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Sunday's motors: Kyle Busch ends Hendrick win streak at Pocono

Associated Press

Long Pond, Pa. — Kyle Busch came through in the clutch. Even when he raced without one.

Busch busted Hendrick Motorsports’ winning streak and denied the organization a shot at NASCAR history when he raced to his second vicrory of the season Sunday at Pocono Raceway.

Fans cheer as Kyle Busch stands on the window opening of his race car and celebrates winning a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Pocono Raceway, Sunday, June 27, 2021, in Long Pond, Pa.

He needs to give credit to his tag-team partner. Busch, runner-up in Saturday’s Pocono race, led a few laps early until a leak in No. 18 Toyota’s transmission left the car stuck in fourth gear. Busch had a Joe Gibbs Racing crew member jump into his car and work on the shift stick.

“I’m going to need a push truck to get to Victory Lane because I have no clutch,” Busch said on the radio.

The 2 1/2-mile tri-oval wreaked havoc on fuel and William Byron and Denny Hamlin all saw their shot at the checkered flag disappear over the final five laps when they ran out of gas.

“Sometimes these races aren’t always won the fastest car,” Busch said.

Hamlin faded to 14th.

“Fuel mileage got us the last two weeks,” Hamlin said. “We can't see the checkered right now.”

Kyle Larson, whose blown tire on the last lap cost him a win Saturday, was second for Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick had won six straight Cup races, including Alex Bowman’s victory Saturday in the first race of Pocono’s doubleheader.

Hendrick was trying to become the first team since NASCAR’s modern era began in 1972 to win seven straight races.

Bowman started the streak in May at Dover and Chase Elliott followed the next week at Texas. Larson then ripped off three straight points victories at Charlotte, Sonoma and last week at Nashville — and squeezed in the $1 million All-Star race for four wins, total — all while Hendrick Motorsports became the winningest organization in NASCAR history.

Brad Keselowski was third, Kevin Harvick fourth and Bubba Wallace was fifth in his best finish of the season for Michael Jordan’s 23IX team.

More of Sunday's motorsports

► Cindric wins 4th Xfinity Series race of season at Pocono

LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Austin Cindric won his fourth Xfinity Series race of the season, holding off a hard-charging Ty Gibbs on a Sunday full of big hits at Pocono Raceway.

Cindric, the reigning champion in NASCAR's second-tier series, won the season opener at Daytona and added victories at Phoenix and Dover to grab the points lead. The 22-year-old Cindric has this final season before a scheduled move next year to Cup to drive for Wood Brothers Racing.

With Brad Keselowski seemingly headed to Roush Fenway Racing, Cindric, though, could instead move directly into the No. 2 Ford at Team Penske.

He will make his sixth Cup start of the season next week at Road America in Wisconsin.

Gibbs was second, followed by Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson and AJ Allmendinger.

Cindric won his 12th career Xfinity race, his 3-second lead down the stretch clipped to a half-second by Gibbs over the final two laps.

“This thing’s never easy. I had to avoid two wrecks today,” Cindric said. “This track was on our kill list since last year.”

The scariest moment came 25 laps into the race when Justin Haley hit the outside wall, skidded across the track and slammed into the inside wall. Haley’s Chevrolet shot into the track and took a stiff shot from Ryan Vargas. Haley instantly climbed out the window and lay down on the track. The race was red-flagged and Haley soon walked to an ambulance.

“I couldn’t breathe. The air got knocked out of me,” Haley said. “I haven’t taken one that hard in a while. I really didn’t know what to do. I tried to breathe. I kind of hopped out and decided to lay down.”

Haley had been scheduled to run the Cup race but was replaced by Allgaier in the No. 77 for Spire Motorsports.

Vargas was collateral damage in the wreck. He took it hard as he was racing in the memory of Brian Lear, a car chief for the team, who died in May.

“I hate that we wrecked with Lear on the hood. I miss him a lot,” Vargas said, a catch in his voice. “I just hate disappointing and I feel like I did that today. Yeah.”

NASCAR ran a Truck Series race and Cup race on Saturday and the second Cup race was set to follow later in the day, making Pocono the busiest race weekend on the season schedule.

Sam Mayer, who turned 18 on Saturday, finished 18th in his highly anticipated debut.

Cindric, Allmendinger, Allgaier, Jeb Burton and Myatt Snider have all clinched berths in the Xfinity playoffs.

Cindric made it six different winners in six Xfinity races at Pocono.

► Verstappen dominates Styrian GP for his 4th win of F1 season

Spielberg, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen has won half of the races this Formula One season.

And if that wasn't worrying enough for his rivals, his car keeps getting faster and faster.

The championship leader dominated the Styrian Grand Prix on Sunday to win back-to-back races for the first time in his career.

Leading from start to finish, it was “super nice to drive,” the Dutchman said. “I could keep my pace consistent to the end. The balance of the car was the best so far this season.”

Verstappen has won three of the last four races, and only a tire issue when leading in Azerbaijan prevented him from making it four.

With a clean start from pole in Sunday's race, the Red Bull driver denied Lewis Hamilton an early attack and he remained ahead for the entire race, beating his Mercedes rival by more than 35 seconds.

Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas finished third ahead of Sergio Perez as Red Bull and Mercedes occupied the top four places for the second consecutive time.

“The car was on fire,” Verstappen said over the team radio after crossing the finish line.

Verstappen won a few tenths from Hamilton in most of the laps and was already more than three seconds ahead of Hamilton after 10 laps.

“Straight away I felt good balance in the car,” he said. “It was good to manage the tires basically from the start. We just kept on going, trying to hit our lap times and that worked really well today.”

It was Verstappen’s 14th career win and fourth of the season, increasing his lead over the seven-time world champion in the drivers’ standings to 18 points after eight races. A race win is worth 25 points.

With Red Bull gaining more momentum over Mercedes in every race, Hamilton is gradually losing sight of his record eighth title this season.

That, however, was not on the Briton's mind after eight of 23 races.

“I try not to concern myself with that. Naturally, they are faster so there is not a lot I can do in that respect," Hamilton said.

Losing 0.25 seconds on Verstappen on the straights left Hamilton with few options. He pushed and reduced the deficit on some laps, but then had to be more cautious on others to protect his tires from overheating.

Left with no chance to overtake Verstappen, Hamilton pitted again in the penultimate lap and successfully beat the fastest lap time held by Perez at that time, earning him a bonus point though the deficit to Verstappen grew to over half a minute.

“It was a bit of a lonely race, really. I was trying to keep up with those guys but the speed they have... They obviously made some big improvements over the last couple of races,” Hamilton said. “It was impossible to keep up. I don’t know where we are losing all this time.”

Bottas had the second fastest time in qualifying but started the race from fifth following a three-place grid penalty for spinning in the pitlane during Friday’s practice.

“From where I started this was the maximum today. Bit of damage limitation,” said the Finn after holding off a late challenge from Perez for third place.

Red Bull squandered a potential 1-3 finish with a slow pit stop for Perez, which lasted for nearly five seconds due to an issue with the left-rear tire.

Racing on its home track in the Austrian Alps, Red Bull stretched its winning streak to four races, as Hamilton’s wait for his 99th career victory reached the seven-week mark.

The last time Hamilton went without a win in four straight races came more than three years ago, spanning the last three races of 2017 and the first three of the following season.

The top four went more than a full lap ahead of the rest of the field, led by McLaren’s Lando Norris in front of both Ferraris.

In a tumultuous start to the race for the midpack runners, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly touched in heavy traffic, which forced Leclerc to pit right away to repair damage to his front wing, while Gasly went out of the race with damage to his rear-right tire.

Leclerc managed to work his way back to seventh place, just behind teammate Carlos Sainz.

Gasly’s teammate Yuki Tsunoda still scored a point for Alpha Tauri in 10th, finishing behind Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso in eighth and ninth, respectively.

Williams driver George Russell, who is a candidate for Mercedes from 2022 if Bottas were to leave the team, had to retire after two-thirds of the race with a power-unit issue.

The Austrian GP on the same track is scheduled for next Sunday.