Who’s In The Headline
After events conspired against him at Chicagoland Speedway, the stars aligned for Kyle Busch in Loudon to allow him to win his 41st career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. He was in second place at the mid-point of the race when Kevin Harvick spun and ended up sideways in the middle of the backstretch. As race leader Martin Truex Jr. got caught up in the wreck, Busch made an evasive maneuver to slip between Harvick and the wall with inches to spare. Busch led all but three of the last 150 laps to soundly defeat the rest of the competition.
Busch won his second consecutive pole and led the first 39 laps of the race. Truex took over the lead and grabbed the first stage win. Kyle Larson led a lap under the caution after the stage. Truex led from there until the incident, stole the top spot with a two-tire stop with 36 laps to go, but couldn’t hold off the four tires of Busch, who then cruised to the win.
Kurt Busch was knocked out of the race in the crash with Harvick and was dealt a crushing blow to his title hopes. While he can technically make the next round on points, it is a long shot. The same holds true for Kasey Kahne, who broke a rear suspension piece and finished 35th, now sitting 16th in points.
Why You Should Care
Some NASCAR fans are howling about the perceived advantage of the Toyotas. The first two races of the playoffs have supported that, at least in Victory Lane. Truex is already almost guaranteed entry into the Round of 4, and Busch has proven to be just as fast over the last two races. Larson is poised to be there with them, while Jimmie Johnson cannot be counted out with Texas Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway in the penultimate round. Joe Gibbs Racing, with its Furniture Row Racing affiliation, could very easily have all four teams in the final round.
What Your Friends Are Talking About
President Donald Trump put out some inflammatory comments about professional football players and their National Anthem protests. The patriotism in the NASCAR fanbase is second to none, so any kind of protest would most likely be met with very strong opinions.
Team owners Richard Childress and Richard Petty were both asked about how employees would be treated, should they choose to protest. Childress said the employee would earn a Greyhound bus ride home. Petty stated any employee would be fired. Andrew Murstein, majority owner of Richard Petty Motorsports, affirmed that he would not fire the employee(s), but would sit down with them and explain why he would choose to not protest during the anthem.
— Adam Stern (@A_S12) September 24, 2017
Joey Logano failed to make a qualifying attempt at New Hampshire after his team had numerous failures in pre-qualifying technical inspection. As a result Logano was penalized practice time. Practice penalties are served by the driver pulling onto pit lane and parking at the end, waiting until the penalty time expires. Logano was penalized so much time that he would miss the entire final practice. NASCAR still made him sit on pit road for the entire period. First time anyone could remember such a penalty being enforced that way.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted to Bob Pockrass for clarification. When Pockrass confirmed they were making Logano sit on pit lane for the entire practice, Earnhardt dropped an F bomb on Twitter. A firestorm of public opinion erupted between people offended and supporting NASCAR’s most popular driver. With all of the talk of the First Amendment this weekend, it was an interesting discussion. Earnhardt blamed his surliness on his wife staying in North Carolina for the weekend.
After it was announced that Kahne would leave Hendrick Motorsports after this season, there was much speculation about where he’d end up. That question was answered this week as Kahne signed to drive next year for Leavine Family Racing in the No. 95 car. While Kahne fans are pleased, the followers of Michael McDowell are hoping he’ll be able to find another gig since he was booted from the LFR ride. McDowell is a talented driver who would be a great addition to a team who needs someone to put their car in the show and not tear it up.
Before Kahne leaves Hendrick, he has the little thing called the playoffs to finish out. As an evaluation tool for the No. 5 team, Keith Rodden is out as crew chief. HMS has put veteran Darien Grubb into the role to try and figure out how to turn the fortunes of the team around.
The lights at Martinsville Speedway were reportedly installed as a security measure against races running late at the only track still on the schedule from the first year of NASCAR. As a bonus, it gave the speedway the opportunity to run the annual Late Model race at night. The first display of the multi-million dollar lighting system was Saturday night when Timothy Peters win the Late Model tilt. Peters has gone through a roller coaster year with the shuttering of Red Horse Racing. The addition of a second grandfather clock to his collection is a nice addition.
Speaking of the lights, Martinsville pitched them as a security blanket but that has already turned into a marketing campaign. During the Late Model race they continuously pitched the fact that the Cup race in October will start during the daytime but will end under the lights. You can bet that will be a complete night race in the very near future.
Who is Mad
Kurt Busch was not having a great race, but he was working through his issues with his team to try and make his car better. With the laps winding down in stage 2, he was just hoping to get to the end of the stage without losing the lead lap. Unfortunately for Busch, Harvick spun in the middle of the back straight and the resulting contact with his teammate knocked both of them out of the race.
Brad Keselowski continues to trumpet his mantra that Toyotas have an unfair advantage based on the current rules. Unfortunately for Keselowski, he came home in fourth and Larson crossed the line in second. If you continue to wine aloud about the dramatic advantage of another manufacturer yet manage to beat the vast majority of cars from that car maker, you wind up with egg on your face. He is going to have to come up with a new spin to support his narrative.
Who is Happy
There are championship moments in every successful season. Some of them do not result in victories on the track but in moral victories that help define the character of a team. Sunday did that for Truex. He had damage from the big wreck on the back straight that put him behind the field at the halfway point of the race. While his car’s handling was compromised, he managed to get close to the front and a pit call by his team found him the rest of the spots that he needed to get to the point. While he didn’t hold it, he finished with a fifth place run. In the end, that kind of determination could result in the run at Homestead that wins the No. 78 team the title.
One of the rare instances from today’s race, Keselowski falls into the mad and happy categories. While he’s mad because he’s not going to get any free advantage on the other teams from NASCAR, he is locked into the second round of the playoffs without heading to Dover. He and Larson are both happy about this development. While they will run at Dover it does not matter where they finish, they will advance.
When The Checkered Flag Flew
- In his 454th career start, Kyle Busch won his 41st Cup race.
- Busch as won three times at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in his career.
- This is Busch’s third victory of 2017.
- The triumph puts Busch in 17th on the All-Time win list, one position ahead of Mark Martin. The only drivers with more victories than Busch who are not in the NASCAR Hall of Fame are Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart.
- Kyle Larson was the first loser on Sunday for his 12th top two of the season.
- Larson has three career second place finishes at New Hampshire, including both races in 2017.
- The runner-up is the 14th of Larson’s career, which makes him 54th on the All-Time list.
- Matt Kenseth rounded out the podium at New Hampshire. It is his third top three of the year.
- Kenseth has eight career top three finishes at Loudon. On the All-Time list, Kenseth ranks 22nd in a tie with Ricky Rudd.
- Rookie of the Race was Erik Jones. This is the thirteenth win of the year for Jones. Daniel Suarez has won the Rookie of the Race twelve times this season. Ty Dillon has been bestowed the award three times.
The victory for Kyle Busch gives him an automatic berth into the second round of the playoffs. He joins Martin Truex Jr. as the two drivers who are guaranteed to advance to the next round. With the addition of the six playoff points for the win Sunday and the stage win, Busch now has 36 for the season. The remainder of the playoff contenders with the rank, points and playoff points:
- Kyle Larson – 2125 – 33
- Brad Keselowski – 2106 – 19
- Denny Hamlin – 2088 – 13
- Matt Kenseth – 2087 – 5
- Jimmie Johnson – 2076 – 17
- Ryan Blaney – 2070 – 8
- Chase Elliott – 2070 – 6
- Kevin Harvick – 2069 – 15
- Jamie McMurray – 2053 – 3
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 2044 – 10
- Austin Dillon – 2044 – 5
- Ryan Newman – 2043 – 5
- Kurt Busch – 2027 – 5
- Kasey Kahne – 2023 – 5
What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)
For fans who have had issues with insomnia of late, the last two Cup races have gone a long way to cure that. As they have for the last three races at New Hampshire, Toyota dominated the race, leading all but one lap. Truex and Busch made a mockery of the event and, after Truex’s damage in the wreck, it was all Busch to the victory. The result is back-to-back, single beer ratings. This one gets one tepid Backwoods Ales from Big Water Brewery.[poll id=”16″]
Where Do You Point Your DVR For Next Week?
The first round of the playoffs will be completed at the concrete mile in Dover Delaware. The action from Dover International Speedway can be seen on NBCSN at 2:00 p.m ET. The race can also be viewed on the NBC Sports app. To hear the race, tune to your local MRN affiliate, www.motorracingnetwork.com or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.