Kyle Busch’s difficult journey to reach the championship Chase took a giant leap forward Saturday night.
Busch, who missed the first 11 Sprint Cup Series races because of a broken right leg and broken left foot, picked up the second victory since his return by holding off Joey Logano to win the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.
Logano grabbed the lead on a restart on Lap 225 of 267 and appeared to be in command until Busch ran him down and got around him and out front on Lap 248.
The Cup win is Busch’s second at Kentucky and first since the track’s inaugural race in 2011. It is the 31st win of his Cup career.
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Denny Hamlin finished third, Carl Edwards fourth and Matt Kenseth fifth.
The new aerodyanmic rules package, which debuted in Saturday night’s race, helped Busch by providing several options for him to move around the track in his effort to chase down then-leader Logano during the final 40 laps.
Three who mattered
Kyle Busch: Busch improved to 35th in the series standings and 87 points behind 30th place. He needs to be among the top 30 in points after race No. 26 to use his wins for the Chase.
Brad Keselowski: He led the second-most laps and had an adventurous race that included a run-in with his tire carrier on pit road.
Carl Edwards: His fourth-place finish is just the third top-10 of the season.
▪ Saturday night’s race was the first in the history of Joe Gibbs Racing in which it had four drivers finish among the top five. That’s especially strong considering the intermediate tracks are where the organization has struggled the past two seasons.
▪ The rules package used Saturday was not a cure-all, but it certainly was a shot in the arm as far as improving the quality of racing. While the restarts were wild – as they are at many tracks – cars were racing and moving around the track at all points during the race.
▪ Kyle Busch has two wins and still might miss the Chase. But he already has raced his way into the discussion for Driver of the Year regardless of whether he makes it.
They said it
“That right there is what we’ve got to do. Score as many points as we possibly can. Score those wins.” – race winner Kyle Busch.
Danica vs. Dale: His car battling a brake problem most of the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran up quickly on Danica Patrick’s car on Lap 207 and sent Patrick into the wall. She was none-to-be-pleased and as both drivers headed to pit road under the caution, Patrick slammed into Earnhardt’s car in retaliation.
“What am I supposed to say other than the truth?” Earnhardt said. “We didn’t have any brakes going into the corner. I know better than to run into her because it gets so much attention. There wasn’t nothing I could do.”
Patrick declined comment.
Pit-road problems: Brad Keselowski felt he had a car capable of winning and he ended up leading the second-most laps in the race, but issues on pit road, including a run-in with one of his tire carriers, proved costly.
“It’s easy to play the Saturday evening quarterback, but it just didn’t come together for us,” he said. “There are certainly some things I could have done better and we didn’t have the best day on pit road. It’s something to build off of.”
Three tweets from Saturday night’s race:
New Hampshire 301
Where: New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H.
When: 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
TV: NBC Sports Network.
Radio: Performance Racing Network.