NASCAR notebook, Kansas: Kyle Busch finally finds his mojo

Keselowski torpedoed by tire; Gordon survives for solid finish.

NASCAR notebook, Kansas: Kyle Busch finally finds his mojo
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford

In the closing laps of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, Kyle Busch was getting nervous—very nervous. 

The engine in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was running hot, and foul-smelling smoke was starting to fill the cockpit. 

At a race track that has haunted him for years, Busch faced the prospect of another calamity. But this time, the engine survived, and Busch was able to cruise home in third place—his first-ever top five at his bogey track. 

“Typically, anytime we get the motors hot, they start to stink, and they start to fill the cab with smoke, and that's what was happening there from the second-to-last restart on,” said Busch, who heads to next Sunday’s race at Charlotte second in the standings behind Joey Logano, Sunday’s winner.  

“I was just praying that it was going to make it the whole way and get us to the end.” 

To say that Busch was elated to leave Kansas with a podium finish is a massive understatement. 

“It was definitely good,” said Busch, who on Saturday won a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Kansas for the first time since 2007. “I won today. I just didn't get champagne and a trophy. 

“To get through Kansas feels nice. It was just a solid day, solid weekend as a matter of fact, coming here with a good car, and the guys did a great job listening to my feedback and what I thought I needed in my race car.

“I want champagne and to do donuts right now, but I think they would frown on that if you’re third.”

Keselowski KO'd by blown tire

It was a day of emotional extremes for Team Penske. Yes, Joey Logano won the Hollywood Casino 400, but Brad Keselowski blew a right front tire on Lap 160, rocketed into the Turn 2 wall and found his championship chances in serious jeopardy after a 36-place finish. 

Keselowski has two races to climb out of the hole before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is cut from 12 drivers to eight at Talladega. 

“We blew a right front tire,” said Keselowski, who leaves Kansas 10th in the Chase standings. “I’m not sure why. We didn’t have an aggressive setup or anything. We just blew a tire. 

“It was just Russian Roulette, and it was our turn.” 

Asked if his team made any adjustments that might have exacerbated tire wear, Keselowski demurred. 

“No, that would make it feel good if we did, because then you know what is up,” Keselowski said. “But no, we didn’t do anything. 

“Like I said, it was a game of Russian Roulette, and it was our turn at the gun.”

A matter of survival for Gordon

 Jeff Gordon was having a relatively stress-free day until Jamie McMurray’s No. 1 Chevrolet clipped Gordon’s Chevy in Turn 4 after a restart on Lap 84. 

From then on, it was a frustrating afternoon for the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, who won last week’s elimination race at Dover. 

“It was a handful,” Gordon said. “We were having a pretty solid day with the Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet until the No. 1 car got loose and got into our left rear--was just way over his head. I knew he had a good car. He’s been running good, but he just got loose and got into me and got me in the wall. 

“We had a little damage, but we just lost all that track position. It’s so hard to get it back at this place. We somewhat got it back; and on that last restart (on Lap 240), I was just real loose. I’d been a little loose but not that loose. We just fell back. It just wasn’t good. We just kind of struggled there.” 

Nevertheless, Gordon salvaged a 14th-place finish, best among a four-car Hendrick Motorsports contingent that had a litany of troubles on Sunday. Heading to next Sunday’s race at Charlotte, Gordon is eighth in the standings 17 points behind leader Joey Logano. 

“A lot of people had trouble today,” Gordon said. “So today was a real survival day. We did that. It just felt like we could have finished a lot better than that. We had a good race car. We actually really had a great race car.”

NASCAR Wire Service, Reid Spencer

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