Kyle Busch roars to first 2015 win in Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma

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While a long road remains, Kyle Busch is halfway to making the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Starting seventh on the final restart, Busch roared to pass Jimmie Johnson with five laps remaining to earn his first win of the 2015 season in Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

It was Busch’s fourth career Sprint Cup road course win. It was Adam Stevens’ first carer win as a Sprint Cup crew chief.

For the first time in NASCAR history, Kyle and older brother Kurt finished 1-2, followed by Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano.

MORE: Sprint Cup standings: Truex wreck allows Harvick to open up big lead

MORE: Final results, earnings, stats for the Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway

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How Kyle Busch can still make the Chase for the Sprint Cup: Busch, who missed the first 11 races of the season recuperating from a broken right leg and fractured left foot suffered during a wreck at Daytona in February, was given a medical waiver by NASCAR upon his return to racing last month to remain Chase eligible. Busch still had to win a race. He must also finish in the top 30 in the points after the final Chase qualifying race at Richmond in early September. Busch, who is the 11th different winner this season, is 136 points out of 30th place (Cole Whitt). Said Busch: “We have our work cut out for us.”

How Kyle Busch won: Busch worked his way forward from seventh place on the final restart, seven laps from the finish. Fresh tires for Busch was a key, as Jimmie Johnson and the other top-five drivers at the time stayed out on the last caution. Busch passed each driver on old rubber until he passed Johnson for good two laps later on the 1.99-mile, 12-turn track. “If we came back tomorrow, we’d still run the same strategy,” Johnson said. “We played it perfectly. We were one caution away from it working out just right.”

Who else had a good day: Clint Bowyer was in the mix to win for the second time in the last four races at Sonoma before finishing third. It was the first top-five finish for Bowyer this season, and the first top-five for Michael Waltrip Racing. … Although road courses aren’t his forte, points leader Kevin Harvick rallied to finish fourth. … Tony Stewart looked strong all race, but faded in the closing laps to finish 12th. Still, it was Stewart’s second-best finish of the season. … Sam Hornish Jr. had his second-best finish of the season (10th).

Who had a bad day: Pole-sitter AJ Allmendinger’s bid for victory ended just past the halfway point when he took his car to the garage for a likely fuel pressure problem. After repairs, Allmendinger returned. He finished 37th. … Martin Truex Jr. suffered his worst finish of the season (42nd) when he ran into a tire wall on Lap 28 after contact with David Ragan. … David Gilliland finished 43rd after plowing into the tire wall on Lap 22, possibly when a left-side tire went down.. … JJ Yeley lost his car in the sand on Turn 10, spun and made heavy contact with the wall on Lap 72, finishing 41st. … Defending race winner Carl Edwards lost his bid to repeat when he and Ragan tangled while battling for sixth place in the esses on Lap 79. Both cars were heavily damaged and unable to continue. Edwards finished 40th.

Notable: Jeff Gordon had hoped to win in his 23rd and final race at Sonoma, but the setup on his car went away, leaving Gordon with a 16th-place finish. … 27 drivers finished on the lead lap. … There were five caution periods for 21 laps. … Jimmie Johnson led the most laps (45), while runner-up Kurt Busch was next (43). Race-winner Kyle Busch led 12 laps in the 110-lap event. … Casey Mears lost a tire and part of the rear axle on his car on Lap 99, ending what had been a strong day for him. Mears finished 38th. … In an oddity, Matt DiBenedetto was accidentally spun by a track safety vehicle while trying to get to his stall on pit road.

Quote of the day: Kyle Busch burned up the tires on his car during the post-race burnout to the point where he couldn’t drive it into Victory Lane. So, he wound up walking there for the post-race celebration. “The thing wouldn’t make the turn, I blew the rear tires off it,” Busch said. “So I said, ‘Alright, park it right here and we’ll walk right in.’ Walking in on a broken leg and broken foot, nothing better than that.”

What’s next: The Sprint Cup Series returns to Daytona International Speedway for a rare Sunday night race on July 5 for the Coke Zero 400 (7:45 pm ET). NBC Sports begins its 20-race share of the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule that night, as well.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NASCAR weekend schedule for Circuit of the Americas


NASCAR’s three major series return to the road this weekend with races scheduled Saturday and Sunday at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Xfinity and Craftsman Truck Series races are Saturday, and the Cup Series is scheduled to race Sunday afternoon.

MORE: Drivers expect North Wilkesboro surface to be challenging

Joey Logano, winner of last Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, has led laps in both COTA races and will be among the favorites Sunday.

As the first road course of the year, COTA will begin a new approach by NASCAR to stage racing on road circuits. There will no longer be a caution to end stages, but points will be awarded for the finish order. In another change, the “choose” rule will be in effect on road courses.

A look at the weekend schedule:

Circuit of the Americas (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Friday: Thunderstorms in the morning, sun later in the day. High of 86. 80% chance of rain.

Saturday: Sunny. High of 83.

Sunday: Partly cloudy. Temperature of 81 degrees with a 15% chance of rain at the start of the race.

Friday, March 24

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 11:30 a.m. .- 6:30 p.m. — Truck Series
  • 1:30 – 8:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 2:05 – 2:55 p.m. — Cup practice (No live broadcast; tape-delayed version airing at 8 p.m. on FS1)
  • 4:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck practice (No live broadcast)
  • 5 – 6 p.m. — Truck qualifying (No live broadcast; tape-delayed version airing at 9 p.m. on FS1)
  • 6:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity practice (FS1)
  • 7 – 8 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)

Saturday, March 25

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 10:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. — Truck Series
  • 2 – 10:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying (FS1)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (42 laps, 143 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 5 p.m. — Xfinity race (46 laps, 156 miles; FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, March 26

Garage open

  • 12:30 – 10 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 p.m. — Cup race (68 laps, 231.88 miles; Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)




North Wilkesboro’s worn surface will prove challenging to drivers


NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — Three Cup drivers got their first chance to experience North Wilkesboro Speedway’s worn racing surface Tuesday and said tires will play a key role in the NASCAR All-Star Race there on May 21.

Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick took part in a Goodyear tire test Tuesday. That test was to continue Wednesday.

The verdict was unanimous about how important tire wear will be.

“This place has got a lot of character to it,” Reddick said. “Not a lot of grip and it’s pretty unforgiving. It’s a really fun place.”

Dillon said: “If you use up your tire too early, you’re going to really be in trouble. You really got to try to make those four tires live.”

Buescher said: “The surface here was so worn out already that we expect to be all over the place. The speeds are fairly slow just because of the amount of grip here. It’s hard to get wide open until you’re straight.”

Reddick noted the drop in speed over a short run during Tuesday’s test. That will mean a lot of off-throttle time.

“I think we were seeing a second-and-a-half falloff or so over even 50 laps and that was kind of surprising for me we didn’t have more falloff,” he said. “But, one little miscue, misstep into Turn 1 or Turn 3, you lose a second sliding up out of the groove and losing control of your car.”

“That’s with no traffic. Maybe with more traffic and everything, the falloff will be more, but certainly we’re out of control from I’d say Lap 10 on. You have to really take care of your car. … It’s really hard 30-40 laps into a run to even get wide open.”

Chris Buescher runs laps during a Goodyear tire test at North Wilkesboro Speedway, while Austin Dillon is on pit road. (Photo: Dustin Long)

One thing that stood out to Dillon was how the facility looks.

While the .625-mile racing surface remains the same since Cup last raced there in 1996, most everything else has changed.

In some cases, it is fresh red paint applied to structures but other work has been more extensive, including repaving the infield and pit road, adding lights for night racing, adding SAFER barriers, the construction of new suites in Turn 4 and new stands along the backstretch.

“It’s cool to see how much they’ve done to the track, the suites, the stands that they’re putting in,” Dillon said. “To me, the work that is going in here, we’re not just coming for one race. We’re coming here for a while. I’m excited about that.”

Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup race at COTA


Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, has attracted an entry list that includes talent beyond that of the tour regulars.

Jordan Taylor, who is substituting in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet for injured Chase Elliott, brings a resume that includes 31 IMSA class wins, two 24 Hours of Daytona overall wins and two IMSA wins at COTA.

MORE: NBC Driver Rankings: Christopher Bell is No. 1

Jenson Button won the Formula One championship in 2009 and has five F1 starts at COTA. He is scheduled to be a driver for the NASCAR entry in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kimi Raikkonen, entered by Trackhouse Racing as part of its Project 91 program, won the 2007 F1 championship and has eight F1 starts at the Austin track.

They will draw attention at COTA this weekend, along with these other drivers to watch:


Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 5th
  • Best seasonal finish: 2nd (Atlanta I)
  • Past at COTA: 19th and 14th in two career starts

Keselowski hasn’t been a star in road course racing, but his 2023 season has started well, and he figures to be in the mix at the front Sunday. He led the white-flag lap at Atlanta last Sunday before Joey Logano passed him for the win.

AJ Allmendinger

  • Points position: 17th
  • Best seasonal finish: 6th (Daytona 500)
  • Past at COTA: 5th and 33rd in two starts

The Dinger is a road course expert. Last year at COTA, he was involved in tight racing on the final lap with Ross Chastain and Alex Bowman before Chastain emerged with the victory.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best seasonal finish: 3rd (Auto Club)
  • Past at COTA: Two straight top fours, including a win

Chastain lifted Trackhouse Racing’s profile by scoring his — and the team’s — first Cup victory at COTA last season. He’s not shy about participating in the last-lap bumping and thumping that often mark road course races.


Chris Buescher

  • Points position: 13th
  • Best seasonal finish: 4th (Daytona 500)
  • Past at COTA: 13th and 21st in two starts

Buescher has never led a lap at COTA and is coming off a 35th-place finish at Atlanta after being swept up in a Lap 190 crash. Although he has shown the power to run near the front this year, he has four consecutive finishes of 13th or worse.

Alex Bowman

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best seasonal finish: 3rd (Las Vegas I)
  • Past at COTA: Two straight top 10s

Bowman’s four-race run of consistent excellence (finishes of fifth, eighth, third and ninth) ended at Atlanta as he came home 14th and failed to lead a lap. At COTA, he is one of only four drivers with top-10 finishes in both races.

William Byron

  • Points position: 28th
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I)
  • Past at COTA: 11th and 12th in two starts

Involvement in an accident at Atlanta ended Byron’s two-race winning streak. He’ll be looking to lead a lap at COTA for the first time.



Three Reaume Brothers Racing team members suspended by NASCAR


Three members of the Reaume Brothers Racing No. 33 Craftsman Truck Series team have been suspended for three races by NASCAR after a piece of tungsten ballast came off their truck during last Saturday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The suspensions were announced Tuesday.

Crew chief Gregory Rayl and crew members Matthew Crossman and Travis Armstrong were suspended because of the safety violation. Mason Massey is the team’s driver.

MORE: Xfinity driver Josh Williams suspended for one race

In a tweet following the announcement of the penalty, the team said it will not file an appeal. “The ballast became dislodged only after the left side ballast container had significant contact with the racing surface,” according to the statement. “We would like to be clear that there was no negligence on the part of RBR personnel.”

NASCAR also announced Tuesday that Truck Series owner/driver Cory Roper, who had been suspended indefinitely for violating the substance abuse policy, has been reinstated.

The Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series are scheduled to race this weekend at Circuit of the Americas.