Kyle Busch Wins at Kentucky!
Kyle Busch claimed yet another piece of NASCAR history tonight when he became the first driver to ever win a Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway. All three JGR teams would place inside the top 15 with Denny Hamlin finishing 10th and Joey Logano 14th before a packed house at the 1.5-mile track.
Rain canceled Friday’s qualifying session, but it worked to the benefit of Kyle Busch who had posted the fastest lap during the day’s earlier practice session and under this year’s new NASCAR rules would start his No. 18 M&Ms Toyota from the pole. Although his brother Kurt would get a great start to the race and lead through the first competition caution on lap 30, Kyle would move to the front of the field on the race’s restart and dominated through the midpoint of the race. He would restart in the second position on lap 210 after the race’s fourth caution and remain in that spot until his final pit stop with 28 laps to go. Following the green flag cycle of stops, Busch would find himself back out front of the field. When the final caution came out with just five laps remaining, crew chief Dave Rogers made the call to stay out. Despite several competitors coming down pit road for a two-tire change, Busch managed to keep the lead on the final restart with two laps remaining and went on to win the inaugural race at Kentucky Speedway. The dominate car throughout the night, Busch led 125 of the night’s 267 laps en route to his 99th career NASCAR victory (across all three national touring series).
An engine change during Friday’s practice session would result in Hamlin having to take his No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota to the back of the field for the start of tonight’s race. Despite the setback Hamlin would work his way through the field and was able to move into the top 20 following the lap 30 competition caution. Hamlin would race his way into the top 15 as the FedEx crew worked to make improvements on the handle of his No. 11 Camry. Hamlin would come down pit road on lap 153 which allowed him to race on a different cycle than many of the leaders. As the field cycled through green flag stops Hamlin remained on the track to take the lead for five laps. A few laps later he would bring the No. 11 Camry down pit road for his stop and while the FedEx team gave him fresh tires and fuel, a caution would come out. When everything cycled through Hamlin would be ready to restart in the eighth position on lap 210. Tight conditions would persist on the restart and Hamlin would drift back to just outside the top ten, but he battled back over the course of his final run to earn a 10th-place finish.
With qualifying rained out, Joey Logano would start the No. 20 Home Depot from the 15th position based upon his practice time on Friday afternoon. He would remain inside the top 15 through the first competition caution. He would battle handling conditions on his No. 20 Camry through the midpoint of the race, but The Home Depot crew continued to make changes to improve his ability to turn in the corners. Logano would restart in the 20th position on lap 210, but tight conditions on the laps just after a restart would make it difficult to gain position. Once his tires began to build up pressure Logano was able to start the drive forward however, and he managed to climb back inside the top 15 to finish the race 14th.
Busch captured the victory, while David Reutimann was second, Jimmie Johnson third, Ryan Newman fourth, and Carl Edwards was fifth. There were six cautions for a total of 32 laps and 20 lead changes among 12 different drivers over the course of the 267-lap race..
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to New Hampshire next Sunday, July 17. Live Coverage on TNT will start at Noon ET (race starts at 1 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius Radio NASCAR channel 90.