Race Capsule: How Kyle Busch came back to rock the Granite State
Flag to Flag: The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' presence at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was a welcome break from all the analysis of the cars' handling on bigger tracks. New Hampshire's nearly flat, one-mile layout puts a lot of the racecar's speed in the driver's hands. Enter the sport's hottest (on the best streak) from stage right - Kyle Busch. He quickly moved up from his 4th-place starting spot to chasing down
The two best cars of the day were Busch's and Brad Keselowski's (2nd), who started on the outside row. After Kyle Busch took the lead on lap 20, a debris caution flew on lap 23 (and NBCSN did show the debris on the track). Keselowski had fallen outside of the top 5 and was the
This set the tone for most of the rest of the race, with Keselowski leading 101 laps to Busch's 95. The only other driver to take the lead on speed was Kevin Harvick (3rd), but that was when Busch briefly fell from the equation. On lap 244, Busch pitted under green with what he thought was a right-front tire going down; he fell down a lap. Busch used the fresher rubber to gain time on the field and made a daring three-wide
The leaders pitted and Busch re-assumed the lead and held it - now on slightly older tires - over a hard-charging Keselowski in the closing laps. Alex Bowman (42nd), whose car already had caught fire that day, cut a tire, hit the wall, and brought out a caution on the final lap to seal the 5-Hour Energy 301. The win mark's Busch's 3rd of the season and in four races.
The race saw long green flag runs, but also decent racing through the pack. Cars often raced two-wide and in close quarters, proving that shorter tracks almost always make for better racing with stock cars and some of the world's greatest drivers.
The top 10 were Busch, Keselowski, Harvick (and the third-best car of the day), Joey Logano (led some laps), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (complained about a lack of horsepower on the straightaways, which concerned him), Matt Kenseth (another fast Joe Gibbs Racing car), Carl Edwards (third JGR car in top 10, but only led first 19 laps), Austin Dillon (much-needed shot in arm for sophomore driver, after Denny Hamlin moved him to win Saturday's Xfinity Series race), Jeff Gordon (another 2015 Gordon-
The Chase for the Sprint Cup standings are taking form as Harvick, Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson (22nd in the race) have clinched Chase spots and the other winners, besides Ky. Busch, are close to being guaranteed in NASCAR's playoffs. Edwards (17th in points) and Ky. Busch (33rd) are the only drivers outside the top 16 who have won and Busch is still 58 points from David Gilliland's 30th-in-points position. Jamie McMurray and Gordon are 9th and 10th in points and are 74 and 73 points respectively to the good from Clint Bowyer's 16th-in-points position. 12th-15th in points are also winless: Kasey Kahne (+38 to the good), Ryan Newman (+30), Paul Menard (+28), and Aric Almirola (+2). So the battle there is tight. Bowyer is the first driver out of the playoff picture, but he has a 63 point lead over 18th-in-points Greg Biffle. And once Kyle Busch enters the top 30 in points, which looks soon to occur, then Almirola or the next highest winless driver will be out of the Chase cutoff. Got it?
RaceTweet: Kyle Busch continues tear and battles Bad Brad to New Hampshire win. Chase waiver? Really?
Handsome Boy Modeling School Stud of the Race: Kyle Busch - He only led the second-most laps in the race, but he managed to make a daring move to drive back onto the lead lap after a flat tire almost derailed his day. Considering his past injuries, the super hot conditions, and the fast cars he
North Korean Missile Dud: Clint Bowyer - He's won at New Hampshire and his Michael Waltrip Racing team looked racy for the weekend. But after Jeff Gordon backed out in front of him in the garage (not Bowyer's fault), damaging both cars, the crew got behind the eight ball and struggled most of the race. Bowyer popped the wall late in the race, had to pit with the tire rub, and finished 34th. His Chase hopes are evaporating like water on the roads after a summer shower in Georgia. See ya.
Never Fear, Underdog is Here: Casey Mears - Mears' "Underdog" trophy shelf needs some expansion. He and his Germain Racing team, which recently re-signed the veteran driver for 2016, finished 16th and yet again on the lead lap. Mears sits 20th in points, ahead of one Chip Ganassi team, two Stewart-Haas Racing teams, one Michael Waltrip Racing team, two Roush Fenway Racing teams, and one Richard Petty Motorsports team. Marinate on that.
Ghost Driver: Greg Biffle - Roush Fenway Racing had solid finishes with the new aero package at Kentucky Speedway, but the three-team company slid back to the doldrums and veteran driver Greg Biffle was right there. Biffle's 27th-place finish, two laps down, just goes to show how much this team has to go to rise again.
You Can Comeback, But You Can't Stay Here: Kyle Busch - He
Jimmie Johnson Golden Horseshoe: Denny Hamlin - Last we checked, Austin Dillon didn't wreck him after Hamlin moved him out of the way to win Saturday's NXS race. Hamlin survived the race Sunday and finished 14th, with Dillon 8th. Hamlin may not have gotten the result he wanted, but Dillon could have put Hamlin's car on the truck if he had wanted to and few would have batted an eye.
Head-Scratcher Crown of Thorns: This New Hampshire race was uncharacteristically warm, but seeing how many drivers were exhausted post-race was surprising. Several drivers reportedly got treatment for exhaustion and the post-race interviews of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski both showed highly fatigued wheelmen. First, for those that think this isn't a hard sport, this is proof of how hard these drivers work. And second...don't the helmet fans work? We have enough technology to cool these drivers don't we? In the interest of the highly-debated topic of safety, the sport needs to make sure and keep drivers healthy behind the wheel even when they aren't wrecking.
Georgia On My Mind: This New Hampshire race weekend was so-so for the Georgia gang. David Ragan started a promising 3rd, but faded outside the top 25 near the midpoint of the race and clawed back to 18th. He sits 24th in points with a lone top 5, despite having raced for Joe Gibbs Racing and currently running for Michael Waltrip Racing. With Brian Vickers hoping to return to the No. 55 next season, Ragan needs to make the best of this opportunity and that just hasn't been yet. Reed Sorenson failed to qualify the Premium Motorsports No. 62 for the race.
Chase Elliott had a typical 2015 race for him in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Saturday: 9th-place, no laps led. He gained gained five points on leader Chris Buescher and trails him by 31 in the standings. Ryan Sieg retired from the race with brake problems on lap 46, finishing 34th. Sieg is 16th in points. John Wes Townley did not race this weekend.
Next: The Sprint Cup Series and Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend. The Cup cars run Sunday at 3:30 p.m. on NBCSN and PRN (via the IMS Radio Network). The NXS runs Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on NBC (go figure, the smaller series is on the bigger network) and PRN. And the Camping World Truck Series slings dirt Wednesday at highly popular Eldora Speedway at 9 p.m. on FS1 and MRN. Tune in earlier to see the qualifying and heat races. Georgia driver and Dixie Speedway racer Madeline Crane is attempting her series debut in truck No. 80, watch for that.