2017 NASCAR Season

Kyle Busch Wins at New Hampshire

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Photo by: Jonathan Ferrey

Kyle Busch secured his way into Round 2 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with his win Sunday during the ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Busch led 187 of 300 laps toward his third win of the season. The win is also the Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s third win at the 1.058-mile track and the 41st of his career.

Busch missed being in a multi-car wreck on Lap 150 when the No. 3 of Austin Dillon made contact with Kevin Harvick. The contact ultimately turned the 2014 MENCS Champion sideways.

Harvick’s teammate Kurt Busch and Jeffrey Earnhardt had nowhere to go when they hit the Mobil 1 Ford.

“That was pretty intense,” Busch said “That was some ‘Days of Thunder’ stuff over there. You couldn’t see anything. It was just a wall of smoke over there off of Turn 2. I was listening to my spotter and basically was told to stop, and I was like ‘Sounds like a good idea.’

“I just checked up as much as I could. Of course, I was trying not to get run into from behind. I didn’t know who was behind me – I knew Matt (Kenseth) was there. But all in all, just a great day. We ran up front all day long, we executed, we did what we were supposed to do, and it’s awesome to win here in the Granite State in front of these fans.”

Kasey Kahne heads to the Monster Mile as the No. 16 seed in the playoff standings. The Hendrick Motorsport driver is in a must-win situation after a broken rear suspension sent him to the garage for repairs on Lap 263.

Kahne returned, but finished in the 35th position, 11 laps behind the leader.

Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski clinched their positions into the Round of 12 based on points. Larson finished second, while Keselowski finished fourth, his 12th top-5 of the season.

The MENCS head to Dover International Speedway on Sunday, October 1st, where eight positions are on the line to remain in contention for the 2017 Championship.

Will Jimmie Johnson recover from his summer slump and find Victory Lane at the track he hold 11 victories at? Find out on October 1, 2017 at 2 p.m ET on NBC Sports.

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Kyle Larson Wins at Richmond, Playoff field is set

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Photo by: Sarah Crabill

Kyle Larson earned his fourth win of the season Saturday night at Richmond Raceway in overtime, after the No. 15 of Derrick Cope scraped the wall to bring out the seventh caution of the night.

Larson won the race off pit road and took the lead on Lap 403 during the Federated Auto Parts 400, but contact between the No. 11 and No. 78 Toyota’s sent Truex into the Turn 1 wall.

“I’ve got the greatest team out here and definitely the best pit crew,” Larson said. “That showed tonight. I can’t thank those guys enough. They were money all night long to gain spots. This win is a huge congrats to them. The Target Chevy was pretty good all night. The No. 78 (Truex) was definitely the best, but I thought I was second best for most of the runs.

“It came down to the last restart there, and I got a good start. I spun my tires pretty bad, and I was a little nervous, but we cleared him (Truex) into (Turn) 1, and I was pretty excited about that. I’m really pumped for the playoffs. We’ve got a great shot at the championship, I feel like, this year. So I’m looking forward to it.”

Truex, the regular-season champion, finished 20th, while Hamlin earned a top-5 finish.

Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, and Matt Kenseth all earned their way into the 2017 Playoffs based off points, but it was the Joe Gibbs Racing driver who experienced the most pressure.

Kenseth’s day concluded after suffering damage in the most intense way.

An ambulance stopped on the apron before the pit road entrance and drivers scrambled to avoid the vehicle, but Kenseth was not that fortunate. Kenseth plunged into the back of the No. 14 Ford of Clint Bowyer.

Joey Logano, who’s win in April was deemed encumbered, was in a must-win situation to make the playoffs. The Team Penske driver came up one position short of the victory.

“Yeah, it stings a little bit,” Logano said. “Last time we were sitting here after a race, it was after a win, and this time it’s after a second, which overall if you look at our Richmond (record) for a season with the two races, you’d say, that’s pretty good, a first and a second.”

“But just overall, obviously it stings to come up one spot short and not be able to get into the playoffs. It is what it is. It’s reality, and we will move on.”

Ryan Newman finished third, while Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 5.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head to Chicagoland Speedway on September 17 to kickoff the start of the playoffs. Truex won the event a year ago, while Elliott finished third after leading 75 laps.

Can Elliott earn his first career MENCS victory and punch his ticket into the next round? Find out on September 17, 2017 at 3 p.m ET on NBC Sports.

Denny Hamlin wins the Southern 500

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Photo by: Matt Sullivan

Denny Hamlin battled through some adversity Sunday night, but that didn’t hinder the Joe Gibbs Racing driver from contending for the win or pulling into Victory Lane.

The “Flying 11” did exactly that after Hamlin made a mistake with 44 laps remaining in the Bojangles’ Southern 500. Hamlin missed the entrance to pit road and was forced to come back around for his final pit stop of the night, exiting in the 14th position.

Hamlin drove through traffic while cutting into Martin Truex Jr’s lead, and regained on Lap 365 when Truex cut a tire.

“That’s as hard as I can drive,” Hamlin said, “What can I say–it’s the flying 11. It means everything to me. I mean, as far as I’m concerned, this is a throwback to my history – this is for Ray Hendrick, Bugs Hairfield, Wayne Patterson, Eddie Johnson, the short track guys that I grew up watching.”

Hamlin swept the weekend at Darlington Raceway just as he did seven years ago, when he last won the prestigious event.

“This one’s sweeter,” he acknowledged, “going through the adversity we did.”

Truex, who finished eighth despite his late trouble, clinched the regular season Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship after leading 34 laps and winning both Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the event.

“It was definitely a bittersweet night for us, to come up just two laps short there, blow a tire at the end after having no issues with tires all night and having such a good race car,” Truex said. “I don’t know if that last run was the longest one we made all night. I’m not really sure to be honest. I was kind of out there caught up driving my guts out at the end trying to hang on.”

Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, and Erik Jones rounded out the top-5, while Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Truex, Kevin Harvick, and Jamie McMurray finished inside the top-10.

Only one race remains for someone to make their way into the playoffs with a win. Chase Elliott, Kensth, and McMurray remain on the bubble, and Clint Bowyer is on the outside looking in.

A win is now Bowyer’s only chance. He finished last after suffering an engine failure on Lap 18.

The MENCS head to Richmond Raceway on Saturday, September 9th for the last race before the start of the 2017 playoff season. Hamlin is the defending race winner. Can he win for the second week in a row?

Find out Saturday, September 9th at 7:30 p.m ET on NBC Sports Network.

Kyle Busch completes weekend sweep at Bristol

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Photo by: Sean Gardner

Rowdy Nation rejoiced while everyone else showed their displeasure as Kyle Busch done his signature bow after winning the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Busch led 156 laps and held off a charging Erik Jones for his third win of the weekend. Busch competed in, and won, both the Truck Series and Xfinity Series races at the half-mile track.

“Man, Erik Jones put up a whale of a fight,” Busch said of the 21-year-old Furniture Row Racing driver. Jones led the most laps and battled with Busch through lapped traffic, before falling into second place. Jones held onto the position while charging to get closer to the No. 18 Toyota Camry.

But Jones was left with the best finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.

“You don’t want to sound like you’re whining or being a sore loser by saying it sucks to run second, but it’s a bummer,” said Jones, who started on the pole and led 260 of 500 laps before posting a career-best finish. “It hurts. You know, you want to win every race you’re in. This was the first shot that I really had to come really close to it in the Cup Series.”

Busch regained the lead on Lap 445 as Jones and Kenseth got behind lapped traffic. The win is Busch’s second victory this season and 40th of his career, tying NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Mark Martin. Busch is also the only active driver to win six races at Bristol.

“Can’t say enough about everybody on my Joe Gibbs Racing team. Adam Stevens (crew chief) and the guys are phenomenal. Car might not have been perfect, but I’m never perfect. I never feel like we’re perfect, but this Caramel Camry was fast. So proud of these guys, so proud of my team, so proud of Joe Gibbs Racing. So proud of Rowdy Nation, this one’s for you.”

Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth finished third and fourth, respectively, earning Toyota the first four finishing positions. Kurt Busch finished fifth to round out the top-five.

Trevor Bayne finished sixth for his fourth top-10 finish of 2017.

Chase Elliott remains 14th in the playoff standings, 69 points to the good, after finishing in the 18th position. Elliott was involved in a crash on Lap 396 with Kevin Harvick, Ty Dillon, and Aric Almirola.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head to Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 on September 3, 2017 for the third annual throwback weekend. 

Multiple drivers including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer, and Danica Patrick are set to race paint schemes to honor drivers of seasons past. The celebrated time period of the 2017 season is 1985-1989.

Don’t miss the thriller in two weeks on September 3rd at 6 p.m ET on NBC Sports.

Kyle Larson wins Pure Michigan 400

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Photo by: Jonathan Ferrey

Kyle Larson boldly took advantage of a late-race restart to secure his third consecutive win in the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Larson restarted fourth in overtime after Michael McDowell and Paul Menard spun, but gained the lead after taking it four wide in his No. 42 Target Chevrolet with Matt Kenseth, Erik Jones, and Martin Truex Jr. Larson led just the final two laps to earn the fourth win of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.

“Awesome finish for us” Larson said, “We definitely didn’t have the car that we had here the last two times we won, but we kept fighting. Probably even harder than we did in those other two wins.”

Larson joins NASCAR Hall of Fame members David Pearson and Bill Elliott to win three consecutive races at the two-mile track.

Truex finished second .310 seconds behind Larson after leading 57 laps.

“We got beat fair and square,” Truex said. “That’s the way it goes sometimes. Double‑file restarts are tricky, and I had good restarts all day I felt like, and we had that red flag for the first time and really just sat there while I got the tires cold and then only had one lap to come to the green and get some heat back in them, and I just struggled getting going, just spun the tires. I didn’t really expect it because I hadn’t had any trouble with that all day.”

Erik Jones finished third, followed by Ryan Newman and Trevor Bayne. Chris Buescher finished sixth, his third top-10 finish within four weeks.

The race remained quiet, with Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. earning the stage victories, until Lap 139 when the No. 5 of Kasey Kahne slid up the race track and collected Joe Gibb Racing’s Daniel Suarez.

Suarez and Kahne finished 37th and 38th, respectively.

The MENCS head to Bristol, Tennessee on Saturday, July 19th for the 24th race of the season with three races remaining in the regular season. Truex leads Larson over a hundred points in the standings.

Don’t miss the Last Great Colosseum under the lights on July 19th at 7:30 p.m ET on NBC.

Martin Truex Jr. wins at the Glen

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Photo by: Jeff Zelevansky

Martin Truex Jr’s hatred for fuel mileage races may have drifted due to his win in Sunday’s I Love New York 355 at Watkins Glen International.

Truex began saving fuel early, letting Brad Keselowski pass him with less than 15 laps to go, in hopes he would have enough to make it to the end for a chance at the second road course victory of his MENCS career.

The driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota did.

“I’m a little bit lost for words at the moment,” Truex said “Just because I’ve been thinking about this one a long time – all weekend, all day,”

The strategy paid off for Truex because both Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney had to pit for a splash of fuel. Truex regained the lead with three laps remaining and held off a charging Matt Kenseth to earn his fourth win in 2017.

“At the end there, just it’s so hard there to let guys pass you for the lead. You’ve just got to listen to your crew chief and, luckily for me, I’ve got the best one in the business, and I just believe in him so much, and I just do what he says and it seems to work out.”

Kenseth finished second to earn his sixth top-5 finish this season. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is still looking for a win to secure his ticket to the playoffs with four races remaining in the regular season.

“I felt like we had a top-five car. Obviously, we had good fortune there at the end with our track position and our fuel mileage and all that to stay in it and have a shot at it, but man, when it’s that close and you see him saving and you’re saving and then you go after him there on that last lap, it’s disappointing not to get it. Especially when I saw him miss Turn 6, I was like, ‘Man, I’m going to have a shot,’ and he was so fast I still couldn’t get to him getting into (Turn) 7.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished last after an early exit due to a valve train issue. Earnhardt took his Chevrolet to the garage after falling off pace at the end of the first stage.

“We can’t fix it, but it’s just been a really difficult week,” Earnhardt said. “We’ve been way down on speed and we had a pretty good car for Sonoma, so I was kind of looking forward to coming here.”

Kyle Busch battled back from early pit stop problems to finish inside the top-10. Busch was forced to pit a second time under caution at the end of Stage 1 for a loose wheel.

Busch restarted in the back of the field, but made his way back inside the top-10 before making contact with Keselowski within the bus stop. Busch finished seventh while Keselowski finished in the 15th position.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Michigan on August 13th for the Pure Michigan 400 at 3 p.m ET on NBC Sports.

Kasey Kahne Excels at the Brickyard

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Photo by: Sean Gardner

A long day in Indianapolis, which included a red flag delay for rain and two others for incidents, ended with Hendrick Motorsports’ Kasey Kahne in Victory Lane.

Kahne snapped over a hundred race winless streak for the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 in overtime after battling with Brad Keselowski for his 18th career MENCS victory.

“The career is big, for sure—but the win and the history here,” Kahne said. “To win at this track is unreal. We used to always be really close. We lost to Jeff (Gordon) and we lost to Tony (Stewart); just some fast cars back then.”

Kahne may not have had the fastest car, but he delivered through a series of crashes that left the driver of the Farmers Insurance Chevrolet with exhaustion and some cramps at the conclusion of the extended event.

“Today, strategy got us here. This Farmers Insurance Chevrolet was great once I got out front. I just had to get there. I’m exhausted. But, an unbelievable win. The team just kept working. We had great pit stops.”

Kahne received the lead after a multi-car crash involving Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, and Erik Jones brought out the tenth caution of the evening. Kahne, who pitted one lap earlier, had fresh tires and opted to stay out for track position.

Keselowski acquired the lead on the restart, but his run was cut short when the No. 6 of Trevor Bayne spun on the frontstrech and collected a half dozen cars along with him.

Keselowski elected for the top on the restart, but Kahne persevered through the dry oil to get ahead of the Team Penske driver.

“Well, the one before just didn’t work,” Kahne said, “Everything went wrong. On the final one, everything went right. And once I got to Turn 1, I had good power and was able to clear him off (Turn) 1. I’m exhausted. And, it’s pretty crazy.”

Two-time Brickyard 400 winner Kyle Busch finished 34th after securing Stage 1 and Stage 2 wins. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was involved in a Lap 111 wreck with Martin Truex Jr. that put their chance at history to an end.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was eliminated after contact with Bayne on Lap 77 left him with damage to his radiator.

“There was just a bunch of cars slowing down, starting a chain reaction. We got into the back of (Bayne),” he said. “It just knocked the radiator out of us. We had a great car. We had a top-10 car. I thought we could finish there.”

Only four playoff spots remain open with six races to go in the 2017 regular season. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head back to Pocono, where Chris Buescher is the defending race winner.