Kyle Busch has long been one of the bad boys of racing, often hearing more jeers than cheers from the fans, but the boos were few and far between following his stunning victory in Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.
After breaking his right leg and shattered left foot at Daytona on February 21, Busch (No. 18 M&Ms Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing) returned to the cockpit sooner than anyone expected by completing all 400 laps and finishing 11th in the grueling Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte on May 24.
Busch’s injuries caused him to miss the first 11 races of the 2015 season. As a result NASCAR granted him an exemption to gain a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship by winning at least one race and finishing in the top 30 in the point standings.
The heavy braking required on a road course caused soreness in his surgically repaired left foot that he rated as 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. He spent hours during the weekend icing it down to relieve the pain.
Busch’s racing prowess and some great pit calls by his crew chief Adam Stevens earned him his 30th career Sprint Cup victory on Sunday.
Busch was able to get into pit lane on two different occasions when an accident had just occurred but before the yellow caution came out to close the pits until the pack formed behind the pace car.
The second time allowed Busch to line up seventh for the final race restart with just six laps to go. With race leader Jimmie Johnson and the other drivers ahead of him opting to stay out on old tires to gain tack position, he was able to cut through the pack like a knife through soft butter in less than two laps to take the checkered flag ahead of his older brother Kurt Busch.
“Coming down pit road and the cautions flying is so beneficial at this racetrack,” explained Busch, age 30 of Las Vegas. “It gets you such great track position and to have that strategy work out for us was awesome.”
It gave Busch his first win in his last 35 starts, but more importantly it met the first of his Chase requirements and moved him up to 37th in the standings, 136 points out of 30th. To make the top 30, Busch has to average roughly a 14th-place finish over the final 10 races of the Race to the Chase.
“I’m very grateful to NASCAR to give us a chance to race ourselves into the Chase,” said Busch. “I thought the win was going to be the hardest thing to do, but now we can work towards getting into the top 30 with some good solid finishes without having to take a chance at winning and crashing or something like that.”
The Sprint Cup series now heads back to Daytona for the Coke Zero 400 on July 5th and Busch is looking forward to returning to the track where he sustained his injuries.
“It is going to be different than I’ve ever felt going into that racetrack, no doubt. I don’t know what that is going to be like yet, but I’m looking forward to getting out there and attacking the track, attacking the demon per se and to get back in the draft and work myself into having a good race car for Sunday night.”
Other news from
Although he finished a disappointing 16th, the chance to witness Jeff Gordon’s final race at Sonoma brought out the biggest race day crowd in over 10 years. The Vallejo native has a record five victories and 14 top-five finishes at Sonoma which earned him an induction into the Sonoma Raceway Hall of Fame in 2006.
“I love the challenge of this road course,” said Gordon, a four-time Sprint Cup champion. “I got engaged to Ingrid here. It’s just that good things happen when I’m out there and a lot of it is that hometown feel.”
The Sonoma race wrapped up Fox Network’s Sprint Cup coverage for 2015 as NBC takes over for the remainder of the season. It was also the final race call for longtime FOX analyst Larry McReynolds after Fox announced Gordon will share the booth next season with veteran announcers Darrell Waltrip and Mike Joy. No doubt English teachers around the nation are rejoicing at the news!
Although AJ Allmendinger earned the pole for Sunday’s race in Saturday’s final qualifying session, Elk Grove’s Kyle broke the track record by turning a lightning quick 74.186 seconds/96.568 mph lap in the first qualifying session. Larson started the race from the 4th position and finished the race in 15th place after spending most of the afternoon in the top 10.
Pole winner David Mayhew used a strong restart to pass Dalton Sargeant for the lead on the first lap of a green-white-checkered finish to capture his first victory of the season and ninth overall in 92 career starts in Saturday’s NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Carneros 200.
In a short statement released on Saturday, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France reiterated NASCAR’s stance on the Confederate Flag.
“NASCAR will maintain its long-standing policy preventing the use of the Confederate Flag in any official position at our events. In all areas that NASCAR controls on a given race weekend, the flag has no presence. We have been clear in support of this position throughout our industry and to those across the country who have called for the eradication of the Confederate flag. We will be as aggressive as possible to disassociate NASCAR events from an offensive and divisive symbol. We are working with the industry right now to achieve that goal.”
Save Mart Supermarkets has signed a new five-year deal to continue as co-sponsor of the annual NASCAR race at Sonoma Raceway. Save Mart has been part of the NASCAR Cup race at Sonoma since 1992, one of the longest continuous associations in NASCAR racing.
Actor and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger drove the 2016 Toyota Mirai pace car to start Sunday’s race. The Governator’s latest film “Terminator Genisys” will be in theaters on July 1.
Other major upcoming events at Sonoma Raceway include the NHRA Division 7 Drag Races presented by Korbel on July 24-26; the NHRA Sonoma Nationals on July 31-August 2; and the Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma for IndyCar on August 28-30.
Stockton 99 Speedway
The Stockton 99 Speedway returns to action this Saturday night with the annual Firecracker 100 featuring the Pacific Challenge Late Model Series, Super Stocks, Bombers, Legends of the Pacific and Mini Cups. There will also be a huge fireworks show before the main event.
Jeremy Doss, of Upperlake, won the opening round of the Tri-Holiday event on May 23rd by beating J. Moore and Manteca drivers Ross Strmiska and Jacob Gomes.
Madera Speedway will also have a July 4 show with Madera Late Models, Hobby Stocks, Super Toyota, Toyota Sedans, 4-Bangers, the Firecracker Wet n Wild Enduro Race and a fireworks show.