NASCAR Barometer: Busch Wins Again

NASCAR Barometer: Busch Wins Again

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Kyle Busch put together the fastest machine for the final laps of Saturday night's Quaker State 400. He led the most laps in addition to the race win, which helps his quest to work his way into the top 30 in points and a spot in the Chase for the Championship. Busch didn't have it easy, though. Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano found their way back to the top of the order, and led 85 laps between them. Busch was forced to race Logano hard in the closing miles to get past, but pulled away once the move stuck.

The race continued the trend of fast drivers in practice having successful outings in the race, despite most sessions being rained out. Kyle Larson started from pole by virtue of his fastest time in first practice, but lost his handling and any chance of the win along with it. Busch's teammates used pit strategy to work their ways forward, but weren't fast enough to truly contend and that left the Penske cars of Logano and Keselowski. Keselowski lost his handling in the final laps, and Logano simply didn't have enough speed to stay in front.

Busch now has 200 points, and is 87 points behind 30th position. Prior to Kentucky he needed an average finish of just better than 14th in the remaining races to be on track to make it into the Chase. Maximum points in Kentucky help continue him down that path.

UPGRADE

Kyle Busch -

Kyle Busch put together the fastest machine for the final laps of Saturday night's Quaker State 400. He led the most laps in addition to the race win, which helps his quest to work his way into the top 30 in points and a spot in the Chase for the Championship. Busch didn't have it easy, though. Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano found their way back to the top of the order, and led 85 laps between them. Busch was forced to race Logano hard in the closing miles to get past, but pulled away once the move stuck.

The race continued the trend of fast drivers in practice having successful outings in the race, despite most sessions being rained out. Kyle Larson started from pole by virtue of his fastest time in first practice, but lost his handling and any chance of the win along with it. Busch's teammates used pit strategy to work their ways forward, but weren't fast enough to truly contend and that left the Penske cars of Logano and Keselowski. Keselowski lost his handling in the final laps, and Logano simply didn't have enough speed to stay in front.

Busch now has 200 points, and is 87 points behind 30th position. Prior to Kentucky he needed an average finish of just better than 14th in the remaining races to be on track to make it into the Chase. Maximum points in Kentucky help continue him down that path.

UPGRADE

Kyle Busch - The lack of practice for Saturday's race may have shifted some advantages to Busch's corner for the race. The driver was not able to race on the 1.5-mile ovals earlier this season, so this week's change in aerodynamic rules may not have affected him as much as others. He flexed his muscle right from the green flag and was the fastest car on track in the closing laps. Once he was able to successfully clear Joey Logano, the checkered flag was all he had in his sights. To make things better, Busch has four straight top-10 finishes in the last four New Hampshire races. These two weeks could do a lot to boost his Chase hopes.

Brad Keselowski -
Keselowski and Penske Racing certainly made strides forward against the competition in Kentucky, especially after being behind the pace the past few races. Both teammates were fast all weekend, but it was Keselowski that led a large chunk of the early miles Saturday night. The No. 2 appeared to be the best car on track through most of the race, but faded at the end. The team wasn't able to stay on top of the handling and that overheated Keselowski's rear tire forcing him to slow. From that point onward his main aim was to settle for a top-10 finish on a night that could have been a win. Still, it looks like Penske may be back in step with the competition.

Joey Logano -
Logano put up a valiant effort after Saturday night's final restart, but was unable to hold off Busch for the race win. The Penske driver capitalized on the team's stride forward in the latter segments of Saturday's race to take the lead after showing flashes of speed when he was able to get on track. His battle with Busch produced some of the most exciting racing of the night, but in the end Logano simply didn't have enough. His top-5 finish was a significant step forward after appearing to lose ground in recent weeks. Logano also has a great record at Loudon. He has two wins including the fall race last season where he led 73 laps en route to victory.

Denny Hamlin -
After Saturday's third-place finish Hamlin now has three top-10 finishes in his last five races. At the beginning of the season Hamlin was very inconsistent, but now seems to be discovering a nice run in form that could make the difference for him in the Chase. The knockout format rewards consistency, something Hamlin has struggled to find so far in 2015. Next week's venue give him a great opportunity to extend that run, too. Hamlin has won twice in his New Hampshire career, but has only picked up one top-10 finish at the track in the last four races. The strength of the Gibbs teammates last week could be a good omen for Hamlin in the near future.

DOWNGRADE

Kyle Larson - Larson swept the top spot in the practice sessions ahead of Saturday's race in Kentucky. The No. 42 was expected to be the fastest car throughout the night, but that wasn't to be. While Larson ran strongly, he encountered problems and fell deep in the order. His car was loose, and that slight miss in handling caused all of his trouble. Contact ultimately collapsed a fender onto his rear tire, forcing him to pit. The team didn't make all the repairs they needed to, though. Larson suffered a flat rear tire as a result of the rub after returning to the track. It was a disappointing night of small missteps that ruined what could have been a great night for the team.

Kurt Busch -
The lower downforce setups the drivers and teams had to contend with Saturday night didn't fare too well with Busch. The team worked to make changes that would make him more comfortable in the car, but he ended up losing control and spinning into the grass early. Busch didn't take to the new setup very quickly, and was forced to undo some of the steps the team took early in the race. Luckily Busch was able to remain on the lead lap despite the spin and came back to finish 10th leaving us wondering what might have been. He has three New Hampshire wins and could be one of the favorites next week, though.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. -
Earnhardt may have sealed his fate when he neglected to turn on the brake fans early in Saturday's race. The mistake overheated the system and forced the team to remove tape from the nose in an effort to help cool the temperature. However, the effort wasn't enough and Earnhardt found himself with glowing rotors as his car sailed up the track and into the wall. Later on his brake issues caused more problems forcing him to slow, and also causing some incidental contact with Danica Patrick. Earnhardt has never won at New Hampshire, but finished in the top 10 in each of the last three races at the track and could use to regroup after Kentucky.

Tony Stewart -
Stewart was behind the competition early last weekend, and the situation did not improve during the race. The former champion continues to struggle at tracks that don't neutralize the differences in equipment like road courses and restrictor-plate circuits. Kentucky was not different than that trend, and contact with Jamie McMurray developed into Stewart trying to avoid two other competitors. That move to avoid the others slowed Stewart and sent his car out of the groove and into the wall. Despite having three New Hampshire wins, choosing Stewart next week would be a brave move. He has been off the pace the entire season, and hasn't shown much hope of turning things around before the year comes to an end.

Danica Patrick -
Patrick's misery carried over from Daytona straight into Kentucky. She was not on the pace for much of the weekend, and brought out a caution late in the race when she lost control while running 27th after being bumped by the No. 88 car. Her Chase hopes rest on her ability to score a win in the next few weeks, but that is a tall ask considering she hasn't finished inside the top 15 since Dover. Things don't look like they're going to get better this week in New Hampshire either. Her best finish at the track was 19th last season, and that was her first top-20 finish at the track in her career.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Carl Edwards - After not demonstrating much speed in the limited practice ahead of Saturday's race, Edwards turned heads under green. He started deep in the field, but spent the majority of the night running among the leaders. He never appeared to have the fastest car, but was able to remain with the contenders. Performances like that are what put teams in a position to claim wins. He finished fourth, which was his first top-10 finish since he won at Charlotte. Joe Gibbs Racing may have made up some ground on the competition, which will be great timing for the team as they approach the Chase. Edwards has two top-10 finishes in his last five starts at New Hampshire, and he could be in store for another this week.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
NASCAR Barometer: Ryan Blaney Pulls Away to Win at Pocono
NASCAR Barometer: Ryan Blaney Pulls Away to Win at Pocono
NASCAR DFS: The Great American Getaway 400
NASCAR DFS: The Great American Getaway 400
NASCAR DFS Xfinity: Explore the Pocono Mountains 225
NASCAR DFS Xfinity: Explore the Pocono Mountains 225
NASCAR DFS Trucks: CRC Brakleen 175
NASCAR DFS Trucks: CRC Brakleen 175