Sunday’s motor sports: Busch breaks through at Pocono
Long Pond, Pa. — Kyle Busch watched the number of laps he’s led this season tick, tick, tick as it crossed 1,000, and he only really cared about the lap he hadn’t led: the last one.
“We’ve had speed. We’ve been right there,” Busch said. “We’ve been able to do what we should be doing and that’s running up front.”
For all that time up front, Busch also had the longest losing streak of his career, a rare recession over his time building a resume even NASCAR Hall of Famers would envy, with the 2015 Cup championship, 176 wins over three series and an elite ride for Joe Gibbs Racing.
He can add two more feats to the list — 13 straight years with a Cup win and his first checkered flag at Pocono.
Busch used a bump-and-run on Kevin Harvick to take the lead with 16 laps left and held on to snap a 36-race losing streak and win the NASCAR Cup race at Pocono Raceway on Sunday.
“I never thought this day would happen,” Busch said.
Busch won from the pole and gave Toyota its 100th Cup win since its 2007 debut. Busch had Toyota’s first Cup win in March 2008 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Busch had never gone a full season without winning a race. Charlotte Motor Speedway is now the only track where he’s failed to win a Cup points race.
“I wasn’t sure which one was going to be last,” he said.
Busch had seven top-five finishes this season and was runner-up to Austin Dillon in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. All the near misses have gnawed at Busch, who won the All-Star race — at Charlotte. But the exhibition race doesn’t count in the season standings and Busch was in a victory slump that dated to the 2016 Brickyard 400.
He was racing for the lead last weekend in the Brickyard 400 when he wrecked with Martin Truex Jr., which led to a pit road altercation between members of both teams.
He also won his 176th career NASCAR race over the Cup (39), Xfinity (89) and Truck (48) series.
“We’ve all been fighting all year long and just wasn’t sure why,” Busch said. “This is something I’ve been waiting for for a long, long time. It’s been a frustrating year but an awesome day today.”
Harvick finished second, followed by Truex, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski. Harvick, who hasn’t won in 34 career races at Pocono, said he had nothing for Busch down the stretch.
“There was no battle. He was way faster than we were,” Harvick said.
Crew chief Adam Stevens made the right calls a week after his confrontation on pit road with members of Truex’s team. JGR suspended two of Truex’s tire changers because of the profane outburst at the Brickyard. JGR provides the pit crew for Furniture Row Racing as part of a technical alliance, giving them the authority to suspend members of the FRR team.
Busch earned a spot in NASCAR’s playoffs, a significant victory that left just three open spots with five races left before the 16-driver field is set. JGR had been winless overall until Hamlin won two weeks ago at New Hampshire.
“I didn’t fear we wouldn’t make the Chase with our points position,” Stevens said.
Samantha Busch was stressed about her husband’s season, tweeting before the race , “160 laps. We haven’t even started and I’m a ball of nerves. Please let this be the day for the 18!”
It was. She was in tears over the final laps and celebrated in victory lane a win that her husband dedicated to his late grandmother.
Up next, a run at a second championship.
“I think our stats and our runs and our speed shows for itself,” Busch said.
Josef Newgarden dominated at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course at Lexington, Ohio, on the way to his second straight IndyCar victory at the Honda Indy 200.
Newgarden was not challenged most of the day on the 90-lap, 2.2-mile course and finished 5.156 seconds ahead of Team Penske teammate Will Power, the pole-sitter. Newgarden won at Toronto on July 16 and has six career wins, three this season.
Local favorite Graham Rahal was third and 2016 champion Simon Pagenaud finished fourth.
Newgarden showed his intentions early when he made an inside pass on Power on the 14th lap. Rahal took a temporary lead when Newgarden pitted on lap 41 but when Rahal went in the next time around, Newgarden went to the front.
By lap 50, the Tennessee native had extended his lead over Power to 6.5 seconds.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel overcame steering difficulties to win a tense Hungarian Grand Prix at Budapest, Hungary, and extend his championship lead over rival Lewis Hamilton heading into the summer break.
The four-time Formula One champion made a decent start from pole position, crucially holding off teammate Kimi Raikkonen on the long straight into Turn 1. On a Hungaroring track where overtaking is notoriously hard, there were limited chances to catch him after that.
But Vettel was hampered by a steering issue for more than half the race, allowing the Mercedes cars to close the gap on him and Raikkonen — who in turn was being slowed down by Vettel.
But Vettel held on for his 46th career win, while Raikkonen expertly defended his position for a Ferrari 1-2.
J.R. Todd became the first black winner in NHRA Funny Car history, beating Tim Wilkerson in the Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma, California.
The 35-year-old Todd, from Lawrenceburg, Indiana, also joined Don Prudhomme as the only NHRA drivers to win at Sonoma Raceway in both nitro categories. Todd won nine times in Top Fuel.
Todd beat Wilkerson with a 4.049-second pass at 323.27 mph in a Toyota Camry.
August MIS races
What: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pure Michigan 400
When: 3 p.m. Aug. 13
2016 winner: Kyle Larson
Support race: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, 1 p.m. Aug. 12 (FS1)