Kyle Busch steals Play­off win at Dover from Chase El­liott

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL & NATIONAL SPORTS CHESAPEAKE CHESAPEAKE CHES - By REID SPENCER NASCAR Wire Ser­vice

DOVER, DEL. — Call him the Grinch. Hal­loween may be the next holiday on the cal­en­dar, but Kyle Busch stole Christ­mas morn­ing from Chase El­liott late on Sun­day af­ter­noon at Dover In­ter­na­tional Speed­way.

Run­ning El­liott down from more than four sec­onds back in the last 40 laps of the Apache War­rior 400 at the Mon­ster Mile, Busch pow­ered his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Rac­ing Toy­ota around the out­side of El­liott’s No. 24 Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports Chevro­let and cleared him off Turn 4 as the cars ap­proached the white flag.

A lap later, Busch had his sec­ond straight vic­tory in the Mon­ster En­ergy NASCAR Cup Se­ries Play­off, leav­ing a dis­heart­ened El­liott still in search of his first vic­tory in the se­ries and ag­o­niz­ing over what he might have done dif­fer­ently.

Though El­liott was in­con­solable, there were plenty of pos­i­tives in his per­for­mance. The Hen­drick cars showed real speed for the first time since the Play­off be­gan two weeks ear­lier at Chicagoland, and El­liott moved on com­fort­ably to the Round of 12.

Not as for­tu­nate were Ryan New­man, Austin Dil­lon, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch, who were elim­i­nated from the Play­offs, as Ricky Sten­house Jr., claimed the 12th and fi­nal spot in the next round by two points over New­man, thanks to a risky-but-serendip­i­tous pit call by crew chief Brian Pat­tie.

But it was Busch who stole the show and stole the race, run­ning the top line as he sliced into El­liott’s ad­van­tage and diced his way through traf­fic more adroitly than his less ex­pe­ri­enced ri­val.

“Man, I saw that car­rot out there, and I wanted to go and get it,” said Busch, who won for the fourth time at Dover and the 42nd time in his ca­reer. “I got within five lengths and I stalled out and I was like, ‘Oh, man, I think that was it,’ you know? But I got back to the top and got enough mo­men­tum back rolling. Chase was kind of plugged up with the lapped cars in front of him, so I think the lapped cars ac­tu­ally helped us with that one.

“But, over­all, just great day for us. Great job by the team be­ing able to get in Vic­tory Lane here in Dover. It’s been a long time since we’ve been in Vic­tory Lane here, and it’s hard to come by wins here be­cause (11-time Dover win­ner) Jim­mie (John­son) takes up all the darn Mon­ster tro­phies. But it’s nice to have a third or fourth in my col­lec­tion – I can’t re­mem­ber.”

John­son, who fin­ished third, tried to con­sole his team­mate, but El­liott felt he let his team and or­ga­ni­za­tion down when he failed to beat Busch to the fin­ish line.

“I thought if I had a clean track, I could have run as fast as he did, but I didn’t, and I should have done some­thing dif­fer­ent,” said El­liott, still de­spon­dent when he ar­rived at the me­dia cen­ter for his post-race in­ter­view. “So that’s just on me, and he did a bet­ter job than I did. At the end of the day that’s what it comes down to…

“Man, such a bum­mer, such a dis­ap­point­ment for my team. I don’t re­ally have a whole lot to add.”

Se­ries leader and pole win­ner Martin Truex Jr. ran fourth, fol­lowed by Kyle Lar­son and a trio of non-Play­off driv­ers—Clint Bowyer, Dale Earn­hardt Jr. and Daniel Suarez.

Busch, Truex, Lar­son and 10th­place fin­isher Brad Ke­selowski had clinched spots in the Round of 12 be­fore ar­riv­ing at Dover. El­liott, John­son, Jamie McMur­ray (ninth on Sun­day), Matt Kenseth (11th), Kevin Har­vick (17th), Ryan Blaney (23rd), Denny Ham­lin (35th) and Sten­house (19th) joined them on Sun­day.

But it was Sten­house who won the nail-biter. But for Pat­tie’s de­ci­sion to keep the No. 17 Roush Fen­way Rac­ing Ford on track as long as pos­si­ble dur­ing a cy­cle of green­flag pit stops late in the first stage, Sten­house would have been elim­i­nat­edAs luck would have it, Jef­frey Earn­hardt spun into the bar­rels pro­tect­ing the en­trance to pit road on Lap 86 to cause the first cau­tion of the race one cir­cuit be­fore Sten­house was sched­uled to pit. The for­tu­itous yel­low left five cars on the lead lap and gave Sten­house the track po­si­tion he needed to score seven points as the fourth­place fin­isher in Stage 1.

That gave him the edge he needed over New­man.

“We caught the cau­tion there right at the right time with a per­fect amount of laps left in the stage to get stage points and that was the turn­ing point of the day,” said Sten­house, who bat­tled back from dis­as­ter at Chicagoland and a lack­lus­ter run at New Hamp­shire. “Our Fas­te­nal Ford was def­i­nitely not close to what we needed, es­pe­cially the last two runs. We were close be­fore the last two runs and made some ad­just­ments there and re­ally fell off.

“All in all, like I said, I feel lucky that we had all the mis­takes at Chicago and re­ally not a good car at Chicago, Loudon or Dover but we still made it in. Re­ally, it’s hats off to the guys for fight­ing all day, and it’s nice that the round starts over.”

GETTY IMAGES FOR NASCAR

Kyle Busch cel­e­brates in Vic­tory Lane af­ter win­ning the Mon­ster En­ergy NASCAR Cup Se­ries Apache War­rior 400 pre­sented by Lu­cas Oil at Dover In­ter­na­tional Speed­way on Sun­day in Dover, Del.

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