Kyle Busch leads surprising group of Chasers in Top 10 at Kansas

1 Comment

Kyle Busch is probably muttering “Hallelujah” right now.

After all, he and his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team’s prayers were answered.

Busch was motoring along in the Top 5 late in today’s Contender Round opener at Kansas Speedway when an apparent engine issue started to develop.

“Y’all better pray it’s going to make it,” Busch reportedly said over the team radio.

Considering Kansas has been a rather hellish place for Busch in regards to results over the course of Sprint Cup career, perhaps him asking for divine help was understandable.

But whether it was the work of angels or a sturdy Toyota motor, Busch avoided calamity and picked up a third-place finish behind winner Joey Logano and runner-up Kyle Larson.

With his best-ever Cup finish at Kansas, Busch is now second in the Chase Grid going into next weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, 19 points over the cutoff to advance to the Eliminator Round.

“It says good things about us,” said Busch, who recovered from a speeding penalty on pit road near the midway point of the race. “…I can’t say enough about [crew chief] Dave Rogers and the fight in this 18 bunch. They’ve done a really good job this year, this Chase time. It’s a matter of just trying to keep piecing these [results] together like that.

“Mile-and-a-halves [tracks] haven’t been our strong suit this year, and we know we have some work to do on that program. [Logano and Larson] just left us. They were flat out flying today, and I’m sure there are a couple other cars that were good enough to finish third, fourth, fifth. We were probably sixth or seventh, but we’ll take a third.”

Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin, also acknowledged the performance gap between JGR and the front-running Hendrick and Penske teams.

But with all four of the Hendrick drivers and Penske’s Brad Keselowski suffering various setbacks today, Hamlin’s seventh-place run puts him fifth on the Chase Grid, 14 points to the good.

“We didn’t think we were going to contend here for a win today, but we knew we could contend for a Top-5, Top-10 finish and we did,” said Hamlin.

“I saw those guys around us having a lot of issues, and we don’t have a lot of the speed that those guys have. So maybe if we can get them out in this round, we can get a fighting chance and get to the end of this thing.”

In between Busch and Hamlin were two more surprises – Carl Edwards in fifth and Ryan Newman in sixth. That gives both Edwards and Newman identical 16-point cushions over the cutoff.

For Edwards, it’s his sixth Top-5 finish and his 11th Top-10 finish in 15 starts at Kansas, but he’s still searching for his first win there.

As for Newman, he went to the lead during a round of yellow-flag stops with less than 40 laps to go and held the point following a restart with 33 to go.

But another yellow quickly came out and set up another restart with 28 to go. It was there that Newman apparently decided to look at the big picture.

“I was a leader and a sitting duck,” Newman said. “The first restart, I think I got a push from [Logano] and he shot me out just enough so I could run around [Busch]. But the next restart, I saw [Busch] out there gaining, gaining, gaining. I thought to myself, ‘Blocking is probably not the best thing to do in this position.’

“I knew a lot of the other guys were having a bad day. I could’ve been a little bit more aggressive on my part, but that would’ve put him more aggressive if he was in a bad mood.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.



Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III