski wins crazy crash-fest at Talladega

This gallery contains 2 photos.

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Two cars went airborne, 35 were involved in an accident of some kind, and Danica Patrick had the wind knocked out of her in a vicious crash into the wall.

Just another demolition derby at Talladega Superspeedway.

Brad Keselowski won the crash-fest Sunday that was dominated by multiple wrecks that caused millions of dollars in damage to race teams. It was Keselowski’s fourth career win at Talladega and second victory of the season, and ended Joe Gibbs Racing’s streak of four consecutive victories.

“Crazy day. Somehow we managed to stay ahead of or out of all the chaos,” Keselowski said. “That’s how Talladega goes. Sometimes we run here and everybody kind of lines up against the wall, and sometimes we come here and it’s crazy side by side, wreck ’em up, flip ’em.

“I think that’s kind of the allure to coming here because you don’t know what you’re going to get.”

That’s not entirely true about Talladega, which more times than not turns into a mess of wrecked race cars.

Keselowski said that’s just part of restrictor-plate racing at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.

“Racing has always been that balance of daredevils and chess players, this has always been more of a daredevil-type track,” said Keselowski.

Chris Buescher’s car flipped three times in an early crash, and Matt Kenseth was turned upside down in the waning laps. In Kenseth’s accident, Patrick hit hard into an energy-absorbing wall that that seemed to buckle upon impact. She appeared shaken after the hit and hustled out of her burning car.

“I have a pretty decent bruise on my arm and my foot, and my head feels like I hit a wall at 200,” she said. “My chest hurts when I breathe.”

There were 21- and 12-car accidents in the final 28 laps. And, as Keselowski crossed the finish line, another wreck in the back of the pack punctuated the sloppy day. NASCAR’s box score showed 35 of the 40 cars were involved in some sort of accident.

Only 21 of the 40 cars finished on the lead lap, and 12 cars were ruled out of the race.

Second-place finisher Kyle Busch said he looked in his rearview mirror at one point and only saw four cars without some sort of damage

“I hate it. I’d much rather be at home,” said Busch, the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion. “I’ve got a win. I don’t need to be here.”

Austin Dillon finished third and said he enjoyed the race, even though it was nerve-racking. Dillon was in his own horrific crash at Daytona last July and said the style of racing at restrictor-plate tracks creates an atmosphere of danger.

“We all have to do it. I don’t know how many really love it,” Dillon said. “I know our mom’s, wives and girlfriends don’t like it. We don’t like to be part of crashes. If people are cheering for crashes, man, it’s not a good thing.”

The pace of Sunday’s race was up a tick because of potential rain that could have shortened the event from its scheduled 180 laps. Once the race hit the halfway point and was official, drivers began their charge to the front because they couldn’t avoid waiting and rain suddenly ending the event.

Patrick, who was inside the top 10 when she was hit by another car and turned into Kenseth, who went airborne, said the potential rain intensified the racing.

“We all raced to the halfway, then we all raced to the rain that was coming, then we all raced to the end,” she said. “It was like the whole race, you spent it racing like it was the end. There was no moments to relax at all. I’m sure that kind of expanded people’s comfort zones at the end of the race because we were already so used to running close.

“Some people took it over the edge.”

Other incidents in Sunday’s race:

TYPICAL TALLADEGA: Not every driver was alarmed at all the accidents.

Jamie McMurray, one of the better plate races in the series, thought Sunday was pretty typical.

“Everyone is pretty calm until we get to halfway because we all want to get to halfway, and then it got a little bit wild after that,” he said. “But it’s just plate racing. When you look back at all of these restrictor plate races, you have a lot of wrecks that just don’t happen. And today we had a lot of wrecks, and they happened.”

___

AMELIA IS DESTROYED: Defending race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. brought his favorite car, named “Amelia” to Talladega in search of his first win of the season. But he wrecked on lap 50 and had to go to the garage. He eventually returned to the track, and his steering wheel mysteriously came off in his hand. He had to steer the car himself with his hand on the steering column as he put the wheel back on. Then he was collected in a wreck with Carl Edwards. He finished last.

“Hell, I’m going home. I’m done,” he said. “I think we need to park the car for a while, too.”

___

EDWARDS ENDS STREAK: Edwards was seeking his third consecutive victory, but came up short when he suddenly crashed his Toyota.

“Something just let go there,” he said. “We had something torn up there, drove down into turn one and I just felt the right front fall down and that was it. You’re kind of just along for the ride.”

Edwards scored back-to-back wins at Bristol and Richmond — where he bumped Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch out of his way on the last lap — and was hoping to make it three straight with a Talladega win.

He instead finished 39th.

___

STEWART’S SHORT DAY: Tony Stewart turned his car over to Ty Dillon on the first caution of the race.

Stewart drove the first 52 laps before getting out as a precautionary measure. He just returned last week from a back injury that sidelined him the first eight races of the season.

Dillon drove the car to a sixth-place finish, which gets credited to Stewart.

___

WHAT’S NEXT: A Saturday night race next week at Kansas Speedway. Jimmie Johnson won the race a year ago, and Joey Logano was victorious at Kansas last fall.

____

SUNDAY’S RESULTS

1. (7) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 188 laps, 45 points.

2. (17) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 188, 40.

3. (2) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 188, 38.

4. (30) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 188, 37.

5. (1) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 188, 37.

6. (14) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 188, 35.

7. (34) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 188, 34.

8. (18) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 188, 33.

9. (19) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 188, 32.

10. (13) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 188, 32.

11. (32) Landon Cassill, Ford, 188, 30.

12. (33) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 188, 30.

13. (12) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 188, 28.

14. (28) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 188, 28.

15. (29) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 188, 27.

16. (6) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 188, 25.

17. (39) David Gilliland, Ford, 188, 24.

18. (36) Cole Whitt, Toyota, 188, 24.

19. (26) Bobby Labonte, Ford, 188, 23.

20. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 188, 21.

21. (31) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 188, 20.

22. (5) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 182, 19.

23. (4) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, accident, 180, 19.

24. (37) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, accident, 180, 18.

25. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, accident, 180, 17.

26. (10) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, accident, 180, 15.

27. (23) Aric Almirola, Ford, accident, 180, 15.

28. (15) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 173, 14.

29. (24) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 173, 13.

30. (21) Brian Scott, Ford, 172, 11.

31. (8) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 170, 11.

32. (25) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 168, 9.

33. (20) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 166, 8.

34. (40) David Ragan, Toyota, engine, 151, 8.

35. (9) Carl Edwards, Toyota, accident, 109, 6.

36. (35) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, engine, 98, 5.

37. (27) Chris Buescher, Ford, accident, 95, 4.

38. (38) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, accident, 94, 3.

39. (11) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, accident, 82, 2.

40. (3) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, accident, 63, 1.

———

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 140.046 mph.

Time of Race: 3 hours, 34 minutes, 15 seconds.

Margin of Victory: Under Caution.

Caution Flags: 10 for 41 laps.

Lead Changes: 37 among 17 drivers.

Lap Leaders: C.Elliott 1-13; M.Kenseth 14-28; C.Elliott 29-38; M.Waltrip 39; Ky.Busch 40-51; A.Almirola 52; A.Allmendinger 53; D.Ragan 54-55; M.Waltrip 56; M.Kenseth 57-71; B.Keselowski 72-82; D.Hamlin 83; B.Keselowski 84; D.Hamlin 85-88; B.Keselowski 89-96; D.Patrick 97-99; K.Harvick 100-102; C.Elliott 103-106; K.Harvick 107-108; T.Bayne 109-115; K.Harvick 116-117; T.Bayne 118; K.Harvick 119-120; T.Bayne 121-128; B.Labonte 129; R.Newman 130; C.Whitt 131; T.Bayne 132-135; K.Larson 136-137; T.Bayne 138; K.Larson 139-145; M.Kenseth 146-152; B.Labonte 153; M.Kenseth 154-155; T.Bayne 156; B.Keselowski 157-165; J.Logano 166-171; B.Keselowski 172-188.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): B.Keselowski, 5 times for 46 laps; M.Kenseth, 4 times for 39 laps; C.Elliott, 3 times for 27 laps; T.Bayne, 6 times for 22 laps; Ky.Busch, 1 time for 12 laps; K.Harvick, 4 times for 9 laps; K.Larson, 2 times for 9 laps; J.Logano, 1 time for 6 laps; D.Hamlin, 2 times for 5 laps; D.Patrick, 1 time for 3 laps; M.Waltrip, 2 times for 2 laps; B.Labonte, 2 times for 2 laps; D.Ragan, 1 time for 2 laps; A.Allmendinger, 1 time for 1 lap; C.Whitt, 1 time for 1 lap; A.Almirola, 1 time for 1 lap; R.Newman, 1 time for 1 lap.

Wins: Ky.Busch, 2; C.Edwards, 2; J.Johnson, 2; B.Keselowski, 2; D.Hamlin, 1; K.Harvick, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. K.Harvick, 351; 2. Ky.Busch, 342; 3. C.Edwards, 337; 4. J.Johnson, 329; 5. J.Logano, 316; 6. Ku.Busch, 312; 7. B.Keselowski, 300; 8. D.Earnhardt Jr., 279; 9. M.Truex Jr., 274; 10. A.Dillon, 272; 11. C.Elliott, 271; 12. D.Hamlin, 269; 13. J.McMurray, 261; 14. A.Allmendinger, 232; 15. M.Kenseth, 231; 16. T.Bayne, 228.

NASCAR: Not even bump-and-run generates good vibes in NASCAR

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Racing doesn’t get much better than a bump-and-run on the final lap for the victory. It’s what Carl Edwards did to teammate Kyle Busch at Richmond International Raceway in what NASCAR says was the first last-lap pass for a win in track history.

It was dramatic, controversial and likely set the stage for tense team meetings this week at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Was it enough, though, to build any positive goodwill for NASCAR?

“I think (Sunday) was a great day for the sport,” said winning crew chief Dave Rogers of Edwards’ decision to nudge his teammate out of the way to win the race. “It would be very disappointing to our fans if Joe imposed a team order and told us, ‘Hey, have a parade instead of a race.'”

It’s hard to say with NASCAR’s bipolar fan base. Most weeks, the majority of the fans can’t stand Busch and use social media to vow they’ll never watch another race until Busch is banned from competing in the second-tier Xfinity Series. On Monday, though, it was Dale Earnhardt Jr. on social media smacking back at fans complaining that Edwards’ move was dirty.

“In my book it’s ok to lean on a guy for a W. Not ok to put them in the fence. Lean on ’em, but don’t ruin their day,” Earnhardt replied on Twitter to a fan who asked him what he would have done in Edwards’ situation.

The only people who should be upset are Busch and his race team. This is the kind of racing fans are supposed to embrace, a driver putting it all out there and fearlessly moving the reigning Sprint Cup champion out of his way for a trip to victory lane.

If there’s an issue, it should only exist inside the walls at JGR, where the team owner can navigate any potential hard feelings.

But this is the new norm in NASCAR, where no race is good enough, no finish exciting enough, to satisfy this fan base.

That’s a serious problem for NASCAR.

How did this happen? Well, it wasn’t overnight and fixing this problem won’t be fast, either.

A combination of bad racing and boardroom decisions made by NASCAR has alienated many hardcore fans and turned off the casual observer. The races are too long, the 11-month schedule oversaturated. Some fans love the playoff-style Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, others despise it and long for the good ‘ol days.

More than anything, though, it seems the themes that most ignite the fan base are all off-track issues.

Die-hards were disgusted when NASCAR chairman Brian France said he didn’t want Confederate flags at races anymore. Then he alienated a different portion of the fan base when he endorsed Donald Trump for president. The prayer given before this month’s race at Texas by “Duck Commander” founder Phil Robertson was cringe-worthy to almost everyone but conservatives.

And now, the sport just spent a week debating lug nuts and freedom of speech.

NASCAR’s cutback on pit road officials meant the series could no longer ensure every team tightened all five lug nuts after every tire change. Earnhardt, Greg Biffle and crew chief Rodney Childers were among the handful of participants who warned of the danger in allowing teams to skip lug nuts in favor of a faster pit stop.

Then Tony Stewart gave his two cents — warning of potential injury if NASCAR doesn’t step in — and the series promptly fined him $35,000 under its new behavioral policy. Few believe it was anything but retribution from France over Stewart’s direct attacks on him over the years.

So off they all went to Richmond, where Stewart made his return after missing the first eight races with a back injury. His return was overshadowed by his fine, by the Driver Council’s decision to pay the $35,000 for him and, of course, by lug nuts. As Stewart was getting ready to race for the first time this season, a big and welcome headline for NASCAR, he was on national TV talking about lug nuts and his fine.

It’s been one public relations disaster after another this year for NASCAR, which has chosen to vaguely answer or not comment at all on issue after issue. All of this sideshow nonsense has only heightened the animosity of the fan base.

NASCAR desperately needs to find a way to stop shifting attention away from its stars, from its improving product and from its rivalries. It would go a long way toward making Edwards’ move on Sunday appreciated as “quintessential NASCAR” racing, as France has stated. Right now, though, it delivered just another opportunity for its bitter and jaded fans to complain.

___

This story has been updated to correct second fine reference to $35,000. Carl Edwards does a back flip off his car after winning the Sprint Cup auto race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Va., Sunday, April 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Chet Strange)

NASCAR: Edwards passes Kyle Busch on last lap to win at Richmond

This gallery contains 1 photo.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Carl Edwards had been grinding for 30 laps, doing everything he could to catch Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch in a two-way breakaway from the pack at Richmond International Raceway.

When he finally caught him on the last lap Sunday, and in the final turn, he had no time to think about what would be the prudent thing to do. Instead, Edwards focused on the reason they are racing: to win.

Edwards bumped his sometimes-volatile teammate off his racing line in the last turn and passed him to win his second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, and the fourth in a row for the Gibbs racing stable.

NASCAR said it was the first last-lap pass for a victory in the history of the premier series at the track, a span of 120 races.

“I wish it was anybody but my teammate that we had to race like that with, but big picture to me is we’ve both got some wins, we’re in the Chase, and it’s fun to have to race your teammate for the win,” Edwards said. “If the roles were reversed, I would have expected him to bump me the same way.”

Then in a bid to throw a bone to Busch, whose car was sponsored by Banfield Pet Hospital, he said: “If my cat ever gets sick, I don’t care how much it costs, I will take it to the Banfield Pet Hospital, if that helps.”

Gibbs said there’s no game plan for how to handle the next team meeting.

“What you do is you just start out and work your way through it, and that’s what we’ll do,” he said.

Edwards, who had fallen nearly 1.5 seconds behind after a restart with 36 laps to go, gradually ran him down, catching him on the final lap. Then he slipped underneath Busch, a master blocker in late-race situations, and nudged him just enough to allow Edwards to get inside him for his second consecutive victory. It was also the fourth in a row for the Gibbs stable, and fifth in nine races.

“Kyle’s an amazing teammate and it’s like he got really slow there at the end,” Edwards said. “Something happened that last lap, it’s like his rear tires went off or something, and he went down into (Turn) one and I dove it in and I got to him, and I thought, ‘Man, I’ve got something here.’ Then he went to get down to the bottom to park it in three and four and I’d already decided to go down there, so I thought, ‘Man, I’m going to give him a little nudge.’

“We’ve both got wins. We’re racing for fun and getting these trophies. Just an awesome day.”

After falling so far behind, Edwards was surprised to find himself in position to challenge for the victory.

“Man, I didn’t think we had anything. Kyle was just so good for that run. I was just doing everything I could. He never spun his tires,” he said. “If Dave (crew chief Rogers) hadn’t screamed at me to just go get him, I don’t know if I would have dove it in there that hard.”

Busch seemed less than amused after being denied his third victory in the last four races.

“We just kind of gave it up a little bit there on the last lap, but I guess that’s racing and we move on,” he said. “… We had a really great car. … We were fast, maybe not as good as Carl was on the long runs, but we did everything right, everything we were supposed to do.”

Jimmie Johnson finished third, follow by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne and pole-sitter Kevin Harvick. Gibbs placed all four of its drivers in the top seven, with Denny Hamlin sixth and Matt Kenseth seventh.

The race was the first scheduled for during the day at Richmond since 1997, and the racing made a huge fan of Johnson.

“We had multiple lanes that laid the rubber in the race track and we didn’t have all those marbles built up on the outside, where it really limited your opportunities up high,” he said. “It was fun. The cars were slipping and sliding; there was a ton of fall-off. I enjoyed the long runs. I really like sizing-up guys that I’m racing with and seeing how that works out. And then, at the end we had a bunch of short runs.”

Kahne was trying to hang on to a good finish at the end and missed the drama ahead of him.

“I didn’t watch. I wish I would have. It sounded like a great battle,” he said.

Edwards dominated the first half of the race, leading 120 of the first 200 laps, and he continued to lead until Kevin Harvick slipped underneath him with 170 laps to go. Edwards faded for a time, but wound up leading seven times for a race-high 151 laps. The race featured 23 lead changes, the most here since 2007.

Seven other drivers also led, with Busch, Harvick, Kurt Busch and Johnson also leading for at least 44 laps.

Notes: Johnson has three career victories at Richmond, but none since September 2008. … Gibbs cars have won five of the first nine races. … The race went green for the first 157 laps, the longest green-flag run to start a race at Richmond since 1979, and only the fourth time in the last 47 races in the premier series on the 0.75-mile oval that the first 100 laps were run caution-free.

_________

RESULTS

Lap length: .75 miles

(Start position in parentheses)

1. (4) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 400 laps, 45 points.

2. (9) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 400, 40.

3. (3) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 400, 39.

4. (8) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 400, 37.

5. (1) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 400, 37.

6. (5) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 400, 36.

7. (13) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 400, 35.

8. (2) Joey Logano, Ford, 400, 33.

9. (22) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 400, 32.

10. (7) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 400, 32.

11. (6) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 400, 31.

12. (23) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 400, 29.

13. (16) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 400, 28.

14. (19) Greg Biffle, Ford, 400, 27.

15. (15) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 400, 26.

16. (27) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 400, 25.

17. (17) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 400, 24.

18. (14) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 400, 23.

19. (18) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 400, 22.

20. (11) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 400, 21.

21. (24) Aric Almirola, Ford, 400, 20.

22. (26) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 400, 19.

23. (30) David Ragan, Toyota, 400, 18.

24. (21) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 400, 17.

25. (10) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 400, 16.

26. (12) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 400, 15.

27. (28) Landon Cassill, Ford, 399, 14.

28. (29) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 399, 13.

29. (25) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 399, 12.

30. (36) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 399, 11.

31. (32) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 399, 10.

32. (34) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 399, 9.

33. (39) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 398, 8.

34. (33) Chris Buescher, Ford, 396, 7.

35. (20) Brian Scott, Ford, 395, 6.

36. (40) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 394, 5.

37. (37) Ryan Ellis, Toyota, 393, 0.

38. (38) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Ford, 392, 3.

39. (31) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 390, 2.

40. (35) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 390, 1.

———

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 97.070 mph.

Time of Race: 3 hours, 5 minutes, 26 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 0.675 seconds.

Caution Flags: 8 for 49 laps.

Lead Changes: 23 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders: K.Harvick 1-21; J.Johnson 22-63; C.Edwards 64; J.Johnson 65; C.Edwards 66-89; D.Hamlin 90; J.Johnson 91; M.Kenseth 92-93; C.Edwards 94-157; Ky.Busch 158-168; C.Edwards 169-196; Ky.Busch 197; C.Edwards 198-229; K.Harvick 230-270; B.Keselowski 271-273; K.Harvick 274; B.Keselowski 275-277; Ku.Busch 278-286; Ky.Busch 287-314; Ku.Busch 315-360; Ky.Busch 361-363; C.Edwards 364; Ky.Busch 365-399; C.Edwards 400.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): C.Edwards, 7 times for 151 laps; Ky.Busch, 5 times for 78 laps; K.Harvick, 3 times for 63 laps; Ku.Busch, 2 times for 55 laps; J.Johnson, 3 times for 44 laps; B.Keselowski, 2 times for 6 laps; M.Kenseth, 1 time for 2 laps; D.Hamlin, 1 time for 1 lap.

Wins: Ky.Busch, 2; C.Edwards, 2; J.Johnson, 2; D.Hamlin, 1; K.Harvick, 1; B.Keselowski, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. C.Edwards, 331; 2. K.Harvick, 324; 3. J.Johnson, 310; 4. Ky.Busch, 302; 5. J.Logano, 299; 6. Ku.Busch, 279; 7. D.Earnhardt Jr., 278; 8. D.Hamlin, 258; 9. B.Keselowski, 255; 10. M.Truex Jr., 246; 11. C.Elliott, 234; 12. A.Dillon, 234; 13. J.McMurray, 224; 14. K.Kahne, 222; 15. M.Kenseth, 212; 16. R.Newman, 205.

________

Carl Edwards celebrates after winning the Sprint Cup auto race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Va., Sunday, April 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Chet Strange)

"PhatzRadio - A New view from the News Room"

LISTEN TO PHATZRADIO



LiveScore.in

livescore

Weekly Music / Sports Talk Schedule
NBA Unplugged 1:00PM
Audibly Offensive 2:02PM
The War Room 3:01PM
Smooth Jazz 5:11PM
PopSports Sports Radio Tues.AM
The Broad Street Line Wed.AM
After Further Review Wed.AM
HoopGirlz Radio Thur.AM
Gaffer & Hooligan Soccer Fri.AM

PhatzRadio / CFL News
Horse Racing

Sun, Aug 28, 2016
Source Horse Racing
Sun, Aug 28, 2016
Source Horse Racing
Sun, Aug 28, 2016
Source Horse Racing