NASCAR: Late strategy call gives Kyle Busch runner-up finish at N.H.

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Kyle Busch just made it to the finish in today’s Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, as a late strategy call enabled him to take second place despite running out of fuel in sight of the checkered flag.

When the caution came out for debris at Lap 249, Busch was among a handful of drivers that stayed out on the track in a bid to finish on fuel. Things were looking good until Justin Allgaier found the wall with four laps to go and sent the race into Green-White -Checkered.

Two of the drivers that stayed out on the Lap 249 caution with Busch – Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick – ran dry leading up to the G-W-C restart. But Busch had just enough in the tank to climb into second in the final rush, and he was able to hold on to the spot.

After leading the first 62 laps today, Busch picked up his third consecutive runner-up finish at the Magic Mile.

“We just kind of fought turning in the center all weekend,” Busch told TNT. “I thought we were close at the start of the race. I thought they made good adjustments overnight and got us going there early, but every time here, about 40-50 laps in, I just didn’t have any more front turn.

“But the guys did a great job today. This Interstate Batteries Camry was good and we should’ve been anywhere between fourth or sixth. We made a gutsy call there to stay out and see if we can make it on fuel, and we just barely made it – ran out right at start/finish.”

Thanks to his win earlier this season at Auto Club Speedway, Busch is pretty much set on the Chase Grid. NASCAR’s postseason will feature New Hampshire again in September for the second Chase race.

But when asked about the most positive thing in his team’s favor going into that return visit, Busch said his job was simply not to screw up the momentum he and his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team have built up in Loudon.

“We’ve got good things going for us right now here,” he noted. “We’ve finished second [at New Hampshire] three times in a row…So, we’re close. No need to screw that up and finish worse than second.”

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “