Love him or hate him, there’s no denying 2015 has been one of the most stressful years in the career of Kyle Busch. He missed nearly three full months after suffering multiple broken bones following a wreck at the Daytona XFINITY race that opened the season in February.
Winning races took a back seat to regaining his health. The Chase was a distant thought, but Busch knew the sooner he could get back to full health and be cleared to race, the faster he could start the charge to get to the goal.
Win a race, get to the top 30 in points, and earn a spot for the Chase.
It took all of five races, but Busch can kick the first part of the mission off the to-do list.
Taking the lead away from Jimmie Johnson with five laps to go, Busch grabbed the checkered flag at the Toyota/SaveMart 350 on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Sonoma Raceway. Kyle beat Kurt Busch by .532 seconds and zoomed into Chase contention.
He may have one more hurdle ahead to make the Chase, but the win was the most satisfying moment for the younger Busch brother. Busch broke a streak of 10 straight different race winners at
Sonoma and won for the first time on the
1.99-mile road course since 2008.
“Normally it's kind of a nightmare for us sometimes and this 18 team, but we had a great day today,” he said in the post-race media center interview. “We needed to come in and get tires, and that was going to be our best chance to win the race.”
After the last of the race’s five cautions came out at lap 100, only 10 laps from the finish, Busch’s crew chief, Adam Stevens, knew the timing was right to get the work done.
“We had decent short run speed and were able to show it on some mock runs,” Stevens said. “There at the end, it just kind of fell into the strategy that we wanted to run anyway, and we knew that we didn't have what we needed to outrun them on old tires, so it was a no-brainer call for me to come down and do everything we could to put him in a position where he could drive to the front.”
With 10 races remaining until the Chase field is set, Busch sits 37th in points, 136 behind 30th-place Cole Whitt. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver likes his chances to be in the championship mix.
“Yeah, you know, certainly it's feasible. There's no reason why it shouldn't be,” Busch said. “This team is good enough to be that way, and I should be good enough to be that way.
“Now having a win, I think that that treats us a little bit better. We don't have to race as hard for a
NOTES: Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer (who finished third after qualifying sixth) were the only drivers who qualified and finished in the top 10 Sunday at
Pole-sitter and Los Gatos
native A.J. Allmendinger had to replace a fuel cell in his No. 47 and finished
37th, 12 laps down. … Fox finished its 15th season of
NASCAR broadcasts at Sonoma
and will make one big change for 2016. Larry McReynolds will move from the
booth to the Hollywood Hotel, and Jeff Gordon will join Mike Joy and Darrell
Waltrip to call the races. … NBC Sports will return and start its coverage of
the rest of the 2015 season at Daytona for the 4th of July weekend.
The XFINITY Subway Firecracker 250 runs Saturday on NBC Sports Network, then
the Coke Zero 400 happens next Sunday night on NBC. Rick Allen will call the
races after 12 years as the voice of the Camping World Truck Series on Fox.
NEXT WEEK'S RACES
Daytona International Speedway (2.5-mile superspeedway), Daytona Beach, Florida
SPRINT CUP: Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola, Sunday, 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT, NBC. Radio: SiriusXM Channel 90 or local MRN Radio affiliate.
Race distance: 400 miles, 160 laps.
2014 champion: Aric Almirola
XFINITY SERIES: Subway Firecracker 250, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 PT, NBC Sports Network. Radio: SiriusXM Channel 90 or local MRN Radio affiliate.
Race distance: 250 miles, 100 laps
2014 champion: Kasey Kahne
CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES: Off until July 9 for the UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway.