Saturday’s motors: Busch rolls to third straight win

Hank Kurz Jr.
Associated Press

Richmond, Va. — Kyle Busch raced to his third straight victory, celebrated, and then got yelled at by his boss.

Joe Gibbs, it seems, hadn’t seen Busch climb into the crowd to acknowledge what appeared to be friendly fan.

“You did?” Gibbs said. “Oh my gosh! You should not do that. You run a risk.”

For Busch, though, it seemed appropriate, coming at the end of a week marked by ample discussion of his dustup with Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Richmond a decade earlier. That race, many believe, is what cemented Busch’s reputation as NASCAR’s newest on-track villian.

“It was the 10-year anniversary of you know what,” Busch explained, and he could see fans wearing his gear.

On the track, Busch pulled away on a restart in a two-lap overtime sprint to the finish in NASCAR’s Cup Series.

Busch, who started 32nd but quickly worked his way into contention, outran Chase Elliott and teammate Denny Hamlin for his fifth career victory at Richmond Raceway, the most among active drivers. The victory is his 46th overall and came from the deepest starting spot in the field of his career. It also is the deepest starting position for a winner at Richmond, surpassing Clint Bowyer, who started 31st in 2008.

The points leader also matched Kevin Harvick’s three-race winning streak from earlier in the season.

“Pats on the back, everybody,” Busch said on his radio after taking the checkered flag.

The race went more than 350 laps with the only cautions coming after stages one and two, both won by defending race champion Joey Logano, who finished fourth. It remained clean until Ryan Blaney and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. crashed on Lap 353, bringing out the first on-track yellow.

Busch took the lead after the next caution, brought out by the smoking car of Ryan Newman, when he was running second to Truex heading onto pit road and got out first. He also beat Hamlin and Harvick off the line on a restart with six to go, and then never let anyone contend when the race went back to green for the final time on lap 400.

‘The pit crew tonight, they won this race for us,” Busch said. “They got us off pit road first those last two times and got us where we needed to be.”

The three-race winning streak is the second of his career. The first came in 2015, when he won his only championship.

“I don’t know if you can shoot for four in a row,” he said. “It’s hard to go to Tallagega with the much of a winning streak and think that you can get to Victory Lane.”

The end was a bitter pill for Truex, who ran up front all night. He and Busch were dueling after a restart with 23 laps to go, and after Busch pulled away, Truex seemed to be closing ground until a spin by David Ragan brought out the yellow.

All the front-runners pitted, and while Truex’s team struggled mightily in the No. 1 pit stall, Truex could only watch as contender after contender beat him off pit road. He lost at least seven spots by the time NASCAR had sorted out the next restart starting order.

It marked the 75th time he has raced on a short track in NASCAR’s premier series, and perhaps the best chance he’s had in those 17 chances to come away with a victory, but instead he dropped to 0-for-75 on short tracks for his career.

Newgarden claims IndyCar pole

Josef Newgarden grinned when asked if a gloomy weather forecast made it more important to start up front.

“Yeah, for sure,” Newgarden said.

For sure, Newgarden will be the favorite Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park, where he has won two of the past three years and will start from the pole. Newgarden edged fellow Team Penske driver Will Power in the final qualifying lap to earn the third pole position of his career.

He has never started the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama higher than third but has had plenty of success at the track a few hours from his Tennessee hometown.

Power fell just short of his fifth pole at the picturesque 17-turn, 2.3-mile road course, where heavy rain was forecast for Sunday afternoon.

“If it’s going to be wet all day (Sunday), you’re going to want to be out front,” said Newgarden, the defending race and series champion. “There’s no guarantee. You can be pretty terrible in the wet and go backward fast, but it helps.”

Penske has claimed pole eight times in nine years at Alabama. Newgarden turned in a fast lap of 1:07.4413, followed by Power (1:07.4541) and Sebastien Bourdais (1:07.533). Two-time Alabama winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe and Scott Dixon rounded out the top six.

Series points leader Alexander Rossi , who started and finished first at Long Beach, failed to make it to that point. He’ll start eighth.

Dixon has finished on the podium in seven of his eight starts at Barber with five runners-up but hasn’t won yet.

Hinchcliffe has some experience winning a rainy day race in case the weather proves as dicey as forecast. He won at NOLA Motorsports Park in 2015 when more than half the rain-shortened race was run under caution.