NASCAR

Kyle Busch races to 3rd win of year, moves closer to Chase

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Kyle Busch races to 3rd win of year, moves closer to Chase

LOUDON, N.H. (AP) Stuck in a hospital, Kyle Busch could only think about a comeback, not championship contention.

Could Busch imagine, days after a horrific crash, he would become a title contender?

"Yeah, right," he said. "You're crazy."

Nothing seems preposterous these days for Busch, whose dormant-to-dominant run over the last two months has not only made him a regular in victory lane, but steamrolled him toward the cusp of a Chase berth.

Busch rolled on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, winning for the second straight weekend and the third time in the last four NASCAR Sprint Cup races.

"This is something I'm not sure we ever would have expected," Busch said.

Busch isn't where he needs to be in the standings quite yet. His three wins are certainly enough to earn a Chase for the Sprint Cup championship berth. He's still outside the top 30 in points, which is the second major qualifier to race for the title in the final 10 races of the season.

Busch won at Sonoma Raceway and last week at Kentucky Speedway and is 33rd in the standings, 58 points behind David Gilliland for 30th.

Cole Whitt is 31st and Brett Moffitt 32nd, easy pickings for Busch.

"I'm not sure we've unleashed the beast at all," Busch said.

Busch broke his right leg and left foot in a crash the day before the season-opening Daytona 500. He missed the first 11 races of the season, then returned in late May determined to earn a playoff spot.

Busch, who last won at New Hampshire in July 2006, said Friday he still is bothered by the leg injuries. The aches hardly seemed to matter in the No. 18 Toyota.

"We've got to keep doing our deal," Busch said. "Every week it keeps getting better and better."

Busch has gained 70 points on the 30th spot over the last two races and is not only a threat to qualify for the Chase - but to win it all for Joe Gibbs Racing should he crack the 16-driver field.

"Ever since that injury, he's been on it," Gibbs said. "I don't know what (the deficit is) now but it's sure helping."

With Busch in the field or not, JGR has three other contenders in Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth. Kenseth finished sixth, Edwards started from the pole and was seventh, and Hamlin 14th. JGR took four of the top-five spots at Kentucky. Busch won and Hamlin-Edwards-Kenseth went 3-4-5.

"I think we're certainly back, closer," Gibbs said. "I don't know that we've turned the corner."

NASCAR granted Busch a waiver upon his return that made him Chase eligible, should he qualify. He has seven races left to crack the top 30 before the Chase opens Sept. 20 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Busch had one of his best performances in his comeback, rallying from a lap down to win. Busch, who led 95 laps, stayed out during a late pit stop to take the lead from contenders Brad Keselowski and enseth.

Keselowski was second, followed by Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Keselowski led a race-high 101 laps and his No. 2 Ford appeared the car to beat, leaving him clearly irked at losing the lead with 48 laps left.

How tough would it be to beat Busch in the Chase?

"He's good," Keselowski grumbled, "but we're a good team and I feel like we can beat him."

Crew chief Adam Stevens, in his first season calling the shots in Cup for JGR, made all the right choices to keep Busch in contention for the win and a crack at the top 30.

"I don't have any fears of being able to close that gap," Stevens said.

Busch was joined by son Brexton, born in late May, in victory lane wearing a No. 18 outfit. He should have borrowed his son's bibs for the winner's 21-pound lobster he was awarded in victory lane.

He also made it 12 different winners at the last 12 New Hampshire races, the longest active streak at any track without a multiple-race winner in NASCAR.

On a day with temperatures soaring into the 90s, Matt DiBendendetto and Michael Annett were treated after the race at the NASCAR care center.

"This is one of the warmest days I can remember in this part of the country," Busch said.

Tales of the Turtles 400 coming to Chicagoland Speedway Sept. 17

Tales of the Turtles 400 coming to Chicagoland Speedway Sept. 17

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, titled Tales of the Turtles 400, is coming to Joliet on Sept. 17, Chicagoland Speedway and Nickelodeon announced last week.

It will mark the seventh straight year Chicagoland Speedway will kick off NASCAR's playoffs.

Nickelodeon Sr. Vice President of Sports Marketing Anthony DiCosmo and President of Chicagoland Speedway Scott Paddock joined SportsTalk Live to discuss it all, and even had a few special guests join them as well.

Check it out in the video above.

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Kurt Busch had a monster start to the season with a last-lap pass to win the crash-filled Daytona 500.

Busch is sponsored by Monster Energy, which kicked off its first season as the title sponsor for NASCAR's top series Sunday with the season-opener. It wasn't NASCAR finest moment, though, as multiple accidents pared down the field and had a mismatched group of drivers racing for the win at the end.

"The more that becomes unpredictable about Daytona, the more it becomes predictable to predict unpredictability," Busch said. "This car's completely thrashed. There's not a straight panel on it. The strategy today, who knew what to pit when, what segments were what. Everybody's wrecking as soon as we're done with the second segment.

"The more that I've run this race, the more that I just throw caution to the wind, let it rip and just elbows out. That's what we did."

It appeared to be pole-sitter Chase Elliott's race to lose, then he ran out of gas. So did Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Paul Menard. As they all slipped off the pace, Busch sailed through for his first career Daytona 500 victory.

It also was the first Daytona 500 win for Stewart-Haas Racing, which is co-owned by Tony Stewart. The three-time champion retired at the end of last season and watched his four cars race from the pits.

"I ran this damn race (17) years and couldn't win it, so finally won it as an owner," Stewart said.

Ryan Blaney finished second in a Ford. AJ Allmendinger was third in a Chevrolet, and Aric Almirola was fourth for Richard Petty Motorsports.

The win was a huge boost for Ford, which lured Stewart-Haas Racing away from Chevrolet this season and celebrated the coup with its second Daytona 500 victory in three years. Joey Logano won in a Ford in 2015.

The first points race of the Monster era was run under a new format that split the 500 miles into three stages. Kyle Busch won the first stage, Kevin Harvick won the second stage and neither was a contender for the win. NASCAR also this year passed a rule that gave teams just five minutes to repair any damage on their cars or they were forced to retire.

But the race was slowed by wreck after wreck after wreck, including a 17-car accident at the start of the final stage that ended the race for seven-time and reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson and Danica Patrick. It was a particularly rough incident for Patrick and her Stewart-Haas Racing team, which had all four of its cars collected in the accident.

"Just seems like that could have been avoided and was uncalled for," Johnson said of the aggressive racing behind him that triggered the accident.