• 66°

Kyle Busch wins NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Kyle Busch is starting to wonder why he even spends time trying to qualify well at Richmond Raceway.

Five months after winning the spring race on the 0.75-mile oval from the 32nd starting spot, Busch did even better Saturday night, winning from 39th to complete a season sweep of the NASCAR Cup Series races.

“Yeah, I’m not going to qualify here anymore,” he said after his 50th career victory, sixth at Richmond and first in the fall. “It’s a waste of time for us.”

Besides, once the green flag flies, his fortunes change.

“I don’t know why. I just cannot qualify here, but we’ve got a really good race car when it comes down time to have a race and especially the later it gets,” he said.

Busch, sent to the rear of the field at the start because of unauthorized adjustments to his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, passed Brad Keselowski with 38 laps to go and held off hard-charging Kevin Harvick.

“To start dead last, come up through the field and win this thing? That’s right Rowdy Nation. All for you, baby,” Busch said after climbing from his car. “I finally won a fall race here at Richmond.”

Harvick closed a gap of more than 1.5 seconds over the final few laps, but was not able to deprive Busch of tying him with a season-best seven wins this season.

Martin Truex Jr., who swept the first two stages before a penalty forced him to play catch up, rallied for third, followed by Chase Elliott and Aric Almirola.

It was the first time all season that the three drivers who have dominated all season claimed the top three spots in a race.

Busch and Brad Keselowski have already clinched spots in the next round of the playoff by winning the first two playoff races, and Truex joined them on points by winning the first two stages.

Busch and Keselowski, a longtime rival seeking his fourth consecutive victory in the series, battled for the lead for much of the last 100-plus laps. Keselowski grabbed the top spot on lap 343, but Busch took it back 20 laps later before Keselowski faded, eventually finishing ninth, and Harvick picked up the chase.

“I thought he used a little more when he was racing with Keselowski there, and he drove off a little bit and I started driving him back down at the end,” Harvick said.

The race unfolded much like the spring race in April when Joey Logano swept the first two stages, each run without an on-track caution.

This time, it was Truex who completed the sweep, but then his team burned him on pit road. During the caution between the second and third stages, Truex’s team was penalized for an uncontrolled tire, dropping him to 19th place. After leading 159 laps, he had to play catch up. Like Logano, who wound up fourth in the spring, Truex never quite caught up, finishing 5.8 seconds off the lead.

The defending series champion remains the points leader by 16 over Busch, 28 over Harvick and 30 over Keselowski.

The night was not as eventful as local favorite Denny Hamlin had hoped.

Hamlin, who grew up about 20 miles from the track, started the night 16th in the playoff standings and with hopes of winning stage points and a top finish. He got spun by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. about halfway through the opening stage, had to pit under a green flag but scrambled all the way back to ninth before the stage was completed.

He didn’t make it in the top 10 on the second stage, and then tried to reprise his fresh tire surge by pitting under green with about 75 laps to go. But while he was on pit road under a green flag, Matt Kenseth made contact with Jeffrey Earnhardt, who spun into the wall and brought out a caution, putting Hamlin a lap down. The Chesterfield native finished 16th.

The caution was the only on because of an on-track incident all night.

Clint Bowyer (4 points), seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson (6), Erik Jones (21) and Hamlin (29) will start next week’s race at Charlotte as the bottom four in the playoffs.

Comments

Coronavirus

Afternoon, evening COVID-19 vaccination clinic planned Thursday

Crime

Concord man charged with woman’s murder in drive-by shooting

Ask Us

Ask Us: Have city, county elected officials received COVID-19 vaccine?

Local

City gives away nearly 100 trees during ‘We Dig Salisbury’ event

Local

Political Notebook: Bitzer expects most ‘Trump-like’ candidate to be favorite in state’s Senate race

Crime

Blotter: Concord man arrested in Rowan for indecent liberties with children

Coronavirus

Half of US adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

Nation/World

Police: FedEx shooter legally bought guns used in shooting

News

Hester Ford, oldest living American, dies at 115 … or 116?

Local

Size of pipeline spill again underestimated in North Carolina

BREAKING NEWS

Kannapolis Police searching for suspect who fled scene of homicide

Education

RSS superintendent talks district’s future, strategic plan survey

News

Complaints and fines pile up against unpermitted landfill in southwest Rowan County

College

Catawba baseball: Crowd comes out to say goodbye to Newman Park

Lifestyle

History is a great teacher: Farming has helped shape Rowan County

Business

‘A safe place for them’: Timeless Wigs and Marvelous Things celebrates fifth anniversary

China Grove

County will hear request for more tree houses, hobbit-style homes in China Grove

Coronavirus

Livingstone College partners with Health Department to administer 500 Pfizer vaccinations

Education

‘Elite and it shows’: Staff at Partners in Learning at Novant celebrate news of national accreditation

Business

Biz Roundup: Food Lion earns Energy Star award for 20th consecutive year

Columns

Ester Marsh: What body type are you?

Nation/World

The queen says goodbye to Philip, continues her reign alone

Nation/World

Worldwide COVID-19 death toll tops a staggering 3 million

Nation/World

US, China agree to cooperate on climate crisis with urgency