Busch Dominates Win, Hamlin Holds Off Larson At New Hampshire


Published on July 17 2017 6:22 am
Last Updated on July 17 2017 6:22 am


Kyle Busch tossed his 2-year-old son in the air during his latest victory lane celebration.

He's taking baby steps toward catching The King.

Busch dominated yet again to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series race Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

He won for the third time this season and 89th time in his career in the second-tier series. On Saturday night, he told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he plans to retire from the Xfinity Series when he gets to 100 victories.

He has 175 career wins over NASCAR's three national series: Cup (38 wins; 2015 champion); Xfinity (89; 2009 champion); and Truck (48). Richard Petty is NASCAR's career leader with 200 wins, all at the Cup level.

"I know a lot of those are the minors, so I'll take them where I can get `em as of right now," Busch said. "But certainly there's going to be a lot more wins to be had on Sundays, as well. I've got a long road ahead of me, probably."

Busch started from the pole and wasn't challenged much late after an early duel with fellow Cup regular Brad Keselowski. Keselowski led 102 laps but had nothing for Busch down the stretch because of a pit road penalty.

"It is always fun being fast and leading the most laps and all that but we just didn't put the whole race together," Keselowski said.

Busch's No. 18 Toyota was one of just six cars that finished on the lead lap.

Ryan Preece was second, followed by William Byron, Kyle Larson and Keselowski. Larson was set to start the Cup race Sunday from the pole until his car failed inspection and forced him to the rear of the field.

Series points leader Elliott Sadler was seventh in a race that included a 58-minute rain delay. He has a 45-point lead over Byron.

The 19-year-old Byron had his sixth top-five of the season. He has two victories driving for JR Motorsports and has made a case as a candidate to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 at Hendrick Motorsports next season.

Earnhardt, long NASCAR's most popular driver, left the team's top Cup seat available when he announced he would retire from the series at the end of the season.

Alex Bowman, who ably filled in for the injured Earnhardt last season, is perhaps the top contender to drive the 88. But Byron and free agent Matt Kenseth are certainly in the mix -- and the odds of landing at Hendrick improve if the organization decides to cut ties with the slumping Kasey Kahne.

Team owner Rick Hendrick watched the race from atop Byron's pit box.

"He did a great job. Very impressive the way he works traffic and the feedback on the radio. Really good," Hendrick said. "The guys are giving him good cars, but he's got a lot of talent, and he's a quick learner. He's fast. He goes right to the edge in a hurry. He's doing a good job. I'm real proud of him."

Hendrick refused to tip his hand on a timetable for the 88 replacement.

"Too early. Man, this is just, what, July? Just July," he said, laughing.

Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, the leader at Hendrick, has kept an eye on Byron's rapid rise through the ranks.

"It's fun watching him grow. At his age, I just don't want to be in too big of a hurry," he said.

Byron, who won seven Truck Series races last season, dismissed questions about his future.

"It's good to be running like this. It feels really good for our team," he said. "It's cool to have Mr. Hendrick out here supporting us and everyone at JRM. It's neat. It's been a good couple of weeks. We've finished in the top 10 the last six weeks or something like that. It's really something to be proud of. I feel like we're able to build on that and hopefully take it to Indy and keep progressing."

Keep progressing all the way to Cup?

Stay tuned.


Hamlin Holds Off Larson For First Gibbs Win Of Season

Joe Gibbs Racing has undergone an unexpected upheaval that forced the organization into a youth movement.

The biggest surprise, though, was going 0 for 2017.

Denny Hamlin ended that rut with the kind of finish down the stretch that showed that -- yes, the new generation may be on the way -- but the JGR lynchpin still knows how to win.

Hamlin held off Kyle Larson over the final laps Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to send Gibbs to its first victory of the season.

One of the top organizations in NASCAR, JGR had yet to have any of its four drivers win until Hamlin took the lead with 33 laps left and held off the hard-charging Larson on the final lap.

Hamlin needed his 30th career Cup victory to secure a berth in NASCAR's version of the postseason and end a winless streak that stretched to last September at Richmond.

"Definitely needed a win for the organization, for myself,'' Hamlin said.

He'll take the checkered flag -- just hold the nutcracker.

Hamlin, who has a Cup win in each of his 12 seasons, gave everyone a laugh when he scampered away from the lobster traditionally awarded to the winner in victory lane.

"I have a lobster phobia,'' he said.

Larson had a sensational run from the rear of the field, where he was forced to start because he failed inspection after he won the pole. Larson lost his points lead last week and his crew chief was suspended after failing a post-race inspection at Kentucky.

Hamlin crashed the No. 11 Toyota in practice and was forced to race in a backup car. It seemed to suit him just fine at New Hampshire.

Martin Truex Jr., was third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick.

JGR won seven of the first 12 races last season and Carl Edwards was 10 laps away from a possible championship when he crashed out in the finale. Daniel Suarez replaced Edwards this season, and Hamlin, Kenseth and Kyle Busch have made strong runs at the checkered flag, they just couldn't find the winning formula until New Hampshire.

"It's not from a lack of trying,'' Hamlin said.

JGR also announced this week that Erik Jones would replace two-time Daytona 500 champion Kenseth in the No. 20 next season. With Hamlin sending the crowd into a frenzy by burning the tires down, Sunday was simply a reason for the organization to celebrate.

Jones and Suarez will soon be expected to carry the load into the next decade once Busch and the 36-year-old Hamlin finish their careers.

"They're going to be there long after I'm gone,'' Hamlin said. "They'll be the team leaders. You just try and set an example for them. Show the work ethic that it takes to be a winner on a weekly basis. Hopefully, that infectious-type atmosphere bleeds into them and they lead the team after we're gone.''

Larson was second and nearly caught Hamlin -- after a trying week where NASCAR caught Larson's Chip Ganassi team trying to tinker a bit too much outside the rule book on the No. 42 Chevrolet.

Larson's team was penalized 35 points this week, erasing what had been a one-point advantage over Truex in the driver standings. Truex, who led 137 laps, leads the standings by 38 points over Larson.

Larson's pole-winning time was disallowed because of an unapproved rear deck fin lid.

"NASCAR's kept a closer eye on our team, in particular,'' Larson said. "Had to go to the back. I don't think that really affected us which I think is a good thing. The little stuff we got in trouble for so far hasn't affected our performance. We've got to keep working hard on the areas on our race car that are legal and find more speed that way.''

Here are other items of note from New Hampshire:


Joey Logano's miserable stretch continued on his home track. Logano, who needs a win or a string of strong finishes to make NASCAR's playoffs, was forced off the track on the third stage because of a suspension issue. NASCAR seized a rear suspension part with the No. 22 Ford in the garage. He finished 37th.

The Connecticut driver reeled off six top-five finishes in the first nine races that included a win at Richmond. The win did not count toward the playoffs because of rules violations. Logano has posted just two top-10 finishes over the last 10 races and this was the fifth time he finished 25th or worse.


The race was stopped for 5 1/2 minutes when a pot hole opened on the track. The hole was discovered just before the second stage and crews hit the scene to make repairs.


Aric Almirola finished 24th in his first race since he suffered a fractured vertebra during a fiery multi-car wreck May 13 at Kanas Speedway.


Kyle Busch heads to Indianapolis to try and win his third straight Brickyard 400 championship. Busch has not won a Cup race since he kissed the bricks at Indy.