Capitalizing on pit strategy that kept him on track to stay at the front, Kyle Busch was able to conquer Kansas Speedway for the first time in Sprint Cup, rallying late to win Saturday night’s GoBowling.com 400.
There are only two tracks remaining where the defending series champion hasn’t won in NASCAR’s premier series: Charlotte Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway.
Prior to his 37th career Sprint Cup victory Saturday, Busch’s best finish at Kansas was third. He also had four DNFs at the 1.5-mile track.
On the final caution, Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth stayed on the track and took the top two spots for a restart with 20 laps left. Busch held on the rest of the way, fending off a charge by Kevin Harvick to earn his third win of the 2016 season (along with Texas and Martinsville).
Harvick finished second, followed by Kurt Busch, Kenseth, Ryan Blaney (top finishing rookie), Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman, AJ Allmendinger, Chase Elliott and Keselowski.
On Lap 241, Denny Hamlin tried to go three-wide between Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson. Hamlin and Keselowski both spun without making contact. Hamlin washed up the track and was hit by Joey Logano, who couldn’t avoid Hamlin’s car.
“I just got loose,” Hamlin told Fox Sports 1. “That’s crazy there was no contact, but me and (Keselowski) both got loose there. I was just going for it. Part of this format is going for it, and that’s what we did.”
Hamlin finished 37th, while Logano finished 38th.
“It was just racing hard,” Logano said. “(Keselowski) got loose and then (Hamlin) got loose, I couldn’t see anything, and I was hoping (Hamlin) would come down the hill and just never did. It kind of stinks two weeks in a row we’re walking out of the infield care center (late in a race). … But that’s racing. Things happen.”
The biggest heartbreak of the race was pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr., who led 172 laps and seemed to have a winning car until he pitted on Lap 211 for what he believed to be a loose wheel.
His team radioed Truex the problem was due to “something got jammed up in the wheel. … Sorry, man.”
Truex said over his team radio, “I don’t know what the racing gods have against me.”
MORE: Race results, Kyle Busch wins, Kevin Harvick second at Kansas
MORE: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch remain atop point standings; Tony Stewart chips away at top 30
HOW BUSCH WON: Crew chief Adam Stevens gets the credit for this one. With 20 laps to go, Stevens elected to keep his driver on the track and not pit for tires or fuel (Matt Kenseth did the same thing). That was the race-winning move for Busch.
WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: After all the rough luck he’s had this season, Matt Kenseth finally recorded his first top-five of 2016 with a fourth. … Even though he finished 12th, it was a good day for Tony Stewart, who took the lead on Lap 219 and was in first for 12 laps before falling back. It was the first time Stewart has led a lap since at Darlington last Labor Day weekend. … Kevin Harvick overcame a 26th-place starting position to finish second. … Ryan Blaney (fifth) was the highest-finishing rookie and also earned his best finish of the season and the second top five of his Sprint Cup career. … Austin Dillon finished sixth to earn his sixth top-10 in the first 11 races.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Martin Truex Jr. had a great race going for quite a while. He started from the pole, was in first at halfway and led a race-high 172 laps. But having to pit for a loose wheel on Lap 214 doomed his hopes for a win and ultimately left him in 14th. … Paul Menard was running 20th when he hit the Turn 2 wall on Lap 103. The damage seemed minor, but the incident caused Menard to struggle for another few laps before he retired in last, completing just 136 laps. … Instead of potential top-10 finishes, the late-race crash left Kyle Larson (35th), Hamlin (37th) and Logano (38th) with disappointing finishes. … Greg Biffle pitted on Lap 65 to repair right-side damage, but his car was never the same. He finished 27th, three laps down.
NOTABLE: During the first pit stop of the race, a tire went loose and into the infield grass. But no team was penalized. The reason: Brad Keselowski inadvertently hit a tire from Casey Mears’ pit stall. … Jamie McMurray was called back into the pits on Lap 35 because of an unapproved adjustment to the body made a few laps earlier during caution. McMurray had to come back into the pits to repair the damage, which put him two laps down.
QUOTE OF THE DAY, No. 1: “This is pretty big. There’s been a lot of rough days at Kansas, that’s for sure, and a lot of good ones. … I’m proud to have Adam Stevens on my pit box. The call to stay out was (big), yes.” – Kyle Busch on Saturday’s win.
QUOTE OF THE DAY, No. 2: “We’re going to win some races, for sure. If we keep bringing cars like that, we’re going to win some. It’s just frustrating when you’ve had it happen so many times in your career.” — Martin Truex Jr., who led the most laps but finished 14th because of a loose wheel late in the race.
WHAT’S NEXT: The next race is the AAA 400 Drive For Autism, on Sunday, May 15 (1 p.m. ET start) at Dover International Speedway.