NASCAR | The inevitability of a Kyle Busch victory

Kyle Busch celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Pocono Raceway, Sunday, July 30, 2017, in Long Pond, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/AP photo

NASCAR saw another new winner in 2017, the 14th this season in the Cup series. But Kyle Busch‘s Pocono victory on Sunday was much less “Hey, he won!” and more “What took so long?” considering that he has led 1,114 laps this year. That and other headlines from Long Pond, Pa.

Busch ends skid

Kyle Busch carried a 36-race winless streak into Sunday, the longest of his career. But had he received a few breaks — or if both he and his team had made fewer mistakes — he could have won at least three, perhaps four or five times in 2017. As it was, Busch looked relieved after leading 74 laps, including the final 17, for his first checkered flag since last year at Indianapolis. “I never thought this was going to happen,” Busch said upon getting out of his car after his post-race burnout celebration. Busch has now won at least once in 13 consecutive years since 2005; only Jimmie Johnson (16 consecutive years) has a longer active streak. All in all, it was a day worth taking a bow for the fans.

Johnson out of it again

Johnson fell to 11th in points after crashing out. It’s weird to see the seven-time series champion so low in points and even odder because he is still tied for the most victories this season with three. He hit the Turn 3 wall after contact with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne on Lap 58; Johnson was already out of sorts after a near-miss with Ryan Blaney. “I don’t think either one of those situations were intentional by any stretch,” Johnson said, according to yahoo.com’s Nick Bromberg.

Bowyer battling

Clint Bowyer finished sixth, but it might have been more important for him to be first at the end of Stage 2. He earned 10 bonus points for his first stage victory this season, staying out under a green flag as many contenders made pit stops near the end of the stage. The driver of the No. 14 Stewart Haas car earned 44 points Sunday, more than second-place Kevin Harvick and third-place Martin Truex Jr. (43 each). Bowyer is 10th in points but has not won in 2017 and is one place out of a playoff spot, 17 points behind Matt Kenseth.

Suarez keeps inching closer

Rookie Daniel Suarez has an odd distinction going in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. The 25-year-old Mexican has no top-five finishes in 21 starts driving with the team for which Carl Edwards won thrice in 2016 before retiring. Sounds bad for Suarez, right? Well, not really. Suarez finished seventh on Sunday, the seventh time he has been either sixth or seventh this season. And his average position and percentage of laps run in the top 15 has generally gotten better as the season has progressed, according to racing-reference.info loop data stats.

Did you know?

Michael McDowell is quietly putting together a decent campaign for the small Leavine Family Racing team. He was 18th at Pocono for his second straight top-20 finish and ninth this season; he is 25th in points. … Cole Whitt was 24th for TriStar Motorsports in its first race with Bryan Smith listed as owner. Smith’s father Mark died last weekend of cancer at age 63; Bryan Smith said the family would keep the team going. … Aric Almirola was uninjured in a Lap 1 crash, a big relief for a driver who missed two months with a back injury sustained in a crash at Kansas this season.

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