Kyle Busch/No.18 M&M’s Crispy Toyota won the 27th Annual Toyota/Save Mart 350 race at Sonoma Raceway, The new father may still walk with a limp from his February fractures, but he had a lead foot when it counted in the waning laps of the 110-lap NASCAR Sprint Cup race. He floored it from seventh place on the last restart and plowed through the field on new tires.
Kyle Busch Photos by Mike and Jeff Burghardt.
This was the fourth road course win for Kyle, second victory at the ten-turn, 1.99-mile road course at Sonoma Raceway, and his 30th Cup win. He now has the third most road course wins among the active Cup drivers.
It was the first Cup win for crew chief, Adam Stevens. After the checkered flag, Rowdy did heavy-duty doughnuts, spreading smoke far and wide. Mosquito abatement, NASCAR style.
Photos of Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick by Mike and Jeff Burghardt.
Second was big brother Kurt Busch/No.31 Haas Automation Chevrolet, who had started second. The Margin of Victory between them was 0.532 seconds. There is a seven year spread between the brothers, who started out racing Legends cars.
Clint Bowyer/No.15 5-Hour Energy Toyota was third from a sixth place start, followed by points leader Kevin Harvick/No.4 Folds of Honor/Outback Steakhouse/Budweiser Chevrolet, who started seventeenth. Kyle Busch and Harvick are now tied for 23rd place in all-time Cup wins.
Joey Logano/No.22 Shell Pennzoil Ford was fifth after starting nineteenth, the largest position gain in the field.
It was the largest NASCAR crowd in the last decade, and some credit could be due to the track’s extensive promotion and it being the last race for local driver, Jeff Gordon/No.24 AARP Member Advantages Chevrolet. Gordon started fifth, ran as high as third, and fell back after the last restart on old tires, to finish a disappointing sixteenth.
The weather was hot, near low eighties, but the typical Sonoma breeze cut the heat quite nicely.
Pole sitter AJ Allmendinger in No.47 Kingsford Charcoal Chevrolet led twice for a lap and ran strong behind Kurt Busch until the first pit stop. Then he fell afoul of fuel pressure issues, which required repairs in the garage. He returned to the fray, and worked back up to 37th place, 12 laps down.
Alex Kennedy/No.33 MediaCast Chevrolet was the top Rookie, finishing 25th on the lead lap from a 36th place start.
Despite the victory, Kyle Busch will still need to be 30th or better in the standings to make the Chase. He is 37th in the standings, due to missed races because of his months off for recovery/rehab after his February crash breaking his left leg and right foot. NASCAR granted a Chase-eligible dispensation to Kyle Busch. Ordinarily, a driver must run the entire season to make The Chase.
Twenty-seven drivers finished on the lead lap, and 37 finished overall. There were nine lead changes among five drivers – Johnson, Busch’s Kyle and Kurt, Bowyer and Allmendinger. Five was also the number of cautions, for 21 laps.
There were no issues with post-race inspections, and three cars were taken back to NASCAR’s R&D Center in North Carolina for further inspections – Kyle Busch’s Toyota, Kurt Busch’s Chevrolet, and Joey Logano’s Ford.
One would think there were targets painted on the tire walls and concrete blocks based on the number of hard hits and near misses. David Gilliland/No.38 Love’s Travel Stops Ford had his left front tire go down and he hit the tire wall hard in Turn Ten. That brought out the first caution, two tow trucks and five service vehicles to make repairs. It was during this four-lap caution that the designated Lap 24 fell, the time when all the Gordon fans did their Gordon wave. Yeley finished last in the race.
The second caution turned into a ten and a half-minute Red Flag after Martin Truex, Jr/No.78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet hit the left side Turn Eight tire wall so hard it pushed back the concrete blocks. He had been hit by David Ragan/No.55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota. Up to that point, Truex had been doing well in his brand-new road course car, but his day ended with a forty-second position finish. Ragan continued. More down time for wall repair, including quality fork lift work.
JJ Yeley/No.23 Dr.Pepper Toyota had a hard hit to the right side Turn Ten tire wall, bringing out the third caution. He DNF’d in forty-first place.
Ragan was involved in another incident, crowding last year’s Sonoma winner, Carl Edwards/No.19 Stanley Toyota into the right side Turn Eight tire wall causing Caution Four. This time Ragan wasn’t able to continue, nor was Edwards. They finished thirty-ninth and fortieth, respectively.
The wildest DNF honors fell to Casey Mears/No.13 GEICO Chevrolet. He had an axle failure in Turn Ten, and made it to the Turn Eleven infield, where the axle and left rear wheel went flying across the infield into a catch fence. Normally Cup cars have strong steel tethers to avoid just such situations; but in this case the axle housing failed so the whole shebang came off. Mears finished thirty-eighth.
Kyle Busch – “I can’t say enough about my medical team who got me back in shape and ready to go behind the wheel. My foot hurts a little bit, not as bad as I expected it to. It actually hurt worse in practice. I think I warmed it up on Friday. It felt pretty good on Friday.
“It was a fun race. The cautions and pitting when we did was an awesome strategy. It was a very good short-run car.”
He thanked a very long litany of sponsors.
Kurt Busch – “I wanted to deliver a win today. I just didn’t get the restart I wanted. We had a great car and I think we made a statement. Congratulations to my little brother. I don’t know how many races Busch’s finished 1-2, but I’ll let him win it. I thought we had the winning strategy with the cooler tires, rather than worn-out tires at the finish. I just ran out of laps to run down Kyle. I was a bit too patient.”
Bowyer – “I tried, just came up a little short. I tried to get up to him (Kyle Busch) and get a little rough with him, but it didn’t work. I made the effort, but it just didn’t come through for me. He had the right line and I didn’t. He beat me to the punch.”
Gordon was clearly disappointed with his finish. “It’s been a long time since I won. We tried hard.” He ran as high as third, but didn’t pit for tires on the last restart and fell back.
Jimmie Johnson/No.48 Lowes Pro Service Chevrolet led twice for the most laps – 45, but his two-stop strategy didn’t work. He finished sixth. JJ was one of five drivers who didn’t pit for tires on the last restart. It showed. “I felt pretty good at first as there were so many cars behind me and those who had new tires. About a lap and a half later, I didn’t feel so good.”
The next NASCAR Sprint Cup Race is the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola on Sunday 5 July at Daytona International Speedway. This marks the halfway point in the Cup schedule, and the first race for TV broadcast partner, NBC. Sonoma was the last race of the year with Fox Sports.
UNOFFICIAL RACE RESULTS.
1. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 2 hrs, 55 mins, 39 secs after 110 laps
2. Kurt Busch Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
3. Clint Bowyer Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
4. Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
5. Joey Logano Team Penske Ford
6. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
8. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
9. Ryan Newman Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
10. Sam Hornish Jr. Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
11. Jamie McMurray Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
12. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
13. Paul Menard Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
14. Aric Almirola Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
15. Kyle Larson Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
16. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
17. Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
18. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
19. Brad Keselowski Team Penske Ford
20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Roush Fenway Racing Ford
21. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
22. Cole Whitt Front Row Motorsports Ford
23. Trevor Bayne Roush Fenway Racing Ford
24. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
25. Alex Kennedy Circle Sport Chevrolet
26. Boris Said Go FAS Racing Ford
27. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Racing Ford
28. Josh Wise Phil Parsons Racing Chevrolet – 1 lap
29. Matt DiBenedetto BK Racing Toyota – 1 lap
30. Justin Marks Front Row Motorsports Ford – 1 lap
31. Alex Bowman Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet – 1 lap
32. Jeb Burton BK Racing Toyota – 1 lap
33. Michael Annett HScott Motorsports Chevrolet – 1 lap
34. Michael McDowell Leavine Family Racing Ford – 1 lap
35. Justin Allgaier HScott Motorsports Chevrolet – 3 laps
36. Landon Cassill Hillman Smith Motorsports Chevrolet – 11 laps
37. AJ Allmendinger JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet – 12 laps
38. Casey Mears Germain Racing Chevrolet – 13 laps Rear Axle
39. David Ragan Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota – 32 laps Accident
40. Carl Edwards Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 32 laps Accident
41. J.J. Yeley BK Racing Toyota – 39 laps Accident
42. Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet – 79 laps Accident
43. David Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford – 90 laps Accident
UNOFFICIAL DRIVERS’ STANDINGS
1. (–) Kevin Harvick 616pts
2. (–) Martin Truex Jr. 563pts (-53pts)
3. (–) Joey Logano 559pts (-57pts)
4. (+1) Jimmie Johnson 546pts (-70pts)
5. (-1) Dale Earnhardt Jr. 545pts (-71pts)
6. (–) Brad Keselowski 505pts (-111pts)
7. (–) Jamie McMurray 497pts (-119pts)
8. (+1) Kasey Kahne 483pts (-133pts)
9. (-1) Matt Kenseth 479pts (-137pts)
10. (+1) Kurt Busch 469pts (-147pts)
11. (-1) Jeff Gordon 462pts (-154pts)
12. (–) Paul Menard 452pts (-164pts)
13. (–) Denny Hamlin 438pts (-178pts)
14. (+2) Ryan Newman 435pts (-181pts)
15. (–) Aric Almirola 431pts (-185pts)
16. (+1) Clint Bowyer 430pts (-186pts)