Kyle Busch earns spot in cham­pi­onship race

Rome News-Tribune - - SPORTS - By Jenna Fryer As­so­ci­ated Press Auto Rac­ing Writer

— Chase El­liott could have won at Martinsville Speed­way. Same for Brad Ke­selowski, and Denny Ham­lin, too.

It was Kyle Busch, though, who punched his ticket into NAS­CAR’s cham­pi­onship race with the vic­tory.

Busch moved Joe Gibbs Rac­ing team­mate Ham­lin out of his way in over­time to win at Martinsville and earn a spot in the cham­pi­onship race for the third con­sec­u­tive year. He won the series ti­tle in 2015.

It was a ho-hum race that got very in­tense, very quickly, in the wan­ing laps.

Ke­selowski was in po­si­tion to win when Joey Logano de­vel­oped a tire prob­lem with about 10 laps re­main­ing in reg­u­la­tion. Had his Team Penske

team­mate pit­ted un­der green to fix the tire, Ke­selowski likely would have coasted to the win and earned the spot in the fi­nale.

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In­stead, Logano spun and brought out a cau­tion.

Ke­selowski was moved out of the way by El­liott af­ter a restart, and Ham­lin spun El­liott out of the lead with two laps re­main­ing in reg­u­la­tion. El­liott wrecked, chased Ham­lin down on the cooldown lap to show his dis­plea­sure, and the driv­ers had a heated ex­change af­ter they climbed from their cars.

It was a dis­as­trous re­sult for El­liott — from po­ten­tial race win­ner to 27th, low­est of the eight re­main­ing play­off driv­ers.

“My mom al­ways said if you don’t have any­thing nice to say, don’t say any­thing at all,” El­liott said. “He’s not worth my time. I got punted from be­hind and wrecked in Turn 3 lead­ing the race. I don’t know what his prob­lem was. It was un­nec­es­sary and I hadn’t raced him dirty all-day long.

“We had the best car I’ve ever had here at Martinsville, and had an op­por­tu­nity to go straight to Home­stead and be­cause of him we don’t.”

El­liott could re­peat­edly be seen say­ing “You wrecked me,” to Ham­lin as the crowd roared its ap­proval over the ten­sion.

Ham­lin, mean­while, faded to sev­enth af­ter Busch bumped him for the win.

Ke­selowski wound up fourth in a race his team be­lieved he had to win.

In­stead, he was sim­ply dart­ing his way around a huge pileup on the fi­nal lap that ended an emo­tional open­ing race of the third round of the play­offs.

“Yeah, ev­ery­body is just des­per­ate,” Ke­selowski said.

Martin Truex Jr. wound up sec­ond in a 1-2 sweep for Toy­ota. The fa­vorite to win the ti­tle, he said he is con­fi­dent enough he will make it to next month’s fi­nale at Home­stead-Mi­ami Speed­way with­out hav­ing to bump Busch out of his way to grab the au­to­matic berth.

Clint Bowyer, not el­i­gi­ble for the play­offs, fin­ished third.

Kevin Har­vick was fifth in a Ford, Ryan Blaney eighth for the Wood Brothers of nearby Stu­art, Vir­ginia, and sev­en­time NAS­CAR cham­pion Jim­mie John­son fin­ished 12th.

That was a near vic­tory for John­son, who spun in Sun­day morn­ing qual­i­fy­ing

SUN­DAY’S RE­SULTS

NAS­CAR Mon­ster En­ergy CupFirst Data 500 At Martinsville

Speed­way Martinsville, Va. Lap length: 0.526 miles (Start po­si­tion in

paren­the­ses) 1. (14) Kyle Busch, Toy­ota,

505 laps, 0 rat­ing, 58 points. 2. (2) Martin Truex Jr.,

Toy­ota, 505, 0, 48. 3. (5) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 505,

0, 36. 4. (7) Brad Ke­selowski,

505, 0, 53. 5. (13) Kevin Har­vick,

505, 0, 36. 6. (34) Trevor Bayne,

505, 0, 31. 7. (6) Denny Ham­lin,

505, 0, 31. 8. (4) Ryan Blaney,

0, 38. 9. (17) Matt Kenseth,

505, 0, 31. 10. (22) Ricky Sten­house Jr.,

Ford, 505, 0, 27. 11. (21) Dale Earn­hardt Jr.,

Chevro­let, 505, 0, 26. 12. (24) Jim­mie John­son,

Chevro­let, 505, 0, 33. 13. (25) Austin Dil­lon,

Chevro­let, 505, 0, 26. 14. (18) Ryan New­man,

Chevro­let, 505, 0, 23. 15. (15) Daniel Suarez,

Toy­ota, 505, 0, 22. 16. (12) Kasey Kahne,

Chevro­let, 505, 0, 24. 17. (23) Danica Patrick,

505, 0, 20. 18. (10) Aric Almirola,

505, 0, 19. 19. (20) Michael McDow­ell,

Chevro­let, 505, 0, 18. 20. (19) Paul Me­nard,

Chevro­let, 505, 0, 17. 21. (29) Chris Buescher,

Chevro­let, 505, 0, 16. 22. (11) Kurt Busch, Ford,

505, 0, 15. 23. (33) Lan­don Cas­sill,

505, 0, 14. 24. (1) Joey Logano,

504, 0, 29. 25. (30) Cole Whitt,

504, 0, 12. 26. (8) Erik Jones,

504, 0, 11. 27. (3) Chase El­liott,

Chevro­let, 504, 0, 21. 28. (31) David Ra­gan, Ford,

503, 0, 9. 29. (16) Jamie McMur­ray,

Chevro­let, 503, 0, 8. 30. (26) Ty Dil­lon, Chevro­let,

501, 0, 7. 31. (35) Gray Gauld­ing,

Toy­ota, 501, 0, 6. 32. (32) Reed Soren­son,

Chevro­let, 500, 0, 5. 33. (36) Corey La­joie, Toy­ota,

500, 0, 4. 34. (40) Her­mie Sadler,

Chevro­let, 494, 0, 3. 35. (38) Kyle Weather­man,

Chevro­let, 488, 0, 2. 36. (39) Carl Long, Chevro­let,

ac­ci­dent, 444, 0, 0. 37. (9) Kyle Lar­son, Chevro­let,

ac­ci­dent, 300, 0, 1. 38. (37) Jef­frey Earn­hardt, Chevro­let, reargear, 274, 0, 1. 39. (28) Matt DiBenedetto,

Ford, elec­tri­cal, 187, 0, 1. 40. (27) AJ All­mendinger,

Chevro­let, ac­ci­dent, 94, 0, 1. Ford, Ford, Ford, Toy­ota, Ford, 505, Toy­ota, Ford, Ford, Ford, Ford, Chevro­let, Toy­ota,

and needed to make re­pairs to his Chevro­let that forced him to start last. A nine-time Martinsville win­ner, he used this race last year to vault him to­ward his record-ty­ing sev­enth cham­pi­onship.

Steve Helber / The As­so­ci­ated Press

Kyle Busch cel­e­brates af­ter win­ning Sun­day’s NAS­CAR Cup series race at Martinsville Speed­way in Martinsville, Va.. The grand­fa­ther clock is the win­ner’s tro­phy. MARTINSVILLE, Va.

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