Kyle Busch made track position count on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
After winning his eighth pole of the season, Busch seized his 41st-career Cup win and his third victory of 2017.
"That was pretty intense," Busch said of the multi-car wreck when he took the lead. "It was just a wall of smoke over there off of Turn 2. I listened to the spotter and was basically told to stop and I'm like, 'Sounds like a good idea.'
"I checked up as much as I could and I was trying not to get run into from behind. All in all, it was a great day. This thing was awesome. We ran up front all day long, we executed, we did a good job, we did what we were supposed to do."
With the victory, Busch punched his ticket to the second round of the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup playoffs.
Busch led three time for a race-high 187 laps. He held a 2.641-second lead over Kyle Larson at the line. Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano rounded out the top 10.
Chase Elliott finished 11th followed by Hamlin, Newman, Johnson, Stenhouse, McMurray, Allmendinger, Danica Patrick, Austin Dillon and Paul Menard.
The ISM Connect 300 was slowed by seven cautions. Toyota drivers led every lap except for Lap 78 — which Larson held the point.
Once the smoke cleared from the nine-car wreck ending Stage 2 — and the day for Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch — NASCAR lifted the red flag. Kyle Busch held the point followed by Kenseth, Larson, Keselowski, Jones, Truex, Hamlin, Johnson, Blaney, McMurray, Bowyer, Logano, Elliott, Austin Dillon and Kasey Kahne. When the race returned to yellow on Lap 151, the 18 cars remaining on the lead lap completed three circuits as NASCAR aligned the field.
After pit stops, Kyle Busch exited at the point followed by Kenseth, Larson, Jones, Keselowski, Johnson, Hamlin, McMurray, Blaney, Elliott, Bowyer, Logano, Austin Dillon, Kahne, Daniel Suarez, AJ Allmendinger, Ryan Newman, Truex and Stenhouse, one lap down in 19th.
Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch were evaluated and released from the infield care center. After extensive work on pit road, Earnhardt dropped to 33, three laps down.
Final stage begins
The race returned to green for the start of Stage 3 on Lap 160. Busch darted out to a two-car lead over Jones followed by Kenseth, Johnson, Larson, Keselowski, McMurray, Ellliott, Hamlin and Logano at the line. For Logano, who started at the rear of the field when the race began, the restart marked his first time advancing into the top 10.
Busch extended his lead to .680-seconds over Jones after the second lap. Larson caught Johnson in Turn 1 and tried to pass the No. 48 in Turn 2. Over the next lap, Larson passed Johnson at the line for fourth-place on Lap 164. After the first five laps, Truex came from 18th to 13th and Kenseth passed Jones for second. Keselowski took fifth from Johnson. Suarez passed Hamlin for 14th and Hamlin came to the pits with a vibration on Lap 169. He restarted 18th.
By Lap 175, Busch held 1.88-second lead over Kenseth. Jones, Larson, Keselowski, Johnson, McMurray, Blaney, Elliott and Logano rounded out the top five. One lap later, Truex passed Kahne for 12th. Suarez ran 14th followed by Newman, Allmendinger, Austin Dillon, Stenhouse, Hamlin and Patrick.
Truex passed Logano for 11th on Lap 180. Denny Hamlin passed Stenhouse for 18th and the lucky dog on Lap 188. Busch’s advantage over Kenseth was 1.130-seconds on Lap 190. Jones, Larson, Keselowski, Johnson, McMurray, Blaney, Elliott and Bowyer rounded out the top 10.
Kenseth trailed Busch by 1.365-seconds with 100 laps to decide the contest. Jones held onto third followed by Larson, Keselowski, Johnson, McMurray, Blaney, Elliott and Bowyer. Truex could not advance past 11th and radioed to the crew that his tires were chattering.
Bowyer passed Elliott for ninth on Lap 209. By Lap 210, 16 cars remained on the lead lap with playoff contenders Austin Dillon, Hamlin and Stenhouse running 17th, 18th and 19th, respectively.
Earnhardt pit on Lap 216 with a flat left front tire. He dropped to 35th, six laps down.
Busch still had a one-second advantage over Kenseth with NASCAR called a debris for caution on Lap 220. Jones was third followed by Larson, Keselowski, Johnson, McMurray, Blaney, Bowyer, Truex, Elliott, Logano, Suarez, Kahne, Newman and Allmendinger. Austin Dillon was scored one-lap down in 17th followed by Hamlin and Stenhouse.
The lead cars pitted on Lap 222. Larson picked up two positions and lined up alongside Kyle Busch. Jones exited third followed by Kenseth, Keselowski, Johnson, McMurray, Blaney, Bowyer, Truex, Elliott, Suarez, Logano, Allmendinger, Kahne and Dillon, who received the lucky dog. Logano had to drop to the rear of the field after he was penalized after his jackman went over the wall too soon.
Busch shot on to the lead on the Lap 226 restart while Kenseth challenged Larson from behind. Keselowski went low attempting to pass Jones but settled into fifth. Johnson ran sixth followed by Blaney, Truex, Bowyer and Newman. Elliott passed McMurray for 11th on Lap 231. Truex moved up to seventh.
On Lap 234, Kenseth passed Larson on the backstretch. After the first 10 laps, Busch held a 2.47-second lead over Kenseth. Larson, Jones, Keselowski, Johnson, Truex, Blaney, Bowyer and Elliott completed the top 10. Keselowski took fourth from Jones on Lap 239.
Truex caught sixth-place Johnson in Turn 3 on Lap 247.
“Looking inside,” spotter Earl Barban warned his driver on Lap 250.
Busch extended his lead to three-seconds over Kesenth with 50 laps to decide the contest. Bowyer took eighth-place from Blaney on Lap 256.
“Lost it all,” Blaney said.
Suarez passed Elliott for 11th on Lap 258.
Kasey Kahne slowed in Turn 4 to trigger the fourth caution. He came down pit road, attempted to make a lap then headed to the garage.
Busch led the leaders to pit road on Lap 265.
Run to the finish
Truex took two tires and regained the point when the race returned to green on Lap 267 followed by Busch, Kenseth, Larson, Keselowski, Bowyer, Jones, Suarez, Elliott, Blaney, Newman, McMurray, Johnson, Logano, Austin Dillon, Allmendinger and Hamlin.
Busch took the lead on the restart followed by Bowyer, Kenseth, Truex, Larson, Keselowski, Suarez, Blaney, Elliott, Jones, McMurray, Newman, Johnson, Logano and Austin Dillon. Before the field completed the first lap, David Ragan spun in Turn 2. The race returned to green on Lap 273 and a battle ensued between Busch and Truex as Bowyer stumbled on the restart. Before the field cleared Turn 3, Bayne was punted and hit the inside wall nose-first in Turn 2.
Busch held the point followed by Truex, Bowyer, Larson, Keselowski, Kenseth, Blaney, Jones, Suarez, Elliott, Newman, Logano, Johnson, Allmendinger and Austin Dillon for the Lap 277 restart. Larson shot to second and challenged Busch on the first lap. Truex held third followed by Kenseth, Jones, Keselowski, Bowyer, Blaney, Suarez and Elliott on Lap 280.
Busch and Larson checked out from the field as Kesneth dogged Truex. Kenseth got to the corner on the No. 78 in Turn 4 on Lap 283, but couldn’t complete the pass. Jones ran fifth followed by Keselowski, Bowyer, Blaney, Elliott and Logano with 15 laps remaining.
“A point means nothing to them,” Kenseth said of Truex and the No. 78 team.
Keselowski moved by Jones for fifth and moved in on Kenseth. With 10 laps remaining, Busch’s lead was 1.5-seconds over Larson. Truex, Kenseth, Keselowski, Jones, Bowyer, Blaney, Logano and Suarez completed the top 10. One lap later, Suarez passed Logano for ninth.
Kenseth finally passed Truex for third on Lap 294. Keselowski followed on the next lap for fourth.
Truex retained a 24-point lead over Larson, who advanced to Round 2 of the playoffs based on points. Kyle Busch remains third, 30-points back followed by Keselowski (-43) who was also locked in by points after finishing fourth on Sunday.
NASCAR issued a memo to the Monster Energy Cup Series teams on Saturday asking that “all team members, post-race, do not go to the cars while they are on pit road until directed by the NASCAR Officials.”
The memo added that team members that do not adhere to this will have their hard cards confiscated to start with.
After the ISM Connect 300 on Sunday, security officers blocked crews on pit road from approaching their cars until directed by NASCAR.
The Nos. 1, 11, 48 and 3 were stopped just before the entrance to the Cup garage.
Here's a recap of the race:
|5||78||Martin Truex Jr.||Toyota||300||8.804||112|
|15||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||300||17.203|
|21||37||Chris Buescher||Chevrolet||299||1 lap|
|22||13||Ty Dillon||Chevrolet||298||2 laps|
|23||95||Michael McDowell||Chevrolet||298||2 laps|
|24||6||Trevor Bayne||Ford||298||2 laps|
|25||34||Landon Cassill||Ford||298||2 laps|
|26||43||Aric Almirola||Ford||297||3 laps|
|27||23||Corey Lajoie||Toyota||297||3 laps|
|28||15||Reed Sorenson||Chevrolet||297||3 laps|
|29||38||David Ragan||Ford||296||4 laps|
|30||72||Cole Whitt||Chevrolet||296||4 laps|
|31||32||Matt DiBenedetto||Ford||295||5 laps|
|32||83||Brett Moffitt||Toyota||294||6 laps|
|33||55||Gray Gaulding||Toyota||293||7 laps|
|34||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||289||11 laps|
|35||5||Kasey Kahne||Chevrolet||289||11 laps|
|36||4||Kevin Harvick||Ford||148||152 laps|
|37||41||Kurt Busch||Ford||148||152 laps|
|38||33||Jeffrey Earnhardt||Chevrolet||143||157 laps|
|39||51||Cody Ware||Chevrolet||74||226 laps