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Kyle Busch takes dominating NASCAR win at New Hampshire

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Kyle Busch led more than half the race, and avoided disaster halfway through, to take home the second race of the playoffs at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and lock himself into the next round.

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“It was just a great day for our team and for the 18 team. We were able to execute all day long and we did everything right,” Busch said. “We did everything we were supposed to do and that’s where you end up when we’re able to do those things. We were able to get out front there and kind of set the field because – set the pace – and that was what we needed to do today.”

Following Busch was Kyle Larson second, Matt Kenseth third, Brad Keselowski fourth and Martin Truex Jr. rounding out the top 5. Sixth was Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer seventh, Daniel Suarez eighth, Ryan Blaney ninth and Joey Logano 10th.

Busch led 187 laps, a race high. Truex led another 112 laps. Outside of those two, only one other driver led a lap, and that was Larson, who led one lap and was the only non-Toyota driver to lead a lap.

Through the first two stages, the race went caution free except for the end of Stage 1. On the last lap of Stage 2, disaster struck on the backstretch in front of the leaders.

Exiting Turn 2, Austin Dillon turned Kevin Harvick, who engulfed the backstretch in smoke. Because of that, drivers couldn’t see, and Harvick was slammed into by teammate Kurt Busch and Jeffrey Earnhardt. Also, leader Martin Truex Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were involved, ruining any chance they had to win.

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Kyle Busch was second at the time of the 8-car incident, but when Truex got involved, Busch slipped through on the high side and captured the Stage 2 win.

“When I was coming up on it I saw the No. 33 (Jeffrey Earnhardt) in front of me checking up trying to slow down, and I was just checking up and trying to get slowed up as much as I could and Tony (Hirschman, spotter) pretty much said stop, you know, and it seemed like the track was plugged up and, you know, you had to go so low to miss it, but it was so late in the game before I could dedicate myself down there that I couldn’t do that, so we made it work though.”

Truex received damage to the rear of the car from the wreck as well as from after the incident when Earnhardt Jr. backed into him trying to get out of the wreck. After leading 112 laps early in the race, Truex rebounded to finish fifth.

“I could not see anything and I was just approaching the smoke and I’m like, ‘Oh no, where am I going to go?’ I mean, literally I couldn’t see anything and my spotter said go low,” Truex said. “By then, it was kind of too late and I was already like to the smoke and I couldn’t commit.”

There were six cautions on the day, but all were single car incidents. Only one of the other cautions featured a playoff driver: Kasey Kahne. Kahne was having a solid top-10 day, but with less than 50 laps to go, Kahne broke a track bar and was forced to go to the garage. He finished the day 35th.

Overall, it was not a great day for playoff drivers, as four drivers finished outside the top-15: Dillon in 19th, Kahne 35th, Harvick 36th and Kurt Busch 37th. On the flip side, six playoff drivers filled up the top-10.

Next week at Dover International Speedway is the final race of round one of the playoffs. After the race, the bottom four drivers in points will be eliminated from playoff competition. Along with Truex and Busch, who have wins, Larson and Keselowski have accumulated enough points to lock themselves into the next round.

The race is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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Monster Energy Cup Series playoff standings following New Hampshire:

1 Martin Truex Jr.     1 win

2 Kyle Busch              1 win

3. Kyle Larson            +81

4. Brad Keselowski    +62

5. Denny Hamlin        +44

6. Matt Kenseth          +43

7. Jimmie Johnson     +32

8. Ryan Blaney            +26

9. Chase Elliott            +26

10. Kevin Harvick       +25

11. Jamie McMurray   +9

12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. +0

———————— Cutoff —————————-

13. Austin Dillon        – 0

14. Ryan Newman      -1

15. Kurt Busch            -17

16. Kasey Kahne         -21

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