“I Guess Kyle is Back”

Kyle Busch won the Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard. He didn’t dominate but he hung around the front of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Race. Joey Logano, who came in second place, had the quote of the day “I guess Kyle is back.”

Winning four of the last five Sprint Cup races after missing the first eleven races due to injuries sustained in the opening Xfinity race at Daytona International Speedway, Busch had his work cut out for him to make the Chase.  In all deference to Logano we knew last week when he won at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  Kyle Busch is indeed back.

When asked if it boggles the mind to win four races in five weeks;  Kyle Busch said, “It does a little bit. Like I said, this is unbelievable – this is something special. There’s nothing else like it. I’m so blessed to be in the position I’m in, I can’t thank everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing enough, Joe Gibbs (owner), J.D. Gibbs (president) and the entire family for giving me the opportunity. I know I have plenty of blessings. Man, my wife (Samantha) and my son (Brexton) is here, too. This has been a phenomenal return. I won’t say phenomenal year because it was a dismal year to start with, but I guess I’ll take that 11 week vacation any year if it’s going to look like this.

Sure on paper it looked like Kyle Busch could average a 15th place finish plus win a race to make the Chase, but saying  and doing that is a totally different thing. Wining four races (the same amount of races Jimmie Johnson has won) was never on the radar. Busch is definitely making a statement.

Sure, he received a waiver because of injury;  but in reality he gave the competitors an eleven race head start. When he does make the Chase for the Sprint Cup (the NASCAR version of the playoffs) many will say he didn’t deserve it. In reality, he could had simply started the first eleven races and finished last. That is the rules.

This is one of the best things to happen to NASCAR in quite a while. Kyle Busch is not just point racing; he is taking it to them. If he makes the top 30 to win the Championship, it certainly makes him worthy.  The whole point of the Chase for the Sprint Cup is to make the later races of the season matter.  They have done that and more. The last races of the season are must-watch TV.

Busch is now an incredible twenty-three points out of the top 30 to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. To put that in perspective, he is less than one half a races out of the top 30. There are six races left for Kyle Busch to get into the top 30. Busch is all but there, but he isn’t going to just ride: He is going to continue to go at it. Busch may just make the top 30 next week.

We’re a championship contending team, we just have to be championship eligible. Thank the good Lord for bringing me back when he did. Obviously thanking him for all the success I’ve had in my life, where I’m at and all my blessings.” Busch added, “To get me back as quick as he did, to preserve through that and that deficit. We’re still continuing on, we can’t have bad days. I don’t know that any of that matters, we’re going to bask in this moment here.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 310891 Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images


NASCAR is Not Going to Give Kyle Busch a Pass on the Top 30 Rule

Kyle Bush has now won three of the last four NASCAR races after coming back from an injury in the Xfinity race at Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR gave Busch a waiver to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup without starting every race leading up to the Chase. He still has to make it up to the top 30 in points to be eligible for the Chase after winning a race.  NASCAR will not waive the top 30 point rule!

Why should NASCAR waive this rule? They shouldn’t! Kyle Busch is showing that he is Chase worthy all on his own.  Think about it. Only Jimmie Johnson has more wins than Busch this season with four.  Kyle Busch is making a huge statement.  He is saying, I’m back and I’m worthy.

NASCAR cannot waive this rule because the old time fans, those who already hate the Chase, will be even more disenfranchised. These fans think that a championship needs to be won by racing all the races and scoring top finishes.  They are not wrong but there should be a balance between racing at all cost and racing to win. That is what the Chase is all about. Kyle racing like he is just shows what that thinking is all about.

Kyle Busch is doing everything possible to make his Championship run this year worthy for the fans and NASCAR should be very happy. He is 58 points behind 30th well within striking distance of making the top 30 in points. It’s going to happen!

I don’t think any of us would have. This is such an awesome win and such an awesome comeback. I just can’t say enough about everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing, the work that they’ve put in. Our cars are a lot better than what they were last year. It’s so much fun to win these races and to win with this group of guys – Adam Stevens (crew chief) and this bunch, all my pit crew since 2008, they deserve all this.”  Kyle Busch added. “Can’t say enough about Interstate Batteries – Happy Birthday Norm Miller – and M&M’s Crispy, Toyota, Sprint. This Camry was awesome today. Of course the fans, this is a crazy sport and you never know how it’s always going to turn out, but that coming to pit road I thought I had a tire going down and there was oil on the track. Luckily I got back to the lead lap before the yellow came out, but that saved us right there.

If Kyle Busch should not get into the top 30 he should be very proud of his season this year in the Sprint Cup Series. If he should then the other competitors need to watch out. He is a changed man and on a mission for a championship.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 310713 Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images


NASCAR Fans It’s not What You Know, it’s What You Don’t Know

NASCAR Fans It’s not What You Know, it’s What You Don’t Know. This week the Sprint Cup is at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the 5-hour ENERGY 301. This track will also host the second race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. It is also the first time that NASCAR will visit a track that is in the Chase when some drivers knew with some degree of certainty they are locked in or all but locked in. Could this be a Chase test session? If not that, could the envelope be extended a bit?

Photo Credit: 299884 Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images
Photo Credit: 299884 Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images

The teams will never admit it. They will never admit they threw away a race in order to learn something. It happens; it has to happen because how can you explain weird tire failures and multiple ones. It has happened with Jimmie Johnson’s team last year. It is hard to believe they made such a huge mistake in car set up that their tires only failed during the race and multiple times.  As fans we will never know. I would even say we don’t want to know except it really messes up our fantasy racing picks.

This brings us back to New Hampshire. Which teams will over push the envelope? Will any get crazy? The prize in the Chase for the Sprint Cup is worth it. I’d do it if I had a good plan. This is why we watch; the unknown things that make it exciting.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at last year’s top ten. Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were killing them  last year but not on the list but when it came to the Chase our top ten was Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Jimmie Johnson, Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brian Vickers.

This week I think there will be two camps of drivers. Those pushing the envelope (or testing it) and those who need to just perform and will be all business. Don’t get me wrong all teams push the envelope every week. Those teams I’m talking about are really taking chances because they can.

Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch’s teams will be pushing the envelope. If it works out the other teams might as well just park. The Penske teams of Joe Logano and Brad Keselowski will push also but will not be so bold.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is getting used to his crew chief. He is all business now at the track they won’t be pushing just executing.  The Ganassi teams of Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson will be all business. The Joe Gibbs Racing teams of Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards will be all business trying to get Kyle Busch into the top 30. The Richard Childress teams will also be taking care of business.

Jeff Gordon has not been on a tear this year like last year. He needs to solidify his Chase chances. He will be the guy who is all business trying to get his win. His run this week will more reflect his historical statistics for this race.

I expect to see another race where those teams that have been dominating all year struggle and those who have not shine. Kind of like the story of the tortoise and the hare. Good luck with your fantasy picks remember we don’t really know what is going on that’s why we watch.

If you cannot get to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the 5-hour ENERGY 301 it will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Net Sunday July 19th at 1:30 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 299887Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Top 16 Driver Statistics

Rank Car Driver Team Avg. Finish High Rating Avg. Rating
1 24 Jeff Gordon 3M 10.7 131.5 107.3
2 14 Tony Stewart Bass Pro Shops / Mobil Mobil 1 10.9 149.2 106.9
3 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Freight 10.5 149.2 103.2
4 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe’s 11 134.8 102.1
5 42 Kyle Larson Target 2.5 99.1 99.1
6 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr MOUNTAIN DEW 13.4 131.6 97.1
7 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite 11 145.7 95.6
8 15 Clint Bowyer 5-Hour Energy 14.5 150 95
9 18 Kyle Busch M&M’s Crispy 14.1 141.1 94.7
10 4 Kevin Harvick Jimmy John’s/ Budweiser 13.8 148.9 93.1
11 31 Ryan Newman WIX 15.2 140.2 91.8
12 5 Kasey Kahne Great Clips 18.1 131.5 91.3
13 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation 17.5 123.2 88.1
14 78 Martin Truex Jr Furniture Row/Visser 14.4 122.5 86.3
15 19 Carl Edwards COMCAST BUSINESS 13.7 120.3 85.9


Erik Jones Wins the Rain Delayed XFINITY Race at Chicagoland Speedway

Erik Jones wins the rain delayed NASCAR XFINITY Series Owens Corning AttiCat® 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.

On Friday Drew Herring stepped into the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota to fill in for Erik Jones while he was racing the truck at Iowa Speedway. Herring was fast in spite of just being a practice driver. He had the #54 7th in the first practice and 4th in the second practice.

Erik Jones won the Truck race and came to Chicagoland Speedway to qualify the car and race. Jones stepped right into the car making it to all three rounds to start the race in the 11th position. He did not have to start the race from the rear of the field because he qualified the car.

The race had been scheduled to run on Saturday night but a massive storm made that impossible. The race was run on a beautiful day on Sunday. The pole sitter, Austin Dillon led the field to green on his way to leading 28 laps. He finished the race third.

Jones first took the lead on lap 40 and looked like he was the class of the field but Ryan Blaney was also impressive. Blaney had to start at the rear of the field due to going to a backup car because he wrecked in qualifying. He was 7th by lap 20 and fourth, two positions behind Jones by the competition caution on lap 25.

Erik Jones led most of the laps from lap 40 to lap 150, only Ryan Blaney appeared to be the driver who could take it from him and did a few times.

With 50 to go there was a mistake where the drivers were told on the radio that pit road was open yet the pit road light was red signifying pit road was closed. Erik Jones pitted from the led and Ryan Blaney did not. At that point it looked like that mistake would cost the Jones a win.

Jones restarted the race 10th with 41 laps to go and was second, right behind Blaney with 19 to go.  On the final restart with 11 to go Erik Jones went to the lead and didn’t look back.

Erik Jones led 94 laps followed by Ryan Blaney with 43 and the pole sitter Austin Dillon 28.

Daniel Suarez was the highest finishing rookie of the year candidate finishing seventh. Ross Kenseth, also a rookie, finished sixth.

It’s pretty awesome to get this Monster Energy Toyota back to victory lane. It’s two weeks in a row for these guys. That’s three wins this week for me – that’s pretty awesome. It was a rough go for a while, but we came back at it now. It’s just cool to be back here – thanks to Kyle Busch Motorsports for Friday, Joe Gibbs Racing for today and Port City Race Cars for Tuesday, XFINITY for doing this for us, the fans and – man, what a day, what a day.”  Jones added, “Thanks to Drew Herring who shook this thing down for us two days ago and got it right and we took it to victory lane today.

Erik Jones sweeps the NASCAR weekend at two distinctly different race tracks to get his first win of the season in the No. 54 Monster Energy Car.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 309754 Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images

Austin Dillon Wins the Pole for the NASCAR XFINITY Race at Chicagoland Speedway

NASCAR XFINITY Series knock out qualifying was held for Saturday nights Owens Corning AttiCat® 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.

In the First Session Brian Scott in the #2 Jewel-Osco/Kraft Singles Chevrolet ran a very fast lap and almost hit the wall but he held on to make it into the top 24. Joey Gase driving the #52 did find the wall to bring out a red flag for cleanup. Gase will start the race 32nd.

The top 24 was 22, 31, 62, 54, 20, 60, 33, 2, 42, 7, 18, 9, 43, and 28.

In the Second Session Ross Kenseth in the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota, went out earl and posted a very fast lap to let everyone know that even though this is his first XFINITY Series start he has arrived and they should take note. We have as well.

Ryan Blaney in the No. 22 Hertz Penske Ford was a favorite for the pole. He was driving like he was going to get it but hit the wall hard in turn 2. He is going to a backup car and will start the race from the back of the field.

The top 12 moving on to the final round were 20, 1, 33, 62, 3, 60, 79, 43, 54, 18 and 6.

Third Session is only 5 minutes which rarely leaves and time for multiple runs or shots at the pole. This held true today as every car only made one lap.

Ross Kenseth improved his time from the second round and looked like he would carry that through to get the Coors Light Pole Award. Austin Dillon in the No. 33 Rheem Chevy beat him by 12 hundredths of a second. Dillon will lead the field to green.

Elliott Sadler actually tied Ross Kenseth’s time but will start third because the No. 1 One Main Financial Ford is lower in owner points. Daniel Suarez will start the race seventh, he is the fastest qualifying rookie of the year candidate.

The top 12 will be 33, 20, 1, 7, 62, 9, 18, 3, 60, 6, 54 and 43.

If you cannot get to the Chicagoland Speedway for the Owens Corning AttiCat® 300 it will be broadcast live on Saturday June 20th at 9:30 PM ET on Fox Sports 1.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: Brian Berg Jr.

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