Attorney: Kurt Busch to ‘immediately’ appeal NASCAR suspension

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Kurt Busch’s attorney said he plans to “immediately” appeal NASCAR’s suspension of his client.

NASCAR indefinitely suspended Busch on Friday after a Kent County (Del.) Family Court Commissioner concluded that “it is more likely than not’’ that Busch committed an act of domestic abuse against his ex-girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, in September.

NASCAR said that Busch could appeal the suspension and that it would “expedite” the process. A ruling on the appeal likely will come before Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Busch’s appeal will be heard on Saturday by a three-member panel. He cannot have a lawyer argue the cause on his behalf, but can have other representatives with him during the hearing. Additionally, Busch can appeal the panel’s decision to Bryan Moss, Final Appeals Officer.

Rusty Hardin, Busch’s attorney, issued the following statement:

“We are extremely disappointed that NASCAR has suspended Kurt Busch and we plan an immediate appeal. We assure everyone, including NASCAR, that this action against Mr. Busch will turn out to be a travesty of justice, apparent to all, as this story continues to unfold.

“We are confident that if the Commissioner agrees to hear newly available evidence that contradicts the testimony of Ms. Driscoll, he will be able (to) understand the actions of that night as well as Ms. Driscoll’s character and motivations and reconsider his judgment. He has already found that Ms. Driscoll lied under oath at least once. Our newly available evidence will make it clear that much more of her testimony was untruthful and was purposefully kept from the Commissioner by Ms. Driscoll’s attempts to intimidate and threaten witnesses.

“It is important for everyone to remember that the Commissioner’s report has to do with a civil, family law matter and no criminal charges have been filed against Mr. Busch.

“We ask everyone’s patience as this case continues in the court of law and are confident that when the truth is known Mr. Busch will be fully vindicated and back in the driver’s seat.’’

Ryan Blaney earns Sonoma top five after ‘smooth day’

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For Ryan Blaney, race winner Martin Truex Jr. and runner-up finisher Kyle Busch “were just gone” by the end of Sunday’s race in Sonoma.

“Just gone” was how Blaney described the roughly 30-second gap from Truex and Busch back to Blaney’s No. 12 Ford, which took the checkered flag in third.

That gap didn’t take away from a much-needed run for the Team Penske driver.

It was Blaney’s first top five in seven races (fourth at Bristol). It was also his second straight top five on a road course, following his win in the inaugural race on the Charlotte Roval last fall.

Blaney was the only non-Toyota car in the top five.

“Kind of a smooth day for us,” Blaney told FS1. “Qualified decent. The way the stages are, you can either choose to finish the stage out, get stage points, but you have to restart way in the middle of the pack, or pit early. That’s kind of the strategy we wanted to do.”

With the pit early strategy, Blaney restarted in the top five on both restarts and was able to briefly take second place on the second restart before losing it to Kyle Busch on a bump-and-run.

In a race that didn’t see any non-stage cautions, the race went green over the final 45 laps and saw green flag stops start with 30 to go.

Blaney never saw the leaders again.

“(A caution) would have given us a shot. I had no shot if there wasn’t a yellow,” Blaney said. “They were really good on long runs. You just give yourself a hope of restarting close to them and trying to make a move. We almost got the lead one time on a restart. I was hoping to get that shot again but it never came.”

In a season where he’s been outshone by teammates Brad Keselowski (three wins) and Joey Logano (two wins), Blaney was the only competitive Penske driver. Keselowski ran 18th and Logano placed 23rd after experiencing battery problems.

Blaney’s previous best Sonoma result in three starts was ninth.

“You come into every weekend expecting to run well, no matter if it is your best track or worst track,” Blaney said. “We had top-five speed all weekend. Not winning speed. We kind of hung around all day. We were able to hang in there and stay out of trouble and able to come home with a decent day and a race car that was intact, which is good.”

 

Sonoma Cup results, points report

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Martin Truex Jr. scored his fourth Cup victory in eight races, holding off Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch over the closing laps Sunday at Sonoma Raceway.

Truex became the second driver to win consecutive Cup races at Sonoma, joining Jeff Gordon (who won three straight from 1998-2000).

Ryan Blaney finished third, followed by a career-best fourth place for Matt DiBenedetto and a fifth for Denny Hamlin.

It was the 23rd career victory for Truex, who has three wins at Sonoma. The 2017 series champion led three times for 59 laps, including the final 24.

Click here for the full results from the Sonoma race.

Click here for the full race report from Sonoma.

In the season standings, Ryan Newman moved into the 16th spot in the standings with a seventh at Sonoma, clinging to the final provisional playoff spot with 10 races remaining in the regular season.

Newman has a one-point edge over Jimmie Johnson, who finished 12th at Sonoma and slid a spot to 17th in the standings. Erik Jones (eighth at Sonoma) is five points behind Newman in 18th.

At the top of the standings, Joey Logano (23rd at Sonoma) leads by one point over Kyle Busch.

Click here for the Sonoma points standings.

Matt DiBenedetto celebrates career-high fourth-place finish

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Matt DiBenedetto celebrated his career-best fourth-place finish Sunday at Sonoma Raceway by thanking those who had given him the opportunity to run Cup and helped him with the road course.

DiBenedetto’s previous best in Cup was sixth at Bristol in April 2016.

“Proud of you man,” crew chief Mike Wheeler said to DiBenedetto on the team’s radio after the race.

The result also was DiBenedetto’s first top-10 finish of the season with Leavine Family Racing.

“This is a team effort,” DiBenedetto told FS1. “I’m so lucky to be doing this. My path to get here has been so out of the ordinary and old school, I’m so thankful. I can’t tell you how many people took a chance on me.”

DiBenedetto noted the team’s sponsors, Toyota Racing Development, Leavine Family Racing, and others.

“All those people had to say yes and … take the chance on me,” he said. “I can’t explain how thankful I am.”

After thanking wife Taylor for her support, DiBenedetto also thanked NASCAR on NBC analyst AJ Allmendinger, saying: “This one is for my buddy AJ Allmendinger for helping me so much (with the road course).”

DiBenedetto started 19th and did not go for stage points. Instead, Wheeler had DiBenedetto pit before each of the first two stages to set the team up for the finish. DiBenedetto was sixth when the final stage began.

DiBenedetto pitted for the final time on Lap 65 of the 90-lap race, later than most. That put him outside the top 10 but gave him tires that were a few laps fresher than many of his competitors.

DiBenedetto used that to his advantage. He returned to the top 10 on Lap 70 after passing William Byron. Ten laps later, DiBenedetto moved into the top five by passing Jimmie Johnson. DiBenedetto passed Kevin Harvick for fourth on Lap 86 and stayed there to the finish for his best Cup result in 156 starts.

What drivers said after Sonoma

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Martin Truex Jr. – winner: “Through the years you’ve seen guys figure things out, it lasts a while. I wasn’t sure this weekend how it was going to hold up, what we’ve been doing. With the Carousel, the big left‑hand corner, it really changed things up. Took a while to figure that out in practice.

“But luckily, we were able to just make the right tweaks. I had confidence that when the track got hot and slick on the long runs, we’ve had what we needed. Just a matter if we had enough speed to get there, and we did today.”

Kyle Busch – finished second: “Any time I had to lean on the left rear (tire), I just didn’t have the drive that I needed. Actually, tried to hold on to it, trying to save it. I knew that was going to be our problem. That had been our problem all day long. You get closer, you’re like, Okay, I can get him (Truex), I better go, pounce on him fast, so then he doesn’t have the time to pick up the pace.

“But it didn’t work. He was obviously saving a lot. I knew he was going to be saving a lot, have enough to be able to most likely hold us off. I was right.”

Ryan Blaney – finished third: “I had no shot if there wasn’t a yellow. They were really good on long runs. You just give yourself a hope of restarting close to them and trying to make a move. We almost got the lead one time on a restart. I was hoping to get that shot again but it never came.”

Matt DiBenedetto – finished fourth: “I cannot explain how thankful and glad I am that we got a good run that we deserve. It has been a tough year; we just haven’t had the results that we deserve. We have had fast cars. I cannot explain how thankful I am to have this opportunity and how desperate I was to get a run like this for my team and how many people took a chance on me. I can’t explain how many people had to say yes including all of the JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) teammates, Toyota, TRD, the sponsors, Procore and Dumont Jets, team owner, everyone on the team, it took every one of those people to say yes because my path to get here is unorthodox. I didn’t have the funding to get there; we did it the old school way.”

Denny Hamlin – finished fifth: “I just drove as hard as I could drive. We restarted 26th and drove back up to fifth with no cautions. We had a very, very fast car. It was a strategy we decided to play out there to optimize stage points and get a stage win, and take the guaranteed points. It may have cost us a shot at victory, but we still had a good day. I think at the time we decided to do that strategy the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.) was better than us, but I am not so sure at the end.”

Kevin Harvick – finished sixth: “We did grind one out. We didn’t have a great car this weekend. We aborted everything that we were doing and put (Clint Bowyer‘s setup) in and we still weren’t very good. We wound up grinding the right front tire off at the end and was just hanging on for dear life. That is a gritty performance. That is what we have done all year. We need to figure out how to be closer at the beginning of the weekend. We will. We have been scrapping pretty hard for 16 weeks.”

Ryan Newman – finished seventh: “I just got really light-headed when I got out. Other than that I feel alright. We had good strategy and good pit road, good everything. We just didn’t quite have the speed today to be able to get up there and pass those guys that were in the front today.”

Erik Jones – finished eighth: “It was good. We passed a lot of cars. I am just happy we were able to come out of here with a solid day. Wish we could have gotten some more stage points, but it was nice to get a good finish. The Craftsman Camry was good; we just needed track position. I think we were probably a few spots better than that, but it’s still good. It’s nice to get back on track. Hopefully this is good momentum for next week in Chicago.”

Aric Almirola – finished ninth: “I made a mistake there at the top of Turn 3A and spun out and basically we fell to the rear. We went back all the way to last. After that, I just had to work my butt off to recover. We passed a lot of cars today. My Mustang was good. I just put us behind.”

Kyle Larson – finished 10th: “It was better than normal for us. I fell back early but I was just taking care of my stuff. I seem to be a lot better on long runs than normal, so I’m happy about that. And we came away with a top 10. So it was good.

“I finished better than I ever have here, so it was an improvement.”

Clint Bowyer – finished 11th: “That was disappointing, for sure. We had a bad break with the air gun and that put us on a strategy that kind of killed our chances at getting stage points. It looked like we were going to have a shot at the top five, but we just couldn’t get our car to turn there at the end and gave up a lot of positions. We had a good Rush Truck Centers Mustang all weekend and expected a lot better finish.”

Alex Bowman – finished 14th: “We lost some front turn from where we were at in practice. Track position was really key. Obviously, we didn’t qualify very well, so that hurt us. We had great pit stops. We were sitting pretty good there towards the end and then we lost power steering. I hate losing spots like that at the end, but I’m glad we still brought home a top-15 finish. I’m glad I’ve been working on being more fit because I’m worn out and that would have been way worse.”

Daniel Hemric – finished 15th: “I thought we did a great job of making the most of our day here at Sonoma Raceway. We didn’t have track position to start the race, but (crew chief) Luke Lambert did a great job of not worrying about points and trying to get us track position instead. Every time we did it we gained four or five spots. I’m proud of everyone on this No. 8 team and this Poppy Bank Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for sticking with me all weekend. We got better every lap and that’s what our first road race as a group is all about.

Daniel Suarez – finished 17th: “We had a good Ruckus Mustang today even though we had to start in the back. My crew did great with the calls, and we were able to get track position and show that we had a good car. Unfortunately, mistakes on the last pit stop bit us and we couldn’t recover from it so late in the race.”

Austin Dillon – finished 24th: “It’s been a long weekend in the Dow Coatings Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, but the good news is we learned a lot that we can take back to Welcome, (North Carolin) and use in preparation for future trips to Sonoma Raceway. We fell behind in practice and just never recovered. During the race, I was just hanging on the best I could but it was difficult because the Dow Coatings Chevrolet was plowing tight. Who knows, maybe if we would have utilized a different strategy we could have gained a few positions at the finish, but the main issue is definitely working on our cars and on my skills as a road course racer.

Ty Dillon – finished 27th: “Sonoma is a tough racetrack. Only coming here once a year definitely makes it more challenging to learn how to get around the course, and this was only my third time racing here. The addition of the Carousel added an extra layer of difficulty. Our GEICO Military Camaro ZL1 started out pretty tight going both right and left, but my team made great changes to get our balance back to where we needed it. My rear grip just started to fade at the end. But, I have a lot of notes from this weekend to study for next year. We will keep building and getting better each time we come to Sonoma.”

Chase Elliott – finished 37th: “We lost oil pressure so we think a belt broke. We’re not exactly sure why. Our NAPA Chevy was good. I hated I gave Martin (Truex Jr.) the lead there. It was just a mistake on my part. I needed to keep control of the reins. That was an important point. It’s going to be hard to go up and pass a guy for the lead. So, that was big. I hated that happened.”