WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – With four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories since returning from an 11-race injury absence, Kyle Busch will be eligible for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup as soon as he cracks the top 30 in the series standings. That could come as early as Sunday at Watkins Glen International, if Busch makes up a 13-point deficit to 30th-place David Gilliland in the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Though Busch is a prolific winner at NASCAR's top level, he doesn't begrudge those who qualify for the Chase with a single victory, as both Aric Almirola (Daytona) and AJ Allmendinger (Watkins Glen) did last year. In fact, Busch fully supports the win-and-you're-in aspect of the playoff eligibility rules. "I think winning in this sport is very, very tough and you see it every single year," Busch said. "I think the average is only between 12 and 14 (different) winners in a season, and that’s been that way for 15 years or 20 years or whatever it's been. It's not all that easy to win these races, and sometimes you look at teams -- maybe last year you look at Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger . They won races to get themselves into the Chase, but were their teams really ready for the Chase? "That's not for any of us to decide. It's for them to be able to compete and have that opportunity to compete for the championship… There's opportunity for teams like that, and I think this sport needs that. If AJ were to win again this weekend, I think it would be perfect for him to have the opportunity to race in the Chase and same for anybody else like a Tony Stewart . If he were to win this weekend, I think it would be a true revival story of his season and maybe of the rest of his career." It's also worth noting that, if there's a repeat winner on Sunday at Watkins Glen, all 10 races winners this season other than Busch will be locked into the Chase. Those with multiple wins -- Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Harvick , Dale Earnhardt Jr . , Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth -- lready have earned Chase berths.
RELATED: See all 43 cars " Starting lineup for Michigan BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Matt Kenseth 's No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota crew woke a sleeping giant just in time for qualifying for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) at Michigan International Speedway. But Kenseth jokingly credited a sleepless night -- brought on by worry over teammate Denny Hamlin 's lack of punctuality -- for his pole-winning effort in Friday's time trials at the two-mile track. Getting the most out of the high-drag aerodynamic package in force at the event at Michigan, Kenseth covered the distance in 36.458 seconds (197.488 mph) to win his third Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his first at MIS and the 16th of his career. Hamlin (196.990 mph) was second fastest, and Carl Edwards (196.276 mph) claimed the third starting spot, as Joe Gibbs Racing swept the top three positions on the grid for the 23rd Sprint Cup race of the season. Austin Dillon (195.918 mph) qualified fourth as the top Chevrolet in the field, followed by Tony Stewart (195.477 mph) in a Chevrolet and Kyle Busch (195.450 mph) in the fourth JGR Toyota. Joey Logano , last week's winner at Watkins Glen, qualified 10th as the only Ford driver to crack the top 12. Based on practice speed, Edwards was a favorite to win the pole, but Kenseth, who was 10th on the speed chart in the opening practice session, closed the gap in time from qualifying. "We were a long ways off Carl in practice, and I don't even know what changes they made, but they changed a lot of stuff that really woke this thing up and had some speed," Kenseth said. "I knew I got through (Turns) 1 and 2 good, but Denny put up such a fast lap, and I got into (Turn) 3, and I was bound and determined that I was going to make it wide open. "I had the first half of the corner. It was the second half that was starting to get exciting. I got sliding up the track and bogged down a little bit. I wasn't sure that we were going have it, but I have to say thanks to those guys (the crew). They gave me a car with a lot of speed." In Hamlin's view, Busch's return from an injury has achieved a critical mass of four talented, veteran drivers at JGR who can benefit from each other's expertise. "When you have drivers that you can feed off of, like the three teammates that I have, it makes a difference, and so that's where you're seeing the results," Hamlin said. That didn't prevent the driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry from throwing a barb toward the 43-year-old teammate who beat him for the pole. "Matt was probably too old to remember to lift there," Hamlin said of Kenseth's qualifying run. Kenseth provided a different perspective. "I could say it's because I didn't get enough sleep," Kenseth said. "I flew up with Denny today, and he likes to come to everything at the last minute. I didn't sleep last night thinking that we weren't going to make it up here, so it's really just for lack of sleep. I get to credit Denny for the pole." Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Logano completed the top 10. Reed Sorenson failed to make the 43-car field.
JGR driver claims back-to-back poles at Loudon, Indy RELATED: Full Indy lineup INDIANAPOLIS -- If Toyota and Ford are to break the Chevrolet stranglehold on Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the two manufacturers took a positive step in that direction during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series time trials on Saturday. Underscoring the recent resurgence of Joe Gibbs Racing , Carl Edwards toured the 2.5-mile track in 49.056 seconds (183.464 mph) to put his No. 19 Toyota on the pole for Sunday's Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at The Brickyard (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM), edging Joey Logano 's Team Penske Ford (183.139 mph) by .087 seconds. David Ragan (182.886 mph) qualified third in the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota. Fourth-place qualifier Tony Stewart (182.823 mph) had the fastest Chevrolet in the final round. Chevrolets have won the last 12 Sprint Cup races at Indianapolis. Stewart, though, had the fastest lap of the afternoon (185.547 mph) in the first round of time trials, which trimmed the number of drivers eligible for the pole from 46 to 12. The Coors Light Pole Award was Edwards' first at the Brickyard, his second of the season, his second in a row and the 15th of his career. "After yesterday, this is amazing," Edwards said. "We started so slow yesterday and we struggled. I think at one point (crew chief) Darian (Grubb) and I were looking at each other going, 'What are we going to do here?' "It was a struggle, and everybody buckled down, worked hard -- I'm so proud of my guys. TRD and Toyota have been putting so much effort into this whole program. Stanley has been behind us 100 percent -- not just me, but Matt Kenseth and our whole team. This is big. It will be neat to start up front." Kyle Busch , Edwards' JGR teammate, will start ninth on Sunday in search of his third consecutive victory in the Sprint Cup Series. Sidelined for the first 11 events of the season by injuries sustained in an accident at Daytona in February, Busch has won three of the last four races and has seven races left in which to regain eligibility for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by finishing the regular season in the top 30 in the series standings. Entering Sunday's race, Busch is 33rd in points, 58 behind David Gilliland in 30th place. Behind Stewart, Kyle Larson , Kevin Harvick , Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr . will line up fifth through eighth on the grid. After qualifying, Logano and Ragan were quick to point out an unusual coincidence. Edwards, Logano and Ragan started 1-2-3, in that order, a week before at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a one-mile flat track. The Sprint Cup cars are running a completely different high-drag aerodynamic package this week, with a nine-inch-tall rear spoiler and a one-inch wicker. Last week at Loudon, the cars featured the regular 2015 rules package with a six-inch spoiler. "David and I were just laughing up here that these are the same three race cars that started up front at Loudon," Logano said. "A completely different race track, different package and the same cars are fast. It's good for us. We're close. Second always hurts, but it's nice to be up toward the front, especially here." Jeff Gordon 's final run at Indianapolis as a full-time driver didn't start the way the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet would have hoped. "I really think our 3M Chevrolet is really good," said Gordon, who qualified 19th. "It's been good all weekend. I feel like I underestimated the grip. I had a little wiggle out of three coming to the green and that concerned me slightly. The grip was there in Turn 4, and I was aggressive into Turn 1, but not aggressive enough. "That's what's disappointing; it wasn't a balance issue or a speed issue. I didn't get enough speed through (Turn) 1. It adds up with this new package. Yeah, I'm pretty disappointed to start back there." Notes: Josh Wise , Jeb Burton and Reed Sorenson failed to make the 43-car field. ... Ryan Newman ’s time was disallowed because he ran his lap without the mandatory right-side window in his car. Newman will start 43rd on Sunday on a provisional.
RELATED: Complete race results " Updated standings BRISTOL, Tenn -- A spin with four laps to go in Wednesday night's UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway proved to be the saving grace for Brad Keselowski Racing's Ryan Blaney , who grabbed the lead on a green-white-checkered restart to win his first race of the 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season. Blaney recovered from an early race penalty for jumping a restart to find himself closing on leader Matt Crafton with five laps remaining. When Ty Dillon spun on Lap 196, it triggered the final caution of the night and the opportunity for Blaney to steal Crafton's thunder. On the final restart, Crafton's truck sputtered, failing to come up to speed, allowing Blaney to take off and seal his fourth career NCWTS victory. "It feels really good," Blaney said. "I'm proud of everyone on this No. 29 team. I've had a chance to drive this truck four times this year and we've come really, really close every single time and to finally get it to Victory Lane, my last start of the year for this truck, it really means a lot to get Chad (Kendrick, crew chief) and Brad (Keselowski, team owner) back to Victory Lane. "To do that in that fashion coming from a lap down and being able to drive through the field like that says a lot about our race team and a lot about what as an organization we can do." Keystone Light Pole Award winner Kyle Busch 's slow start allowed outside pole-sitter Blaney to steal the lead early by the exit of Turn 1, controlling the field through the first caution on Lap 31 for a spin in Turn 2. On the restart, Blaney roared away from the field, but a few laps later, NASCAR black-flagged him on Lap 37 for jumping the restart, forcing a pass-through penalty, giving the lead to Cole Custer . Busch, who restarted fifth, methodically worked his way forward and attempted to take the lead away from the young NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner, but Custer kept Busch at bay through the race's second caution on Lap 79 for debris in Turn 1. Busch and Johnny Sauter would trade the lead following the caution, before Custer returned to the top spot on lap 90. A more than 1.5-second lead for Custer would be erased when Ray Black Jr . and Caleb Holman crashed in Turn 4 on lap 112. With darkening skies overhead and the threat of rain approaching the World's Fastest Half-Mile, a majority of the teams elected to stay out. Despite his best efforts, Crafton tried to snatch the lead away from the JR Motorsports driver, but to no avail. Custer slowly saw Crafton become a diminishing factor in his rear-view mirror until he hit heavy lap traffic with 50 laps remaining. That's when Spencer Gallagher spun in Turns 3 and 4, and Custer found himself trapped in the high-line and collided with Gallagher. Heavy front-end damage sent the No. 00 Chevrolet to pit road for repairs, eliminating the NASCAR Next driver from competition. As the accident happened, Crafton slipped by on the inside and took the lead -- which he held until the green-white-checkered restart that lost him the race. While under yellow for the fourth time of the night, heavy rain began to fall, causing a red flag for 45 minutes, 50 seconds while the track was dried. Next up for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is the Aug. 30 race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for the third-annual Chevrolet Silverado 250 . Blaney is the defending champion. MORE: Nemechek gets career-best finish
Race leader Cole Custer receives damage after a Spencer Gallagher spinout ending his chances of winning at Bristol Motor Speedway.
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Roush Fenway driver conserved fuel for 'Monster Mile' victory RELATED: Final results DOVER, Del. -- Chris Buescher had enough fuel left at the end of Saturday's Buckle Up 200 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Dover International Speedway to do a celebratory burnout, but his No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford wasn't the only thing that was smoking after the checkered flag. Yes, Buescher won for the second time this season and extended his lead in the series standings to 15 points over eighth-place finisher Ty Dillon , but his winning pass of teammate and Coors Light Polesitter Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. left Wallace fuming. Contact between the cars on Lap 191 of 200 cut the left front tire of Wallace’s No. 6 Ford and forced the car to pit road for an unplanned stop. While Buescher spent the final nine laps coasting to an 11.477-second victory over runner-up Matt Kenseth , stretching 98 laps out of his last tank of fuel, Wallace left the Monster Mile in 17th place -- and understandably unhappy about it. "I was saving fuel there, and Chris just ran over me and he ends up winning," Wallace said. "It should be interesting Monday morning (in the team competition meeting). We just got run over. It sucks that it was my teammate. I thought he got help from the 7 (third-place finisher Regan Smith ), but I just saw the replay there. "I was saving fuel. I didn’t think I was holding him tight and the next thing you know we’re almost in the fence," continued Wallace, a NASCAR Next and Drive for Diversity alum. "The crappy part about it is we had a really strong Ford EcoBoost Mustang, and we couldn’t get off pit road to save us, and we got caught in dirty air, and then we were in fuel saving mode. I thought we were doing OK until that little incident. I would say I am happy Roush won but I’m not." MORE: Tension rises with Roush on-track contact The victory was Buescher's third in the series and his second in the last three races. The winner pointed out that his teammate, who also was on fuel-conservation strategy, was running a slower pace when Buescher caught him. "That was tough, because we are sitting there, and he was saving a lot more fuel than I was because they were shorter, and I was able to run into the corner harder, but I couldn’t do anything with the track being pretty narrow and two guys racing for the win," Buescher said. "It was tough. We got side by side and it (Buescher's car) got pretty free, but this Roush Mustang was good all weekend. The race wasn't exactly where we needed to be, but then (crew chief) Scott (Graves) pulled great strategy and the team did a nice job, and we got to Victory Lane with this Ford." As the highest finisher among eligible series regulars, Regan Smith , who thought he was racing Kenseth for the win before Buescher's fuel strategy paid off, won the $100,000 XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash bonus. MORE: Smith wins first XFINITY Dash 4 Cash bonus "We'll take some of XFINITY ’s money as a consolation prize, but I want a win so freaking bad," Smith said. Buescher, Smith, sixth-place finisher Chase Elliott and seventh-place Brendan Gaughan are the four drivers eligible for the money in the second of four Dash 4 Cash races on July 25 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway . Note: Sprint Cup regulars Austin Dillon and Kasey Kahne finished fourth and fifth, respectively, but in post-race inspection, Dillon's car was deemed too low in the rear on both sides. If penalties are forthcoming, NASCAR will announce them next week. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
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