Kyle Busch rallies for fifth-place finish, holds final cutoff spot for Miami

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FORT WORTH, Texas — It wasn’t the best of nights for Kyle Busch, but it was good enough to keep him in contention to defend his Sprint Cup championship.

Busch finished fifth in Sunday’s rain-delayed and rain-shortened race at Texas Motor Speedway, overcoming damage to the front of his Toyota when he hit debris.

The result gives him a one-point lead on Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth heading into next weekend’s cutoff race at Phoenix. Teammate Denny Hamlin is two points behind Busch.

“Tonight wasn’t the night we were looking, but we weren’t looking for a night race, either,’’ Busch said of a race that was scheduled for 2 pm ET but didn’t begin until nearly 8 pm ET. “I thought our car was going to be better suited for the daytime.

“There about the second half of the race, the track started coming to us and everybody else started fading a little bit, so we were getting better at the long runs, but everybody was short-pitting so bad because we had so many sets of tires that you didn’t have to go full fuel runs. Next year taking a set away (of tires) ain’t going to hurt anything for racing I don’t believe.’’

Busch gained nine spots within the final 100 laps in a race shorted from 334 to 293 laps because of rain. He struggled to get into the top 10 early after he hit part of a hose that put a baseball-sized hole in the front of his car.

Teammate Carl Edwards advanced to the championship round in Miami by winning Sunday night. He joins Jimmie Johnson, who won last week at Martinsville. That leaves two spots left and three Gibbs drivers among those trying to make the final cut.

“We’ve just got to keep doing what we know how to do,’’ Busch said. “We’ve got to make sure that we can run in the top five, we’ve got to make sure we can go to victory lane, if possible. We’ve had all the finishes that we need thus far. We’ve got to be able to go out one more week and get another one.’’

Busch’s finish allowed him to gain three points on Kenseth and four points on Hamlin.

The race could be tighter between the teammates. Gibbs cars took four of the top seven spots at Phoenix earlier in the year. Busch finished fourth there behind Edwards (second) and Hamlin (third) there.

“I think our guys have done a great job of being able to make our cars better at Phoenix,’’ Busch said. “We knew that was a place we needed to get better at even before this Chase format was instituted.’’

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch questions Xfinity rules package at Indy

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Kyle Busch isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and he certainly did so after Saturday’s  Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

NASCAR implemented a number of changes to make the racing closer, tighter and more exciting — including restrictor plates, a larger rear spoiler, aero ducts, and a smaller splitter — and achieved all that on many fronts.

But not for the younger Busch brother, who wasn’t pleased with the rules package. Was it actually designed to specifically slow him down rather than to even out things for the entire field?

Or was he just simply upset because he didn’t win a third Xfinity race in a row at IMS?

Check out how our NASCAR America analysts gauged the Xfinity changes in the above video.

 

TriStar Motorsports team owner Mark Smith passes away

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Mark Smith, owner of TriStar Motorsports, died Saturday at his home, after a long battle with cancer, the team announced Monday. He was 63.

He began his racing career building engines for his brother Jack’s drag car in the 1970s. He moved his family from the West Coast in the early 1990s to pursue a career in NASCAR. He was the owner of TriStar Motorsports and Pro Motor Engines.

TriStar Motorsports fields the No. 14 in the Xfinty Series with JJ Yeley and the No. 72 in the Cup Series with Cole Whitt. The team stated the team will continue operations under the management of Bryan Smith, son of Mark Smith.

“It was dad’s dream to own and operate a NASCAR team,” Bryan Smith said. “He devoted his life to that dream and his family plans to honor his wishes by continuing our efforts in his memory.”

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Victory Junction Gang victoryjunction.org or NOVA (National Organization for Vehicle Access, part of the BraunAbility) novafunding.org.

The family will receive friends from 5-8 p.m. ET, Aug. 1 at Cavin-Cook Funeral Home, Mooresville, North Carolina. They have created a Facebook page where you are encouraged to leave a story for the family to enjoy. (facebook.com/Remembering-Mark-Smith-301261653675224)

NASCAR America: Analysts break down Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. wreck (video)

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Given how wild the Brickyard 400 played out, the big wreck between race leaders Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. wasn’t exactly surprising.

Rather, with the way the race transpired from the opening lap, was the Busch/Truex wreck almost inevitable?

Truex got loose and washed up into the left rear of Busch’s car, sending both drivers and their respective cars into the outside retaining walls, hitting hard and ending their respective days.

Check out what our NASCAR America analysts had to say about the wreck from Monday’s show in the above video.

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Jr. recaps wild Brickyard 400 (video)

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On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, Dale Earnhardt Jr. — who will become part of our NBC Sports Group in 2018 — looked back on a wild and intense Brickyard 400.

Earnhardt was one of several drivers whose day came to an early ending — in Junior’s case when he ran into the back of Trevor Bayne‘s car, destroying his radiator in the process.

All the mayhem and mishaps could be linked to over-aggressive driving, Earnhardt said, saying that every driver was in “attack mode,” especially on restarts.

Check out Junior in the video above.