Kentucky winners and losers

Dustin Long

WINNERS

Matt McCall — Kurt Busch deserves much credit for winning at Kentucky Speedway but let’s not forget his crew chief, who was roasted on social media last week for having Busch pit before the field went back to green at Daytona only to see lightning cost them a chance at the win. At Kentucky, McCall went for fuel only on the team’s first stop, a key move in a race where track position was critical, and made the right calls throughout the night, including a four-tire change on the last stop, to give Busch a chance to win his first race of the season and earn a playoff spot.

Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch While many would have preferred a “Days of Thunder” last-lap crash that led to someone else winning, these two had a dramatic battle for the win that pushed both to the edge but not over it. 

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NASCAR — Remember when series officials used to keep drivers from standing on the roof of their car or anything like that during victory celebrations? Alex Bowman did it after his Chicago win and Kurt Busch did it after his Kentucky victory. Then, some of Busch’s crew members climbed atop the car and rode it to Victory Lane. Nice to see spontaneous celebrations are allowed.

Tyler AnkrumTook the lead with two laps to go when Brett Moffitt ran out of fuel to score the victory in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Kentucky. It was the 18-year-old Ankrum’s first series win, putting him in a playoff spot.

 

LOSERS

Daniel SuarezWhile his eighth-place finish was his best result in the last four races, it was unfulfilling. If Suarez goes on to make the playoffs, this night will be forgotten. If he fails to make the playoffs, this race might be a key reason why. He started on the pole but failed to score any stage points after a pit call backfired in the first stage and a flat tire forced a green-flag stop in the second stage. He entered the race three points behind Ryan Newman for the final playoff spot. Newman started last because of an inspection failure and finished ninth, losing only one point Suarez. Erik Jones’ third-place finish moved him past Newman and Suarez into a playoff spot.

Denny Hamlin’s pit crew — For the fifth time this season, Hamlin’s team was called for an uncontrolled penalty. While Hamlin has been a critic of how NASCAR has called such penalties this season, he said that crew chief Chris Gabehart told him that the infraction was “pretty obvious.” Said Hamlin: “It’s on us to tighten it up, know the rules and try not to have these penalties, especially on a two-tire stop. We’ve got to be better.”

Jimmie Johnson Rough night ends in a 30th-place finish. He falls to 15th in the season standings. Ryan Newman, the first driver outside a playoff spot is only 10 points behind Johnson. Seven races remain until the playoff field is set but will this be the year Johnson misses the playoffs?

Brandon Jones Rough weekend at Kentucky. He was leading the Truck race when Grant Enfinger lost control as they raced for position and wrecked them both. Jones finished 23rd. The next night, Jones’ Xfinity car was fast before an engine failure ended his night in 30th.

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