Still questioning if Kyle Busch can make his way into the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship?
Well, the last three races should answer the question.
A green-white-checkered restart set up a dash between Busch and Joey Logano, with the No. 18 getting the advantage and going on to win the Jeff Kyle 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Chase-hopeful grabs his third straight victory, his fourth of the season, but most importantly, a spot in Brickyard 400 history after completing the weekend sweep by winning Saturday’s Xfinity race.
“I just cant believe this run right now,” said Busch in the legendary Indy Victory Circle. “I just cant believe what’s going on. Everybody’s going to be tasting the rainbow tonight, that’s for sure.”
A caution for Trevor Bayne’s crash in turn 1 set up the final two-lap sprint to the end. Kevin Harvick proved to be a tough contender through the lengthy fuel strategy that stretched teams to the limit. However, a restart with no help from Martin Truex Jr. with four laps to go gave the lead to Busch who never looked back.
“I knew (if) you just get us out front, we could just drive away,” Busch said. “Our car was really, really good today. It’s really a treat to win here at Indy and I appreciate all the fans that I’ve got, all the fans that NASCAR has.
“Toyota has now captured a win at every single active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racetrack. That’s pretty awesome for us to do that.”
Busch now sits 23 points outside the top 30 in points which he must reach to be eligible come Richmond in September.
Harvick, who won the 2003 Brickyard 400, finished third after leading a race-high 75 laps.
“The [Nos.] 18 and 22 got hooked up on the restart there and got by us in turn 1,” said Harvick of the second-to-last restart. “The [No.] 78 and I didn’t really get together and weren’t able to keep the lead. Then we lost a couple more spots because we got jacked up once we started spinning the tires.”
The cars featured the new high-drag aero package which was expected to tighten the racing and create more passing opportunities with the long Indy straightaways. Although the race saw four to five car breakaways for the lead early, it was fuel strategy and varying pit cycles that split the field and dominated the 400-mile event.
Logano brought car-owner Roger Penske a second-place result, one spot short of the what some would call completing the American Triple Crown for a race team – winning the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same year.
Denny Hamlin showed his best speed of the day when it counted and finished fifth.
“Our car was pretty strong at the end,” says Hamlin. “We got to fourth with a handful of laps to go, running down the leaders, so I thought we had a shot at it. But you got to be starting in the first couple rows.”
Joe Gibbs Racing saw three of their four cars to a top-10 finishing position. The one missing? Carl Edwards, who started from pole and slipped on a later restart to ruin the strategy which mirrored that of Harvick and Kyle Busch.
One of the biggest headlines entering Sunday was the performance of Jeff Gordon, who took the green flag for the last time at Indy after a historic career at the 2.5-mile circuit.
The Indiana native would get caught up in a crash with Clint Bowyer on lap 50, leading to an off-the-pace car and a 42nd-place finish.
“I was side-by-side with Kasey Kahne,” said Gordon in the garage area, “and I saw the No. 15 get sideways and was just trying to avoid him and we both kind of got loose – I got loose. The car came around and it was just everything I could do to try to recover and not hit the No. 15.”
Tony Stewart wowed the crowd in Saturday qualifying to start the weekend in strong form. Unfortunate for the No. 14 team, late restarts and the strategy plays would cost them dearly, finishing 28th.