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MENCS: Busch punches ticket to round 2

(MRN) Kyle Busch made it look easy on Sunday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway – starting from the pole, winning the second stage and leading a race-high 187 laps as he charged into the second round of the playoffs. The driver of the Number-18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was largely unchallenged throughout the second half of the race, leading all but three of the final 150 laps and beating runner-up Kyle Larson to the finish by two-point-six seconds. He joins Martin Truex Junior, last weekend’s winner at Chicagoland Speedway, with a guaranteed spot in the second round of the post-season that opens in two weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Matt Kenseth finished third yesterday, giving Joe Gibbs Racing two of the top three spots. Brad Keselowski ran fourth and Truex, who won Stage-1, completed the top five.

How dominant was Busch’s Sunday drive? There were just six lead changes – a season low in the Monster Energy Series – among only three drivers: Busch, Larson and Truex. The race was slowed by six cautions for thirty-two laps.

Sunday’s win was Busch’s forty-first and his third at New Hampshire. The two others came in 2006 and 2015. Joe Gibbs leads all Cup Series team owners in victories at New Hampshire with eleven … Denny Hamlin, one of Busch’s J-G-R teammates, finished twelfth in his bid for a season sweep on “The Magic Mile” after winning there in mid-July.

Corey LaJoie finished twenty-seventh in Sunday’s race, one day before celebrating his 26th birthday.

NASCAR CUP SERIES

Top 10 Finishers in the ISM Connect 300

DRIVER STARTING POSITION LAPS LED

1. Kyle Busch (Pole) 187

2. Kyle Larson (2) 1

3. Matt Kenseth (10) —

4. Brad Keselowski (13) —

5. Martin Truex Jr. (5) 112

6. Erik Jones (R) (8) —

7. Clint Bowyer (16) —

8. Daniel Suarez (R) (25) —

9. Ryan Blaney (4) —

10. Joey Logano (39) —

RACE NOTES …

Playoff participants swept the top five spots in Sunday’s race. The highest-finishing non-title contender was Furniture Row Racing rookie Erik Jones, who started eighth and finished sixth … Kyle Busch’s victory is his third Cup Series win at New Hampshire, tying him with five others for the top spot among active drivers on the track’s all-time win list: Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin. Jeff Burton, now retired from driving, is Number-1 with four victories … Kyle Busch is the first Cup Series driver to win at New Hampshire after starting from the pole since Newman in 2011.

2017 PLAYOFFS Unofficial Standings Round 2

1. Martin Truex Jr. 2,149 Points

2. Kyle Larson 2,125 (-24)

3. Kyle Busch 2,119 (-30)

4. Brad Keselowski 2,106 (-43)

5. Denny Hamlin 2,088 (-61)

6. Matt Kenseth 2,087 (-62)

7. Jimmie Johnson 2,076 (-73)

8. Ryan Blaney 2,070 (-79)

Chase Elliott 2,070 (-79)

10. Kevin Harvick 2,069 (-80)

11. Jamie McMurray 2,053 (-96)

12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 2,044 (-105)

Austin Dillon 2,044 (-105)

14. Ryan Newman 2,043 (-106)

15. Kurt Busch 2,027 (-122)

16. Kasey Kahne 2,023 (-126)

Inside the Playoffs

The sixteen-driver post-season field will be trimmed to twelve after the race next weekend at Dover International Speedway … with Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne currently holding the bottom four spots in the first round.

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:20 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH & WQLA. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, his mother-in-law and cats Lucius and Oliver.

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