Kyle Busch sailed away from Kevin Harvick after a late wreck collected several of the leaders Saturday night to finally win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway after years of misfortunes.
Busch won for the third time this season, and now only needs to win at Charlotte and Pocono to knock off every track in the series. Twice he had crashed out of the Chase race at Kansas, and he had failed to finish four times on the vexing 1 1/2-mile tri-oval.
All of which made his bow along the front straightaway feel so much better.
“There’s been a lot of rough days at Kansas,” he said, “that’s for sure.”
Harvick was second after making major changes to his car following a poor qualifying effort. Kurt Busch was third, Matt Kenseth finished fourth and Ryan Blaney wound up fifth.
“You know, it’s our best finish of the year. That’s the bright side,” said Kenseth, who was alongside Busch on the final restart with 19 laps to go. “I thought we were as good as the 18 if we could have had position, but it was tough restarting on that bottom.”
He still had a comfortable lead entering the final round of scheduled stops with 54 laps to go, but Truex radioed to his team that he had a loose wheel after leaving his stall. He had to come down pit road again and dropped off the lead lap, another late-race gaffe costing him a chance to win.
Truex led 95 laps at Kansas last spring, but fuel and tire strategy conspired left him ninth. His team also made a strategic mistake that cost him earlier this season at Texas.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “Went around 1 and 2 and was like, `Damn, the wheel is loose.’ I kept telling myself maybe it’s not. Frustrating but that’s how it goes.”
Tony Stewart briefly took the lead in his return to the No. 14 full-time, but everything changed when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. slapped the wall moments later. That bunched up the field and ultimately led to the only major wreck after last weekend’s crash-filled race at Talladega.
Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin got sideways going through a corner, and that forced Kyle Larson into the wall. Joey Logano had nowhere to go, slamming into Hamlin and ending both of their nights.
“I was going in there, three-wide, and I wasn’t letting off,” said Hamlin, who was pressing the issue after getting caught speeding twice on pit road. “I have to get better on pit lane to give us a chance.”
Logano had won two of the last three races at Kansas Speedway.
“It’s just racing, the end of a race,” he said. “It kind of stinks, two weeks in a row I’m walking out of the infield care center. It’s just racing. Things happen.”
Busch elected to stay on the track to protect his position, rather than pit for tires. It was a risky gamble by crew chief Adam Stevens — one that finally paid off for Busch at Kansas.