CREW CHIEF: Adam Stevens
TEAM: Joe Gibbs Racing
WINS: Five (Pocono 2, Bristol 2, Loudon 2, Dover 2, Martinsville 2)
LAPS LED: 2,023
TOP 5s: 14
TOP 10s: 22
POLES: 8 (Dover 1, Pocono 1, Kentucky, Indianapolis, Pocono 2, Watkins Glen, Chicago, Loudon 2)
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Busch was the winningest and most successful driver in the JGR camp in 2017. Had Martin Truex Jr. not won the season finale at Miami, Busch could have been anointed champ, given he finished second in the race and championship battle. … Busch’s 8 poles was a single-season high for him (previous high was 3 in both 2013 and 2014). … With his eight poles, Busch had the best single-season starting average of his career (7.2). … Overall, Busch has finished 1st through 4th in the final standings four of the last five seasons: 4th (2013), 10th (2014), first (2015), third (2016) and second (2017).
WHAT WENT WRONG: Try as he may, Busch just couldn’t overtake Truex for the championship. As much of a cliché as it sounds, every time Busch had a chance to draw even with Truex, the driver of the No. 78 was able to hold him off. Still, it’s nothing to be ashamed of to finish second in the championship battle. … It took a while for Busch to get going in the season, struggling to finishes of 38th (Daytona), 16th (Atlanta) and 22nd (Las Vegas).
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2018: Busch is at his best when he loses an important race by a close margin. Expect him to come back in 2018 and prove he’s a more dominant driver than Truex and potentially will go on to win his second Cup championship since earing his first crown in 2015.
Cup cars are only on the track for qualifying today at Sonoma Raceway, and Camping Work Truck teams will qualify and race at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Johnny Sauter has won three of the last five Truck races. Brett Moffitt won last weekend’s Truck race at Iowa.
Here’s today’s schedule at both tracks:
(ALL TIMES ARE EASTERN)
At SONOMA RACEWAY
10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. — Cup garage open
2:45 p.m. — Cup qualifying; multi-vehicle/two rounds (FS1, Performance Racing Network)
4:30 p.m. — K&N Pro Series West race; 64 laps, 127.36 miles (airs at 6 p.m. ET June 28 on NBCSN)
At GATEWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK
11 a.m. — Truck garage opens
Noon – 1 p.m. — Final Truck practice (No TV)
5:45 p.m. — Truck qualifying; multi-vehicle/three rounds (airs from 7-8 p.m. on FS1)
7 p.m. — Driver/crew chief meeting
8 p.m. — Driver introductions
8:30 p.m. — Villa Lighting delivers the Eaton 200; 160 laps/200 miles (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Kurt Busch posted the fastest single lap in the final practice for the Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Sonoma Raceway with a speed of 94.061 mph.
He beat second-place Denny Hamlin (94.012 mph) by .040 seconds.
Martin Truex Jr. (93.718) had the third fastest lap, but the team will have some work to do before Saturday’s qualification. With nine minutes remaining on the clock, he ran into the back of Bubba Wallace in the esses and did significant damage to his nose. Wallace landed 34th on the chart with a speed of 91.641 mph.
Jamie McMurray (93.549) and Kevin Harvick (93.441) rounded out the top five.
Harvick (91.468) had the quickest 10-lap average – leading a sweep of the top three by Stewart Haas Racing. Busch was second quickest at 91.452 mph with Clint Bowyer third quick at 91.443 mph.
William Byron broke an axle seal in final practice, but the team was able to get him back on track with 24 minutes remaining in the session. His speed of 92.279 mph was 25th fastest.
Click here for the full report from final practice.
Last week’s winner, Brett Moffitt topped the speed chart in Friday evening’s practice session for the Eaton 200 with a speed of 137.191 mph.
He beat second-place Myatt Snider (136.658 mph) by .128 seconds.
Johnny Sauter (136.608), Riley Herbst (136.355), and Ben Rhodes (136.219) round out the top five.
Herbst is making his Truck Series debut this week.
Also making his Truck debut is Zane Smith, who posted a lap of 136.120 mph to land sixth on the chart.
Christian Eckes (135.906) failed to back up his series-leading speed from the first practice session and was only ninth fastest, but he had the quickest 10-lap average of 135.039 mph.
Click here for complete results from practice 2.
Rain canceled the practice session at Gateway that was scheduled to run from 3:35 – 4:25 p.m. Eastern time.
When they finally got on track, Eckes posted the fastest single lap in the first practice session with a speed of 134.360 mph. He is making his Truck series debut this week.
Eckes’ speed was .009 seconds faster than Noah Gragon (134.324), who landed second on the speed chart.
Rhodes (134.120), Moffitt (133.817) and Matt Crafton (133.706) rounded out the top five.
Rhodes had the quickest 10-lap average of 133.466 mph.
With the first practice canceled at Gateway, NASCAR added a final practice session scheduled for Noon – 1 p.m.
Click here for complete results from practice one.
Denny Hamlin, who has been fined by NASCAR for comments on Twitter, and was vocal toward critics after this year’s Daytona 500, says he’s found peace on how to deal with those on social media who don’t agree with him.
“I’ve been very good this year about not replying to mean people, and you all should do the same,’’ Hamlin said Friday at Sonoma Raceway.
“I’m making a (request) right now to every driver, every team owner, every NASCAR executive and every media member, stop replying to people who make nonsense comments. They have 16 followers. Don’t give them your 100,000. Do not give them your 100,000 as their stage. No one will ever see their comment, just brush it by, talk about the positives and I’m not a positive person.”
Asked how does one ignore such divisive comments, Hamlin said: “You just scroll by it. Forget it. That person doesn’t exit. They’re an admirer that has lost their way.’’
Hamlin has been better at doing so since the Daytona 500. He faced negative reaction on social media to the contact he and Bubba Wallace had at the end of the Daytona 500.
They engaged in a brief shouting match in the garage area after Hamlin learned that Wallace had taken a dig at him on national TV about a recent comment about drivers using Adderall.
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