Kyle Busch continued his incredible comeback from an early season injury with an impressive victory in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. The win is crucial to Busch’s hopes of qualifying for the Chase for the NASCAR Championship. He now has the necessary victory and will be seeking a spot in the top-30 over the final 10 races leading up to the Chase field being set. He is currently 37th in the standings and 136 points out of first.
Meanwhile teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth finished 18th and 21st respectively, while an accident left Carl Edwards back in 40th.
Kyle Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Crispy Toyota from the 11th position and was able to work his way to the front for his first lead of the day on lap 28. He would lead the next 12 laps. He would eventually relinquish the lead but the 18 team would continue to run inside the top five for much of the afternoon. Busch would run third with 25 laps to go and move into second with 22 laps remaining. The 15 car would get around the M&Ms Crispy Camry with 16 laps remaining to drop the 18 back to third once again. A caution with 12 laps remaining would create a strategic decision for every team on the lead lap. Crew chief Adam Stevens would make the call for a four-tire pit stop and Busch lined up seventh for the restart with seven laps to go. He would jump to fourth on the opening lap of the restart and was second with six to go with only the 48 to catch. Busch would do that with five laps remaining and then held off his brother in the 41 car as well as Clint Bowyer in the 15 to earn the win.
Denny Hamlin, started 15th and had to make an unscheduled pit stop early on lap 17 for a suspected tire issue on his No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota. That would put him towards the back of the field and he would run 39th for a restart on lap 33 following a red flag caution. Hamlin was hoping to make a comeback after that setback and raced his way back inside the top 30 by lap 40. With different pit strategies playing out on the track the No. 11 FedEx Camry would try to gain crucial track position but with 25 laps left he was back in 26th once again. He was 21st when a caution came out with 12 laps remaining. He would come to pit road for fresh tires and restarted 22nd with seven laps to go. He would finish 18th.
Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the third position and would drop back to run seventh after the opening 15 laps of this afternoon’s race. A problem with his left rear tire would send him back down pit road for an unscheduled stop on lap 44 dropping Kenseth a lap down in 41st position. The Dollar General team would continue to battle and Kenseth would work his way back to the lead lap and was racing back inside the top 30 by lap 85. He was running 26th when a caution came out with 12 laps left. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff would make the call for Kenseth to remain out on the track instead of pitting and that allowed him to line up fifth for the restart with seven laps to go. He would get contact on the restart causing him to fall back out of the top ten and without fresh tires he drop back to finish 21st.
Carl Edwards started the No. 19 STANLEY Toyota 14th and was able to drive his way toward the top ten through the early going. With several pit strategies at play the 19 car’s track position would change several times throughout the course of the afternoon, but he was seventh on a restart with 31 laps remaining. Unfortunately trouble would hit Edwards as he raced on the inside of the 55 car during the restart when the two came together while trying to navigate the esses on the road course. The two cars slid off the track together and hit hard into a concrete barrier. The damage sent Edwards to the garage and his day was over. He would finish 40th.
Kyle Busch captured the win and was followed by Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano rounded out the top five. There were five cautions on the afternoon for a total of 21 laps and nine lead changes among five different drivers.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will return to Daytona International Speedway next Sunday, July 5. It will be the first race for NBC Sports, which will handle the broadcast duties for the remainder of the 2015 NASCAR season. The Coke Zero 400 will begin Sunday, July 5 with pre-race coverage on NBC starting at 7 PM ET.