Kyle Busch’s charge to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup continued moving forward, capturing his third win of the season — and third in the last four — in Sunday’s 5-Hour Energy 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Busch held off a surge by runner-up Brad Keselowski. Busch is 58 points out of 30th place in the Sprint Cup standings. He must be ranked 30th or higher after the final Chase qualifying race at Richmond in September to make the Chase.
“There ain’t no give-up in this 18 team,” Busch said on his team radio after crossing the finish line.
Busch missed the first 11 races of the season recovering from a broken right leg and fractured left foot suffered in the season-opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona in February.
But since returning to competition in the Sprint Cup Series, Busch has now won three of eight starts. His first two wins were at Sonoma and last Saturday at Kentucky.
Keselowski finished second, followed by Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Keselowski, who led the race at the midpoint (Lap 151) led the most laps (101) in a race for the first time this season. Busch led 95 laps.
How Kyle Busch won: Busch took the lead on the restart on Lap 253 and never looked back, building a more than two-second lead at one point. While Keselowski closed in the final laps, he didn’t have enough to catch Busch, who earned his 32nd career Sprint Cup victory. With back-to-back wins (last Saturday at Kentucky and Sunday at Loudon), Busch gained 70 points in his last two races on 30th place in the season standings. Busch becomes the 12th different winner in as many races at New Hampshire.
Who else had a good race: Even though he’s never won a Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire, Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned his eighth top-five finish there with Sunday’s fifth-place showing. “We had a power issue on the car and were just down on power,” Earnhardt said. “I had to drive real hard all day long. Pretty decent car, we just need to be a little bit better.” … Even though it saw its two-race win streak at New Hampshire snapped, Team Penske still had both of its drivers in the top four: Keselowski (second) and Joey Logano (fourth).
Who had a bad race: Alex Bowman came on to pit road for a flat tire on Lap 97. His right front tire caught fire, but his team took it off and replaced it. No sooner did Bowman leave his pit stall, fire erupted again, prompting him to stop at the end of pit road and quickly exit his car as fire began to consume the engine compartment. Bowman returned to finish 42nd. … Jimmie Johnson struggled to a 22nd-place finish at a track he typically does well at. … Tony Stewart continued his season-long struggle, finishing 20th. … Clint Bowyer looked strong early, but finished 34th and fell out of a top-16 Chase spot.
Notable: With 75 laps left, Jeff Gordon suffered electrical issues that caused some of his dash lights to malfunction, a sign of a potential battery or alternator issue. Gordon still managed to battle back to finish ninth. … Canadian driver Derek White made his Sprint Cup debut and finished 39th. A member of the Mohawk tribe, White is the first Canadian Native American to compete in a Cup race. … Sunday marked the first time Brad Keselowski has led the most laps in a race this season.
Quote of the day: “This is such an awesome win, such an awesome comeback. It’s so much fun to win these races and win with this group of guys.” – Kyle Busch after winning at New Hampshire.
Next up: The Brickyard 400, Sunday, July 26, Indianapolis Motor Speedway