LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Kyle Busch earned a berth in the second round of NASCAR’s playoffs with a dominant victory Sunday at New Hampshire Motorspeedway.
Busch slipped through smoke from a multi-car crash on the backstretch that knocked out Martin Truex Jr.’s run at a second straight win and won in the No. 18 Toyota for the third time this season.
Busch, who won from the pole, put together a complete effort and joined Truex in the next round of the playoffs. The field is cut from 16 drivers to 12 following next week’s race at Dover International Speedway.
Truex, who won the playoff opener at Chicagoland, led 112 laps early until he was caught up in a wreck that ended his shot at a sixth win.
The playoff standings were shaken up in the wake of massive multi-car wreck that sent playoff drivers Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick to the garage. Harvick’s car was hit by Austin Dillon on the last lap of the second stage. Harvick spun and smoke billowed over the track, leaving drivers almost blinded to the traffic ahead. Busch, Harvick’s teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, slammed into Harvick. Truex backed up to straighten himself out and instead suffered left-rear damage when he smacked another car.
Kurt Busch, the Daytona 500 champion, will likely have to win next week at Dover to advance to the second round.
“It’s all-in. We’ll go there with everything we’ve got like we have been,” Busch said.
Harvick, the 2014 series champion, had accumulated enough playoff points that one DNF shouldn’t cost him a spot in the top 12.
“I couldn’t really tell where I was with all the smoke and everything that was happening, but just got hit from behind and spun out,” he said.
Playoff drivers filled the top five spots: Kyle Larson was second, followed by Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Truex.
“We had damage and had to fight from the back of the pack the rest of the day,” Truex said.
Kyle Busch, who had his shot at victory at Chicagoland end because of pit road miscues, survived the wreckage and took his customary victory bow toward the cheering fans.
“That was pretty intense,” Busch said. “That was some ‘Days of Thunder’ stuff over there. You couldn’t see anything.”
Other items of note at New Hampshire:
It appeared no drivers, crew or other team members participated in a protest during the national anthem. Several team owners and executives had said they wouldn’t want anyone in their organizations to protest.
Richard Childress, who was Dale Earnhardt’s longtime team owner, said of protesting, “It’ll get you a ride on a Greyhound bus.” Childress said he told his team that “anybody that works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people gave their lives for it. This is America.”
Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty’s sentiments took it a step further, saying: “Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period. What got ‘em where they’re at? The United States.”
When asked if a protester at Richard Petty Motorsports would be fired, he said, “You’re right.”
Another team owner, Chip Ganassi, said he supports Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s comments. Tomlin said before the Steelers played on Sunday that players would remain in the locker room and that “we’re not going to let divisive times or divisive individuals affect our agenda.”
NASCAR said 2016 champion Jimmie Johnson had not been invited to the White House for recognition as he had in the past, but that it necessarily wasn’t out of the ordinary because of the change in office.
New Hampshire is called the Magic Mile and NASCAR made its fall race disappear. This was the last time the track will hold two Cup races as the September date will move in 2018 to fellow Speedway Motorsports, Inc., track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The first cutoff race is held at Dover. Truex won this race last season. Johnson’s win in the spring race this year was his 11th at the track.