Kyle Busch rallies for fifth-place finish, holds final cutoff spot for Miami


FORT WORTH, Texas — It wasn’t the best of nights for Kyle Busch, but it was good enough to keep him in contention to defend his Sprint Cup championship.

Busch finished fifth in Sunday’s rain-delayed and rain-shortened race at Texas Motor Speedway, overcoming damage to the front of his Toyota when he hit debris.

The result gives him a one-point lead on Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth heading into next weekend’s cutoff race at Phoenix. Teammate Denny Hamlin is two points behind Busch.

“Tonight wasn’t the night we were looking, but we weren’t looking for a night race, either,’’ Busch said of a race that was scheduled for 2 pm ET but didn’t begin until nearly 8 pm ET. “I thought our car was going to be better suited for the daytime.

“There about the second half of the race, the track started coming to us and everybody else started fading a little bit, so we were getting better at the long runs, but everybody was short-pitting so bad because we had so many sets of tires that you didn’t have to go full fuel runs. Next year taking a set away (of tires) ain’t going to hurt anything for racing I don’t believe.’’

Busch gained nine spots within the final 100 laps in a race shorted from 334 to 293 laps because of rain. He struggled to get into the top 10 early after he hit part of a hose that put a baseball-sized hole in the front of his car.

Teammate Carl Edwards advanced to the championship round in Miami by winning Sunday night. He joins Jimmie Johnson, who won last week at Martinsville. That leaves two spots left and three Gibbs drivers among those trying to make the final cut.

“We’ve just got to keep doing what we know how to do,’’ Busch said. “We’ve got to make sure that we can run in the top five, we’ve got to make sure we can go to victory lane, if possible. We’ve had all the finishes that we need thus far. We’ve got to be able to go out one more week and get another one.’’

Busch’s finish allowed him to gain three points on Kenseth and four points on Hamlin.

The race could be tighter between the teammates. Gibbs cars took four of the top seven spots at Phoenix earlier in the year. Busch finished fourth there behind Edwards (second) and Hamlin (third) there.

“I think our guys have done a great job of being able to make our cars better at Phoenix,’’ Busch said. “We knew that was a place we needed to get better at even before this Chase format was instituted.’’