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.

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994