Kyle Busch’s third victory in four races seemed secure. A caution on the final lap ensured it.
Busch had a sizable lead on Brad Keselowski as the final of 301 laps began in Sunday’s 5-Hour Energy 301 at New Hampshire. When NASCAR threw a caution for a wreck shortly thereafter, the field was frozen and Busch’s Sprint Cup Series win was official.
Kevin Harvick finished third, Joey Logano fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fifth.
Busch, who missed the first 11 races of the season because of injury, has now won three of the eight races in which he has competed this season.
He still needs to make the top 30 of points in order to use his wins to make the championship Chase. He is 58 points outside the top 30 with seven races remaining before the 16-driver Chase field is set.
Busch made his final pit stop early because of concerns for a flat tire, so when the rest of the field pit under caution on Lap 252 of 301 for the final time, Busch stayed on the track and took over the lead on the restart on Lap 258.
Three who mattered
Kyle Busch: It’s no longer a question of if he gets into the top 30 of points, it’s when.
Brad Keselowski: Said the last half-lap wouldn’t have mattered, but there is nothing better than “fast cars.”
Austin Dillon: Earned his third top-10 finish of the season and second in the past three races.
▪ Busch’s remarkable run since his return not only has prompted serious consideration about him making the Chase, but also about being a serious contender for the championship.
▪ Another strong weekend for Joe Gibbs Racing. Denny Hamlin won the Xfinity Series race on Saturday, and Busch, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards finished in the top 10 on Sunday.
▪ It never rained Sunday, but for an hour or more late in the race lightning could be seen off Turn 3. At one point the track warned spectators to be aware of the weather, but the race was never brought to a halt.
They said it
“We weren’t as good as we needed to be last year, but this year it seems to be that we are.” — Kyle Busch
Feeling the heat: An unusually hot and humid New England day took its toll on drivers, with a handful requiring a trip to the infield care center after the race for treatment for heat-related issues.
Keselowski and Earnhardt seemed spent when being interviewed on pit road by radio and TV immediate after the race. Michael Annett and Matt DiBenedetto were among the drivers who sought treatment in the care center.
Good but no win: Earnhardt extended his record of top-five finishes at New Hampshire without a victory to eight with his fifth-place finish.
“Seems like I run in the top five or top 10 every time we are come here,” he said. “I’m always like third-, fourth-, fifth-best car. That is very frustrating.”
Three tweets from Sunday’s race:
Where: Indianapolis Motor Speedway
When: 3:30 p.m. Sunday
Radio: IMS Radio Network