Kyle Busch wins it all: 2015 Sprint Cup championship, Homestead race


Capping an incredible comeback after missing the first 11 races of the season due to devastating injuries (broken right leg, fractured left foot) in a February wreck at Daytona, Kyle Busch is the 2015 Sprint Cup champion.

“It’s pretty unbelievable,” an obviously emotional Busch said in Victory Lane. “It’s a dream of a lifetime, a dream come true, it’s something that happens only every so often. I just can’t believe it with everything that happened this year, all the turmoil that I went through, my wife went through, my family went through and people around me went through. This championship is for these guys, my wife, my family and everyone who sacrificed to get me here.”

In earning his first Sprint Cup crown, Busch also won Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in dominating fashion, taking the checkered flag holding off runner-up Kevin Harvick by roughly a 20-car margin.

The 30-year old Busch will officially accept his championship trophy and check at the Sprint Cup Awards Banquet in less than two weeks in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada.

It was the fourth Sprint Cup championship for Joe Gibbs Racing and the first for Toyota. It was also the first championship — in his first season as a Sprint Cup crew chief — for Adam Stevens.

Harvick finished with his 13th runner-up finish of the season, most since NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison recorded 15 in 1970.

“We were just struggling all night, to be honest with you,” Harvick said. “You always want to win, but I’ve learned not to get greedy. After last year, I felt like we had everything go our way and tonight it didn’t go our way. Congratulations to the 18 team and everything they did.”

As for the other two Championship 4 finalists, Jeff Gordon, in the final race of his 23-year Sprint Cup career, finished sixth — while Martin Truex Jr. finished 12th.

“It’s been a most amazing experience,” Gordon said. “Gosh, I’m a little bit disappointed. I thought going into the race we had something for ’em, but when the sun went down, we’re missing a little something and just didn’t quite have it when the track cooled down. … It’s a happy, happy good day. I wanted that win, but we’re still going to celebrate.”

Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano finished third and fourth, respectively, while Kyle Larson finished fifth.

Sixth through 10th were Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.

HOW BUSCH WON: Busch blew past Brad Keselowski on the final restart on Lap 261 and sailed away. Kevin Harvick tried to make a race of it, but Busch had a car that was untouchable, finishing by a roughly 20-car lead. An interesting stat: Sunday’s win was Busch’s first-ever race victory in the 12-year history of the Chase.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski had strong runs to finish third and fourth for race and team sponsor Ford. … Kyle Larson was in contention for the win until the last few laps, but still finished a very strong fifth. … Matt Kenseth, in his first race back after serving a two-race suspension, rallied to finish seventh.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: There was a big multi-car wreck on Lap 46 that involved several cars including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Aric Almirola, Ty Dillon, David Ragan, Casey Mears and Clint Bowyer. All cars suffered heavy damage. It appeared Bowyer clipped the rear of Dillon’s car and then abruptly turned right into Earnhardt’s car. “I don’t know what the hell happened,” said Bowyer, who finished 43rd. “My car got loose and I just couldn’t catch it. Unfortunately, you hate to end it this way. I wanted to end on a strong note for everyone at MWR (this was the final race for Michael Waltrip Racing, which will cease operations in the off-season).” … Kasey Kahne lost a right side tire and hit the wall on Lap 39, putting him one lap down, but was able to rally back to finish 19th. … Sunday was the last race for Sam Hornish Jr. in the No. 9 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports. Hornish, who spent just one season with RPM, will not return to the team in 2016. No replacement has been named yet. Hornish had early problems when he got caught up in some of the oil that spilled from Denny Logano’s car, sending Hornish into the wall. Hornish finished 25th.

NOTABLE: Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin suffered a gear oil issue early in the race and took his Toyota to the garage for repairs. His team had his car back on-track in three laps, and he was eventually able to get back on the lead lap and ultimately finished 10th. … The start of the race was delayed by nearly an hour and a half due to heavy pre-race rains, but weather was not an issue once the green flag dropped. … There were 18 lead changes among eight drivers. Also, there were seven cautions for 30 laps. … Brett Moffitt was named Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year after the race. … Here’s an irony: Michael Waltrip Racing became the first Toyota team in 2007. In the final race of MWR’s existence, Toyota wound up winning its first Cup championship. … This is the first time since 2004 (Kurt Busch, Sprint Cup; Martin Truex Jr., Xfinity; Bobby Hamilton, Trucks) that NASCAR has had first-time champions in their respective racing classes in the same season: Kyle Busch (Sprint Cup), Chris Buescher (Xfinity) and Erik Jones (Trucks). Granted, the younger Busch brother won the 2009 Xfinity championship, but this is his first Sprint Cup championship.

QUOTE OF THE DAY, No. 1: “I hear you, man. This is so cool. Whoo!” – Kyle Busch after being congratulated upon his win on NBCSN.

QUOTE OF THE DAY, No. 2: “I don’t know if you could have ever scripted it any better. … To have a shot with these four final drivers – Martin Truex, one of the best at Homestead; Kevin Harvick, one of the best these last two years; and Jeff Gordon, one of the best of all-time — to go up against those guys here tonight and score the victory in this 18 Toyota Camry, was phenomenal.” – Kyle Busch in Victory Lane.

QUOTE OF THE DAY, No. 3: “I want this day to go on forever. … It is absolutely incredible to be in my shoes right now.” – Jeff Gordon prior to Sunday’s race.

WHAT’S NEXT: The 2016 season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 21 at Daytona International Speedway.

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Kyle Busch to run five Truck races for KBM in 2023


Kyle Busch Motorsports announced Wednesday the five Craftsman Truck Series team owner Kyle Busch will race this season.

Busch’s Truck races will be:

March 3 at Las Vegas

March 25 at Circuit of the Americas

April 14 at Martinsville

May 6 at Kansas

July 22 at Pocono

Busch is the winningest Truck Series driver with 62 career victories. He has won at least one series race in each of the last 10 seasons. He has won 37.6% of the Truck races he’s entered and placed either first or second in 56.7% of his 165 career series starts.

Zariz Transport, which specializes in transporting containers from ports, signed a multi-year deal to be the primary sponsor on Busch’s No. 51 truck for all of his series races, starting this season. The company will be an associate sponsor on the truck in the remaining 18 series races.

Myatt Snider to run six Xfinity races with Joe Gibbs Racing


Myatt Snider is the latest driver to be announced as running a select number of Xfinity races in the No. 19 car for Joe Gibbs Racing this season.

Snider will run six races with the team. Ryan Truex (six races), Joe Graf Jr. (five) and Connor Mosack (three) also will be in JGR’s No. 19 Xfinity car this year.

Snider’s first race with the team will be the Feb. 18 season opener at Daytona. He also will race at Portland (June 3), Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7), Las Vegas (Oct. 14), Martinsville (Oct. 28) and the season finale at Phoenix (Nov. 4).

The deal returns Snider to JGR. He worked in various departments there from 2011-15.

“We’re looking forward to have Myatt on our No. 19 team for six races,” said Steve DeSouza, executive vice president of Xfinity and development. “Building out the driver lineup for this car is an opportunity for JGR to help drivers continue to develop in their racing career, and we’re looking forward to seeing how Myatt continues to grow.”

Said Snider in a statement from the team: “With six races on our 2023 schedule, I’m looking forward to climbing into the No. 19 TreeTop Toyota GR Supra with Joe Gibbs Racing this year. Having worked with JGR as a high schooler and a young racer, it’s an awesome full circle moment to return as a driver to the team that taught me so much about racing itself.

“It’s good to be reunited with (crew chief) Jason Ratcliff as we have an awesome history working together. With many memories and wins from 2013 and 2014 when I worked on the No. 20 Toyota Camry under Jason’s leadership, the team has always been more of a family relationship to me. I’m glad to be returning to the JGR family and looking forward to continuing to learn and grow as a driver.”

Daytona will be Snider’s 100th career Xfinity start. He has one series win and 21 top 10s. He was the rookie of the year in the Craftsman Truck Series in 2018.

Tree Top will be Snider’s sponsor for his six races with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Also in the Xfinity Series, Gray Gaulding, who will run full season with SS Green Light Racing, announced that he’ll have sponsor Panini America for multiple races, including the Daytona opener. Emerling-Gase Motorsports announced that Natalie Decker will run a part-time schedule in both the ARCA Menards Series and Xfinity Series for the team.


Travis Pastrana ‘taking a chance’ at Daytona


In so-called “action” sports, Travis Pastrana is a king. He is well-known across the spectrum of motorsports that are a bit on the edge — the X Games, Gymkhana, motorcross and rally racing.

Now he’s jumping in the deep end, attempting to qualify for the Daytona 500 and what would be his first NASCAR Cup Series start.

Pastrana, who is entered in the 500 in a third Toyota fielded by 23XI Racing, will be one of at least six drivers vying for the four non-charter starting spots in the race. Also on that list: Jimmie Johnson, Conor Daly, Chandler Smith, Zane Smith and Austin Hill.

MORE: IndyCar driver Conor Daly entered in Daytona 500

Clearly, just getting a spot on the 500 starting grid won’t be easy.

“I love a challenge,” Pastrana told NBC Sports. “I’ve wanted to be a part of the Great American Race since I started watching it on TV as a kid. Most drivers and athletes, when they get to the top of a sport, don’t take a chance to try something else. I like to push myself. If I feel I’m the favorite in something, I lose a little interest and focus. Yes, I’m in way over my head, but I believe I can do it safely. At the end of the day, my most fun time is when I’m battling and battling with the best.”

Although Pastrana, 39, hasn’t raced in the Cup Series, he’s not a stranger to NASCAR. He has run 42 Xfinity races, driving the full series for Roush Fenway Racing in 2013 (winning a pole and scoring four top-10 finishes), and five Craftsman Truck races.

“All those are awesome memories,” Pastrana said. “In my first race at Richmond (in 2012), Denny Hamlin really helped me out. I pulled on the track in practice, and he waited for me to get up to speed. He basically ruined his practice helping me get up to speed. Joey Logano jumped in my car at New Hampshire and did a couple of laps and changed the car, and I went from 28th to 13th the next lap. I had so many people who really reached out and helped me get the experience I needed.”

Pastrana was fast, but he had issues adapting to the NASCAR experience and the rhythm of races.

“It was extremely difficult for me not growing up in NASCAR,” he said. “I come from motocross, where there’s a shorter duration. It’s everything or nothing. You make time by taking chances. In pavement racing, it’s about rear-wheel drive. You can’t carry your car. In NASCAR it’s not about taking chances. It’s about homework. It’s about team. It’s about understanding where you can go fast and be spot on your mark for three hours straight.”

MORE: Will Clash issues carry over into rest of season?

Pastrana said he didn’t venture into NASCAR with the idea of transferring his skills to stock car racing full time.

“It was all about me trying to get to the Daytona 500,” he said. “Then I looked around, when I was in the K&N Series, and saw kids like Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. They were teenagers, and they already were as good or better than me.”

Now he hopes to be in the mix with Elliott, Larson and the rest of the field when the green flag falls on the 500.

He will get in some bonus laps driving for Niece Motorsports in the Craftsman Truck Series race at Daytona.

“For the first time, my main goal, other than qualifying for the 500, isn’t about winning,” Pastrana said. “We’ll take a win, of course, but my main goal is to finish on the lead lap and not cause any issues. I know we’ll have a strong car from 23XI, so the only way I can mess this up is to be the cause of a crash.

“I’d just love to go out and be a part of the Great American Race.”


Front Row Motorsports adds more Cup races to Zane Smith’s schedule


Reigning Craftsman Truck Series champion Zane Smith, who seeks to qualify for the Daytona 500, will do six additional Cup races for Front Row Motorsports this season, the team announced Tuesday. Centene Corporation’s brands will sponsor Smith.

The 23-year-old Smith will drive the No. 36 car in his attempt to make the Daytona 500 for Front Row Motorsports. That car does not have a charter. Chris Lawson will be the crew chief. 

Smith’s remaining six Cup races will be in the No. 38 car for Front Row Motorsports, which has a charter. Todd Gilliland will drive the remaining 30 points races and All-Star Open in that car. Ryan Bergenty will be the crew chief for both drivers this year.

Smith’s races in the No. 38 car will be Phoenix (March 12), Talladega (April 23), Coca-Cola 600 (May 28), Sonoma (June 11), Texas (Sept. 24) and the Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8). 

He also will run the full Truck season. 

Centene’s Wellcare, which offers a range of Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans will be Smith’s sponsor for the Daytona 500, Phoenix, Talladega and Sonoma. Centene’s Ambetter, a provider of health insurance offerings on the Health Insurance Marketplace, will be Smith’s sponsor at Texas and the Charlotte Roval. 

Smith’s sponsor for the Coca-Cola 600 will be Boot Barn. 

The mix of tracks is something Smith said he is looking forward to this season.

“I wanted to run Phoenix just because the trucks only go to Phoenix once and it’s the biggest race of the year,” Smith told NBC Sports. “I wanted to get as much time and laps as I can at Phoenix even though it’s in a completely different car. I wanted to run road courses, as well, just because I felt road course racing suits me.”

Smith also will be back in the Truck Series. Ambetter Health will be the primary sponsor of Smith’s Truck at Homestead (Oct. 21). The partnership with Centene includes full season associate sponsorship of Smith’s Truck and full season associate sponsorship on the No. 38 Cup car. 

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150
Zane Smith holding the Truck series championship trophy last year at Phoenix. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Smith’s connection to Centene Corporation, a St. Louis-based company, goes back to last June’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis. Smith made his Cup debut that weekend, filling in for Chris Buescher, who was out with COVID-19. Smith finished 17th.

“It’s cool to see how into the sport they are,” Smith said of Centene Corporation. “It started out with an appearance I did for them (at World Wide Technology Raceway). I’ve gotten to know that group pretty well.”

Centene also is the healthcare partner of Speedway Motorsports and sponsors a Cup race at Atlanta and Xfinity race at New Hampshire. 

Smith’s opportunity to run select Cup races, including major events as the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600, is part of the fast trajectory he’s made.

In 2019, he made only 10 Xfinity starts with JR Motorsports and didn’t start racing full-time in NASCAR until the 2020 season. Since then, he’s won a Truck title, finished second two other times and scored seven Truck victories.

“I feel like I’ve lived about probably three lifetimes in these four years just with getting that part-time Xfinity schedule and running well and getting my name out there,” Smith said.

He was provided an extra Xfinity race at Phoenix in 2019 with JRM and that proved significant to his future.

“That happened to be probably one of my best runs,” he said of his fifth-place finish that day. “We ran top four, top five all day and (team owner) Maury Gallagher happened to be there. He watched that.”

He signed with Gallagher’s GMS Racing Truck truck.

“It was supposed to be a part-time Truck schedule and (then) I won at Michigan and it was like, ‘Oh man, we’re in the playoffs, we should probably be full-time racing.’ I won another one a couple of weeks later at Dover.”

His success led to second season with the team and he again finished second in the championship. That led to the drive to a title last year.

The championship trophy sits in his home office and serves as motivation every day.

“First thing you see is when you come through my front door is pretty much the trophy,” Smith said. “It drives me crazy now thinking I could have two more to go with it and how close I was. … Really just that much more hungrier to go capture more.”