Kyle Busch wins another NASCAR Truck race, this time at Charlotte

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Last week. The track was Kansas Speedway. The top three trucks were 51-88-19.

Friday night. The track was Charlotte Motor Speedway. The top three trucks were 51-88-19.

The result? Nearly identical.

Kyle Busch won his second straight NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race this evening in the No. 51 Hire Our Heroes/Toyota Care Toyota, from Matt Crafton and the No. 19 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford driven by BK himself.

The win is Busch’s 38th overall, and fourth in his last four starts dating to 2013 (three-for-three this year) in the Truck Series.

The only difference from the top three last week was that Joey Logano drove the No. 19 BKR Ford in Kansas. These were also the top three starters in Friday night’s race.

For Busch, this Friday night was yet another crushing tour de force, his 19th win on a 1.5-mile track and his fourth straight in a truck at Charlotte. He led 130 of 134 laps.

“This thing was stout, it showed in qualifying, and showed in the race,” Busch said in victory lane. “It was a fun race for us. We had a dominant beast, especially on the long runs. It seemed like in traffic, I didn’t lose as much as other guys. There’s no secrets (to restarts) – the biggest thing was just timing. You play those games, and see them happening. I try not to do that do often.”

Crafton was second, the fifth time he’s finished second to Busch in the trucks.

“I’m gonna have to whoop him in some way. I’m getting tired of it,” Crafton joked post-race. “We struggled a bit on pit road, although we got back some track position. The last five laps it just went away, but overall not a bad run.”

With his third top five finish of the season, Crafton is the points leader by 11 points over Timothy Peters.

Said Keselowski, who finished third: “I was wishing for a caution, just not all the ones with 25-30 to go. We were trying to snooker Kyle but didn’t get the chance. It wasn’t meant to be. We are trying to find a little bit more speed to run with the 51.”

Behind the top three, John Wes Townley finished a career-best fourth, although his night was marred by a moment of contact where he attempted to thread the needle between Keselowski’s teammate Ryan Blaney and Brian Ickler in the tri-oval. Peters finished fifth.

On Lap 105, Townley pitched Blaney, whose truck took off when it hit the grass at the second apex of the tri-oval, then slid up the road into Ickler who had nowhere to go.

Said Blaney of JWT, “(Expletive) happens. I don’t know what he was thinking.”

The Blaney-Ickler accident was one of several over the course of the races, which was interrupted by nine cautions for 47 laps.

The series resumes at Dover in two weeks, on Friday, May 30.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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