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.
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.