Kyle Busch not leaving anything to chance heading into Phoenix

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Kyle Busch is one race away from doing something he’s never done before in his career – heading into the final race at Miami with a chance to earn his first career Sprint Cup championship.

Busch is in good shape coming into Phoenix International Raceway. He’s second of the eight remaining Chase drivers, two points behind series leader Jeff Gordon, whose win at Martinsville gave him an automatic berth into the championship-deciding race in Miami.

But Busch also knows that position is far from secure. Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin was second in the points going into the final race of Round 2 at Talladega only to be eliminated from title contention.

That’s why Busch is taking a positive yet guarded approach to Sunday’s race at Phoenix. He’ll advance to the championship round by finishing third or better if he does not lead any laps. He’ll advance by finishing fourth or better if he leads one lap. He’ll advance by finishing fifth or better if he leads the most laps.

“Being in this position, it’s obviously good, but I’ve been in a really good position before and had stuff happen and been knocked out,” Busch said in a team release. “We don’t need to have any of that. We just need to go out in Phoenix and have a good, solid day.

“That place hasn’t been the best for our company over the last few years, but I’m looking forward to getting out there and hope we’ve got a really good piece in order to carry myself and everybody on this JGR team to Chase contention going to Homestead.”

While a win at Phoenix would automatically put him in the final round at Miami, Busch also is cognizant of what he needs to do Sunday.

“If we’re running fifth to 10th, that’s what we need to do,” Busch said. “If we’re running 15th, there’s a guy behind us who, if he passes us, he’s going to knock himself in and us out, so you’re going to have a heck of a lot harder race on your hands.

“We just don’t need to run like that. We need to go out there and perform, do what we’ve done this round, and that’s to finish top five. If we can top five it this week, that’s going to help our situation and roll us right on to Homestead.”

But that doesn’t mean Busch doesn’t think he’s capable of more at Phoenix. In 20 career starts at the 1-mile flat track, he has one win, three top-fives, 12 top-10s and two poles.

Joe Gibbs Racing began this year’s Chase with all four of its drivers in the field. Two remain: Busch and Carl Edwards. Hamlin and Matt Kenseth were eliminated after Talladega in Round 2.

That Busch has made it this far and has a bonafide chance of racing for the championship – despite missing the first 11 races after he was injured in a crash at Daytona in February – surprises him somewhat.

“It’s certainly a dream come true,” he said. “I never would have expected we’d be in this position, let alone when the accident first happened.

“I was thinking to myself, ‘Man, I’m done.’ Literally, the thing that flashed through my mind is, ‘Man, I’m going to have to go lay decals again.’ That’s what I did before I raced.

“I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – the script’s written. I think there are two scripts written, it’s just which one’s going to come true. Jeff Gordon certainly has one. I feel like we have one as well with this 18 car. Hopefully, it’s our Cinderella story that can end the season on this No. 18 team.”

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NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron, Kyle Busch rank 1-2


Kyle Busch moved closer to the top spot after his win Sunday at WWT Raceway, but William Byron keeps hold of No. 1 after another top-10 run.

The series heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend, the second race of the season on a road course.


(Previous ranking in parenthesis)

1. William Byron (1) — He goes into Sonoma with six consecutive top-10 finishes after his eighth-place result at WWT Raceway. Byron has led a series-high 717 laps this season.

2. Kyle Busch (4) — Recorded his third win of the season Sunday. He is tied with Byron for most wins this year. Busch scored 59 of a maximum 60 points and won his first stage of the year Sunday. He has 16 playoff points. Only Byron has more with 17 this season.

3. Kyle Larson (3) — His fourth-place finish continued his up-and-down season. In the last nine races, Larson has two wins, four top fives, a 20th-place result and four finishes of 30th or worse. He has led 588 laps this season, which ranks second this year to Byron.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (2) — His fifth-place finish is his sixth top 10 in the last eight races. He ranks third in laps led this year with 383.

5. Denny Hamlin (7) — Runner-up result at WWT Raceway is his fourth top 10 in the last seven races.

6. Ryan Blaney (10) — Followed Coca-Cola 600 win with a sixth-place run at WWT Raceway. He had an average running position of 2.6 on Sunday, second only to winner Kyle Busch’s average running position of 1.9.

7. Joey Logano (9) — Third-place finish is his second top 10 in the last four races.

8. Kevin Harvick (NR) — His 10th-place finish is his fourth consecutive finish of 11th or better.

9. Ross Chastain (6) — Lost the points lead after placing 22nd, his third consecutive finish outside the top 20.

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (NR) — Headed for his eighth top 15 in a row until he was collected in a crash after the contact between Austin Cindric and Austin Dillon late in Sunday’s race.

Dropped out: Chase Elliott (5th), Tyler Reddick (8th)

NASCAR will not penalize Austin Cindric for incident with Austin Dillon


Despite Richard Childress and Austin Dillon saying that Austin Cindric intentionally wrecked Dillon late in Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway, NASCAR will not penalize Cindric.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that there would be no penalty to Cindric after reviewing the contact.

Dillon and Childress were upset about the incident, which brought out the caution on Lap 220 of the 243-lap race. Dillon said NASCAR should suspend Cindric for the contact, just as NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for hooking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.

Contact between the left front of Cindric’s car and the right rear of Dillon’s car sent Dillon up the track into Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Dillon finished 31st. Cindric continued and placed 13th.

Dillon told “I was wrecked intentionally by (Cindric), hooked right just like Chase and Denny and Bubba’s deal (in wrecking Kyle Larson at Las Vegas in 2022). He better be suspended next week.”

Childress said: “(Dillon) had drove up to about 10th until (Cindric) wrecked him in there on purpose, sort of a payback.”

Sawyer said a review of the incident included viewing video and data.

“We didn’t see anything — and haven’t seen anything — that really would rise to a level that would be a suspension or a penalty,” Sawyer said. “It looked like hard racing. One car coming up a little bit and another car going down.

“As we said last week, we take these incidents very serious when we see cars that are turned head-on into another car or head-on into the wall. I spent a lot of time (Monday) looking at that, looking at all the data, looking at TV footage and just deemed this one really hard racing.”

Sawyer said NASCAR plans to talk to both Cindric and Dillon “to make sure we’re all in a good place as we move forward to Sonoma.”



Seven Cup drivers entered in Xfinity race at Sonoma


Kyle Larson is among seven Cup drivers entered in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

The race marks the first time the Xfinity Series has competed at the California road course. Teams will get 50 minutes of practice Friday because this is a new event on the schedule. That additional time will give those Cup drivers more laps on the 1.99-mile road course.

MORE: Sonoma Xfinity entry list

Here is a look at what Xfinity rides the Cup drivers will pilot this weekend:

The race is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.

The ARCA Menards Series West also is competing this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Cup driver Ryan Preece is entered in that event. Xfinity drivers Cole Custer, Riley Herbst, Sammy Smith and Parker Retzlaff also are entered in that race, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday.


Winners and losers at WWT Raceway


Winners and losers from Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway:


Kyle BuschWins the pole, leads the most laps and holds the field off over the last five restarts to win the race. He scored six playoff points, giving him 16 on the season, second only to William Byron’s 17. Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing after last season for Richard Childress Racing. Busch’s three wins this year equals what JGR has done so far.

Ryan BlaneyHis sixth-place finish moved him into the points lead. He last led the points after the spring 2022 Richmond race. Blaney also won a stage Sunday to collect another playoff point. He has seven this season.

Kyle LarsonFourth-place finish was a big turnaround after struggles earlier in the race. It has not been easy for this team the last few weeks. He has three top-five finishes and four finishes of 20th or worse in the last seven races.

Daniel SuarezHis seventh-place finish moved him up two spots to 16th in the standings, the final playoff transfer spot at this time.


Ross ChastainHe finished 22nd for his third consecutive result outside the top 20. He entered the weekend leading the points and fell to fifth afterward. He is 29 points behind new series leader Ryan Blaney with 11 races left in the regular season.

Tyler ReddickRebounded from an early spin to lead but had his race end after a brake rotor failed. He was one of four drivers eliminated by brake rotor failures. The others were Carson Hocevar, Bubba Wallace and Noah Gragson.