2015 Toyota Save Mart 350
Kyle Busch’s hopes of making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup improved significantly on Sunday at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.
Busch used a late-race caution to pit for four fresh tires, then he drove past leader Jimmie Johnson with five laps to go to score his first win of the season in the Save Mart 350. He needed it to have any shot of making the Chase, since Busch will have to be in the top 30 in points after the 26-race cutoff in September.
But winning a race – the biggest uphill battle – is now out of the way.
“This is awesome, just unbelievable,” said Busch – who was in such a deep points hole after breaking his leg and foot in a crash during an XFINITY Series race in February at Daytona Int’l Speedway and missing three months of racing. He’ll still have to rattle off top-10 finishes before the end of the 26th race to make the Chase for the third straight year.
“I can’t say enough about everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and my medical team, and I can’t say enough about my brother (Kurt),” Busch added. “He made it tough on Clint Bowyer there the last few laps.”
Kurt Busch finished second to complete a one-two finish for the family, only one race after the duo finished last and first at Michigan Int’l Speedway two weeks prior.
“It was incredible drive all day, the car was fast and I thought we had the right (pit) sequence,” Busch said. “Our Haas Automation Chevy was fast. We led a lot of laps. (Crew chief) Tony Gibson and all the guys built a beautiful road course race car. Congrats to my little brother too, I know this means a lot to him.”
Bowyer hung on for third, while Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano rounded out the top five.
Johnson appeared to be pulling away to victory before Casey Mears broke an axle with 12 laps to go and brought out the race’s final caution. Johnson was the only lead car not to pit, as Bowyer, Busch and the rest of the front runners swooped in for fresh tires. The Busch brothers and Bowyer made
quick work of Johnson over the final seven laps, but Johnson still held on to finish sixth.
Two of Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne, finished seventh and eighth. Ryan Newman and Sam Hornish Jr. completed the top 10.
Jeff Gordon made his final start in his home state and wound up 16th.
Photos by Randy Jones