Kyle Busch picks up 3rd runner-up finish in last 4 races

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Once Jeff Gordon got in front of Kasey Kahne on a restart with 17 laps to go in today’s Brickyard 400, Kyle Busch knew that he was racing for second place. Again.

“There was no catching [Gordon] – definitely not,” Busch told ESPN after finishing second for the third time in the last four Sprint Cup races. “Those guys were really, really fast.”

Busch took said restart in third behind leader Kasey Kahne and Gordon. After Gordon made the race-winning outside pass on Kahne, Busch was next up and he led his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth, past Kahne’s No. 5 car.

But no one from the JGR trio was going to hunt down Gordon, who went on to become the first five-time NASCAR winner at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s been a recurring situation lately for Busch, who also had to watch Brad Keselowski run away from him at Kentucky in June and again two weeks ago at New Hampshire.

Busch, however, was big enough to give credit where credit was due after Gordon’s victory.

“Jeff may not have led a lot of laps today, but he was always behind somebody in dirty air and in traffic and being able to make passes,” he said. “Not a lot of other guys could do that.

“You’d see us get strung-out and kind of stall out on everybody. It could be just ill-handling race cars, but Jeff was doing a good job on all that. They certainly had a really good car today.”

With that said, Busch noted that he’s lost out on crucial bonus points for the Chase with these recent runner-up performances. Each regular season victory gives a driver three bonus points after the 16-driver Chase Grid is reset to 2,000 points each.

Busch’s spring win at Fontana gives his three bonus points post-reset. But had Busch managed to win Kentucky, New Hampshire and today at Indy, he would have a bigger total of 12 bonus points.

“It would be a little more beneficial to pick up some trophies…But, you know, if we keep going that way, things will pay off sooner or later and we’ll start winning some,” he said.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”