Kyle Busch nudges Kevin Harvick out of the way, holds on to break 36-race winless streak at Pocono

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Kyle Busch has tried everything he could to break his 36-race winless streak, which dated back to last season’s Brickyard 400 triumph.

But when it came down to it, it was a simple, slight nudge by Busch to push Kevin Harvick out of the way with 16 laps remaining to break the winless streak in Sunday’s Overton’s 400 at Pocono Raceway.

“Finally, eh?” Busch said over his team radio shortly after crossing the finish line.

Harvick had moved to the front of the field and passed Denny Hamlin on Lap 144 when, moments later, Busch nudged him aside just before the start-finish line to retake the lead.

Busch started the race from the pole and led 74 of the 160 scheduled laps, finishing with nearly a six-second margin of victory. The win was the 39th of his NASCAR Cup career.

“Never thought this day would happen,” Busch told NBCSN on the frontstretch after taking the checkered flag from the flag stand. “Such an awesome race car. We’ve been fighting all year long and weren’t sure why or what was next. This is something I’ve been waiting for a long, long time.”

MORE: Results, stats for the Cup Series race at Pocono

MORE: With Kyle Busch win, Chase Elliott highest driver in Cup points without win

The outcome marked two significant milestones:

  • It was the 100th NASCAR Cup win for Toyota. And it was the 400th overall NASCAR win for Toyota (100 for Cup, 135 for Xfinity and 165 for Trucks)
  • It also was Busch’s first career NASCAR Cup win at the Tricky Triangle, leaving just one track on the circuit (Charlotte Motor Speedway) that Busch has yet to win a Cup race at.

However, there was one slight negative to Busch’s win: NASCAR officials informed him in victory lane that he had one loose lug nut on his car, which means the team will likely face a $10,000 fine in the next few days. The No. 6 of Trevor Bayne and No. 17 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were also found to have loose lug nuts in post-race inspection.

Harvick finished second, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski.

The race didn’t even reach one completed lap when a major wreck occurred involving entering Turn 3. Matt Kenseth appeared to get loose, with several cars wrecking behind trying to avoid him, including Austin Dillon, Danica Patrick, Paul Menard, Matt DiBenedetto, Chris Buescher, Aric Almirola and Michael McDowell.

Almirola and DiBenedetto saw their day come to a quick end due to irreparable damage to their Ford Fusions.

“It’s frustrating we couldn’t make even one lap,” Almirola told NBCSN.

STAGE WINNERS: Kyle Busch won Stage 1 (his eighth of the season and fourth consecutive stage win over the last 3 races), while Clint Bowyer captured Stage 2, his first stage win of the season.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Even with being forced out of the way, Kevin Harvick still held on to a strong runner-up finish. … Clint Bowyer finished sixth and earned his first stage win of the season (won Stage 2). Bowyer has now earned four top-seven finishes in his last six starts.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Aric Almirola (finished 38th) and Matt DiBenedetto (37th) didn’t even finish one lap before their respective days ended early, being involved in a multi-car wreck entering Turn 3 on the opening lap. … Jimmie Johnson’s day ended after 57 laps when he bounced off teammate Kasey Kahne’s car and backed the No. 48 into the outside wall. … A drivetrain issue left Kyle Larson with a 33rd place finish.

NOTABLE: It’s been so long since Busch won a Cup race that he made a slight faux pas in victory lane. During his NBCSN interview, he said, “This is Toyota’s 100th Sprint Cup, uh, Monster Energy win. This is the first time I’ve been doing this (since Monster took over for Sprint as series entitlement sponsor this season), so I need a break.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s been a frustrating year but an awesome day today.” – Race winner Kyle Busch.

WHAT’S NEXT: I Love New York 355 at The Glen; Sunday, August 6, 3 p.m. ET, Watkins Glen International.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

 

Atlanta Motor Speedway accepting lucky charms to help Chase Elliott earn first Cup win

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The president of Atlanta Motor Speedway is hoping history will repeat.

Ed Clark is doing whatever he can to get Georgia-native Chase Elliott to Victory Lane for the first time in the Cup Series.

To do that, he’s using the same marketing scheme he executed in 1983 in the weeks before Bill Elliott’s first Cup victory.

AMS is asking for fans to send lucky charms to the track, which will be presented to Chase Elliott during a special event there Feb. 13.

There’s no restrictions on what can be sent.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver is winless after 77 starts in NASCAR’s premier series.

Bill Elliott in 1983. (Atlanta Motor Speedway).

His father went winless in his first 155 starts from 1976-83.

Clark put together the original lucky charm drive ahead of the October race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he served as public relations director.

“The promotion we came up with for Bill in ’83 created an amazing amount of interest and support from fans all over the country,” said Clark in a press release. “We received package after package full of good-luck charms, and it seemed like everybody was pulling for him to get that first win.”

Three races later, in the season finale at Riverside International Raceway, the 28-year-old Bill Elliott claimed his first of 44 Cup victories.

Fans can send their lucky charms to Elliott by shipping them to AMS at 1500 Highway 19/41, Hampton, GA 30228, with attention to “Good Luck, Chase.” Fans can also participate by using the hashtag #GoodLuckChase across the various social media platforms with pictures and messages to Elliott.

The Cup season begins Feb. 18 with the 60th Daytona 500. The following weekend, the series visits Atlanta Motor Speedway.

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Go Fas Racing secures charter by partnering with Circle Sport Racing

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Go Fas Racing has secured a charter for Matt DiBenedetto’s No. 32 Ford by partnering with Circle Sport Racing.

The move comes after Go Fas Racing’s owner Archie St. Hilaire entered into a partnership with the Wood Brothers that allowed the Wood Brothers to retain the charter they leased last year from Go Fas Racing.

That move left Go Fas Racing without a charter. That matter was resolved with the partnership with Circle Sport Racing car owner Joe Falk, who recently split with TMG.

“This deal pretty much fills our plate for the 2018 season,” St. Hilaire said in a statement from the team. “We decided that the best long-term strategy for GFR’s original charter was to strike a deal with our good friends at Wood Brothers Racing, which left us seeking a charter for our own No. 32 car. I think this partnership with Joe Falk is mutually beneficial for both Joe and ourselves going into the future. Joe has been in the business for a long time and will add a wealth of knowledge to our programs in 2018 and beyond.”

Said Falk in a statement: “We have been talking about doing this for over a year and it was a big decision to switch to Ford, but we believe it will pay off. This is a performance business and we have not had the team to get good finishes. We are also working on running the No. 33 car in select events with young drivers such as Joey Gase to help get them prepared for a full Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season going forward.”

CHARTERS THAT HAVE CHANGED TEAMS FOR 2018

— Furniture Row Racing #77 charter sold to JTG Daugherty for No. 37 car

— Roush Fenway Racing #16 charter sold to Team Penske for No. 12 car

— Richard Petty Motorsports #43 charter leased to Rick Ware Racing for No. 51 car

— Wood Brothers Racing forms long-term partnership with Go Fas Racing owner Archie St. Hilaire that grants Wood Brothers full operating control of the No. 32 team’s charter it leased last year.

— Go Fas Racing forms partnership with Circle Sport Racing owner Joe Falk for his charter for the No. 32 team.

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Kasey Kahne looks to run 20-30 races outside NASCAR this year

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Kasey Kahne, who competed in last week’s Chili Bowl Nationals, says he plans to run two dozen or more races outside of NASCAR this season.

Kahne, who is in his first season with Leavine Family Racing, made the comments Wednesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.’’

“I’ve always tried to stay close to the type of racing that I learned how to race in and the type of cars that I learned how to race in and those fans and race tracks that I’ve spent a ton of time at and have really enjoyed over the years,’’ Kahne said of racing sprint and midget cars on dirt. “I’m still a huge fan of that type of racing because that’s where I came from and want to be for a long, long time.

“We have two (World of) Outlaw teams again this year, Daryn Pittman and Brad Sweet, and I feel like I can run 20 to 30 races depending on the schedules and how everything works out. I’m really looking forward to that because that’s something that I wanted to do for a long time and I could do it and then I couldn’t do it.’’

Kahne, who was with Hendrick Motorsports the previous six seasons, was asked if he was prohibited from racing such cars.

“When I signed up, I wasn’t at all and they said I could do whatever I wanted and enjoy it,” Kahne said. “A year later, I was restricted from everything and wasn’t able to do that anymore and then the last year they were pretty cool about it, but it was always kind of feeling like you were making somebody mad. I won’t have that because Leavine … they know that that’s what I love to do and that’s what I want to do. I don’t want it to affect the No. 95 in anyway. That’s the first priority to me. When we’re not doing that, it’s OK, nobody is going to be mad if I go and try to do a little racing. It makes me feel pretty good to be in that situation again.’’

Kahne is just one of a few NASCAR drivers expected to run in other series this year. Kyle Larson, who raced a midget car in New Zealand before competing in Chili Bowl Nationals, has said he’s allowed to run 25 such events a year. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. says he plans to run some midget races this summer.

Kahne also has been busy getting prepared for his new ride. He has a one-year deal with Leavine Family Racing, which is aligned with Richard Childress Racing. Travis Mack, who had been at Hendrick Motorsports, will be Kahne’s crew chief.

Kahne cited performance — he had one win and nine top-five finishes in the past three seasons with Hendrick — and business as a reason for the change.

“I’m perfectly fine with it because I’m glad I’ve moved on and am doing something different at this point and really looking forward to Leavine and my future and the new things that I have going on,’’ said Kahne, who finished 15th in the points last year after making the playoffs with his Indianapolis victory. “I don’t look back on any of it as a bad thing.’’

Asked if he feels reinvigorated with the changes, Kahne told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: “I feel just to kind of start over is never a bad thing, especially with our performance. I was never happy the last three years, I haven’t been that happy as far as racing went because we could never really figure it out. Just to have a new group, start over, try to do things together and see how good we can do. To me, that’s exciting and new and fresh and I look forward to that.’’

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Todd Gilliland to drive No. 4 for Kyle Busch Motorsports; father to fill-in at Daytona

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Todd Gilliland will get a helping hand driving Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 4 Toyota this season before he turns 18 on May 15.

The two-time K&N Pro Series West champion will miss four of the first six races to start the year because of NASCAR’s rule that drivers under 18 years old are restricted to tracks 1.25 miles or less in length or road courses.

Gilliland will miss the season-opener at Daytona (Feb. 16), Atlanta (Feb. 24), Las Vegas (March 2) and Kansas (May 11).

After starts at Martinsville (March 24) and Dover (May 4) to begin his Rookie of the Year campaign, his first race on a 1.5-mile track will be at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 18.

Team owner Kyle Busch will drive the No. 4 at Atlanta and Kansas.

In a video released by the team on Twitter, it announced that Gilliland’s dad, David Gilliland, will open the season at Daytona.

The former Cup driver will make his first NASCAR start since 2016 in the NextEra Energy Resources 250.

A veteran of 398 national NASCAR races, David Gilliland’s last Truck Series start was in 2015. He has 10 Truck starts. One of those was at a restrictor-plate track (Daytona, 2015).

That’s not the only race the elder Gilliland will try to be part of that weekend.

He will attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500 with Ricky Benton Racing, which has fielded the No. 92 in the Truck Series since 2010.

Gilliland will attempt to qualify the No. 92 Black’s Tire and Auto Service/Carquest Auto Parts Ford into the “Great American Race.” If he’s successful, it will mark the Cup debut for the team.

Gilliland made seven starts for the team in 2015.

“After talking with our partners, we felt the time was right to make a move into the Cup Series,” team owner Ricky Benton said in a press release. “Getting David back on board was also key. Having a veteran driver with his experience and success on restrictor-plate tracks – with whom (crew chief Mike) Hester has familiarity – gives us a leg up as we try to make the race.”
Gilliland has made 16 starts at Daytona in the Cup Series, including seven in the Daytona 500. His best finish was third in the 2011 Daytona 500.

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