Kyle Busch comes up short at Kentucky, but runner-up finish could be start of a turnaround

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Kyle Busch hoped to win all three races this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

He started off strong with a win in Thursday’s Camping World Truck Series race, but fell short of a second straight win on Friday when he finished third in the Nationwide Series race.

Saturday, Busch almost had a chance to salvage a second win for the weekend, but in the end, his Toyota Camry just wasn’t enough to match race winner Brad Keselowski.

Even so, Busch started 18th and finished second in the weekend’s main event, a hard-fought end result for a driver who had struggled at times over the previous seven races.

In fact, Busch’s finish at Kentucky was his best since winning at Fontana in the fifth race of the season.

And Saturday’s finish was also Busch’s first top-five finish since finishing third at Richmond more than two months ago.

“A longshot from where we’ve been this weekend, let alone this year,” Busch told TNT afterward. “It was the most competitive we’ve been and we’ll see how we can keep that speed going on in weeks throughout.”

Keselowski dominated most of the race, but Busch had his time to shine, leading 31 laps in the 267-lap event.

When asked after the race whether he thought he could have held off Keselowski and made it at least two wins for the weekend, Busch felt he could – until his car became progressively looser as the event continued.

“I thought I could,” Busch said. “I got out there in clean air and tried to take advantage of it as much as I could. I tried to hustle it as much as I could there early to get a big lead, and once we got to traffic, I knew I’d back up a little bit.

“That was the loosest I was in the whole race and the loosest I was at the end. I was trying to hang on to it best I could and not wreck. I thought I’d do probably 10 times in the last run.”

Overall, while he failed in his bid to win all three races on the same weekend for only the second time in NASCAR history (he performed that feat for the first and only time in August 2010 at Bristol), Busch and JGR have to feel encouraged by his second-place finish and teammate Matt Kenseth’s fourth-place showing.

Now it’s on to Daytona.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.