NASCAR

Kyle Busch grabs Brickyard 400 victory as comeback continues

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Kyle Busch grabs Brickyard 400 victory as comeback continues

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) There was no celebratory burnout - Kyle Busch has done plenty of those the last few weeks - just another big, fat kiss at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Busch's triumphant return following a horrible crash the day before the season-opening Daytona 500 continued Sunday with one of the biggest wins of his career. He grabbed an elusive victory at Indy, where Busch won the Brickyard 400 for a weekend sweep at the historic track.

Busch missed the first 11 races of the season with a broken right leg and broken left foot. He returned in late May and has won three consecutive Sprint Cup Series races and four of the last five.

His latest win was celebrated with the traditional kissing of the Yard of Bricks, where he was accompanied by his wife and son, who was born in May.

"Being away for 11 weeks, it was tough. It was pretty hard times," Busch said. "It was tough to fight through all those things that I had to go through, Samantha had to go through while she was pregnant. She was helping me. All the steps that we went through to get back into the race car were quite challenging.

"But once we've been back, I felt like I just continued right on my stride. This has been a phenomenal return. I won't say phenomenal year because it was a dismal year to start, but I guess I'll take that 11-week vacation any year if it's going to look like this."

Now he has a prestigious Brickyard victory to give him one of NASCAR's elusive crown jewels. His Indianapolis victory ranks alongside his Southern 500 win at Darlington Raceway as the biggest of his career.

"Maybe I found my happy place," Busch said in victory lane when asked if he has found a new perspective since he was injured in a crash the day before the season-opening Daytona. 500.

Busch, who also won the second-tier Xfinity Series race Saturday at Indianapolis, moved 23 points away from cracking the top 30 in the standings. NASCAR granted him a waiver that will make him eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship should he be ranked inside the top 30 in points.

"We're a championship contending team, we just need to be championship eligible," Busch said.

The win for Joe Gibbs Racing was the first Sprint Cup Series victory at Indianapolis for Toyota, which has now won at all 23 active tracks. Toyota has won the last six national series races dating back to Busch's win at Kentucky, and JGR has won four consecutive poles and four consecutive races.

Chevrolet had entered the race on a 12-year winning streak and had won 16 of the 21 Brickyards. The manufacturer also won the Indianapolis 500 in May with Roger Penske driver Juan Pablo Montoya.

But Penske was denied his first Brickyard 400 win when Joey Logano finished second to Busch on Sunday in a Ford.

"Geez, I guess Kyle's back," Daytona 500 winner Logano said. "It's just so frustrating running second at the Brickyard. Second hurts."

Busch knows that all too well. He finished second in two of the previous three Brickyards.

Kevin Harvick was third in a Chevrolet, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Busch teammate Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer. Matt Kenseth, another Gibbs driver, was seventh, followed by Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson.

Penske driver Brad Keselowski rounded out the top 10.

Jeff Gordon's final Brickyard 400 was a huge bust as an early spin caused considerable damage that eventually sent him to the garage for repairs. Gordon, who has a record five victories at Indianapolis, finished 42nd. He's retiring at the end of the year.

"It was disappointing," Gordon said. "I have had an amazing career here in Indy. The fans have been spectacular. I am not going to let a couple races overthrow the races that have gone well."

Two-time Brickyard winner Tony Stewart was strong early but strategy backfired on the Indiana native and he finished 28th.

NASCAR used a track-specific rules package Sunday that was designed to improve the racing on a track that has proven to be incredibly hard to pass at since the heavy stock cars began racing on the Brickyard.

But the low-drag package didn't appear to be much of an improvement as drivers complained all weekend that the turbulence was too strong around their car when they'd close in on another. In the end, there were 16 lead changes among six drivers and Harvick, who called Sunday's race "a science project," led a race-high 75 laps.

"I think everybody put in a lot of effort to really try to make everything a lot better, spent a lot of money, but I don't know that we accomplished everything that we were looking to accomplish," Harvick said.

Aside from the lack of improved competition, the cars were extremely hot inside the cockpit because the aerodynamic package was trapping air inside. Busch was one of many drivers physically drained following Saturday's race, and Sunday's race seemed to have the same consequence.

This same rules package is scheduled to be used next month at Michigan.

"I got a huge blister on my foot," Logano said. "I think the extended bumper cover on the back of these things doesn't let the airflow underneath the car like it used to without it, and I think it builds the inside temperature up. I've got sweat in my eyes.

"It's just too hot inside those cars."

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.