KANSAS CITY, KS/May 14, 2017 (AP)(STL.News) — Martin Truex Jr. finally ended his string of rotten luck at Kansas Speedway.
Danica Patrick was left to rue more bad luck of her own.
Truex pulled away from Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick on a late restart Saturday night, winning the NASCAR Cup Series race that he seemed to dominate every year without reaching victory lane.
“They’re all so special, honestly. These races are so hard to win,” said Truex, who had a fluke tire change problem rob him of the win after leading 172 laps last year. “Any of those restarts I could have gotten beat on. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Brad Keselowski made a pass on the final lap to take second, followed by Harvick and Blaney. Kyle Busch rounded out the top five after winning the Truck Series race Friday night.
“We were really good all day and just never had a chance to show it,” Keselowski said. “Every time we had a chance to pass cars and cycle up front, something happened, which was a real bummer.
“Toward the end we made some runs and made the most of it.”
The race was halted with 67 laps to go when a broken brake rotor turned Joey Logano’s car into Patrick, sending her hard into the fence in the first turn. Aric Almirola had nowhere to go and slammed into Logano, the force of the impact lifting his car into the air.
Logano and Patrick were treated and released from the infield care center, while Almirola was airlifted to the University of Kansas Medical Center. He was conscious and alert.
“I hope Aric is OK. He’s definitely feeling the worst of everybody,” Patrick said. “NASCAR does everything it can to make it safe for everybody but these things happen. One of these times, these accidents aren’t going to be good for me. They’re all big. I’ve been fortunate so far.”
When it comes to escaping accidents unharmed. But Patrick has had very little fortune on the track, crashing out of the last four races and failing to finish five times this season.
“Just out of nowhere. Everything was fine and then it took a hard one,” Logano said. “I hate that I’m the part of it that started it. I don’t know what I could have done.”
The race tied a track record with 15 cautions, and the last of them for a spin involving Jimmie Johnson bunched up the field with two laps to go. Truex dove to the bottom and roared from the rest of the field, ensuring there would be no more misfortune for him at Kansas.
It was Truex’s ninth career win and second this season. He also won at Las Vegas.
“I felt like if I could get out front on those restarts, I was OK,” Truex said. “If I came out second or third, it took me a long time to get around guys.”
The only race at the end was for second place. Keselowski, Harvick and Blaney went three-wide with Keselowski on the high side, and he made the move stick. Harvick finished third while Blaney was shuffled back to fourth after leading 83 laps.
“Truex had a couple of really good restarts and I didn’t, and I don’t know if I could have held him off or what,” Blaney said. “But good showing. Go out there and lead laps and run with some really good cars. That’s where this team deserves to be.”
BUSCH KEEPS ON ROLLING
After sweeping both intermediate stages and winning the Truck Series race Friday night, Busch kept his roll going by sweeping to the front on a restart and winning the first stage.
It was the first stage win for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver since the Daytona 500.
Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne were forced to start near the back because they were unable to get through qualifying inspection. But all of them quickly sliced through the field, despite an intense glare in the third and fourth corners caused by the setting sun.
The biggest drama came when Chase Elliott hit Michael McDowell trying to exit his pit, causing damage to the right from of the No. 24 car. Elliott quickly fell off the lead lap.
BLANEY BACK ON TOP
Blaney started from the pole and won his third stage of the year, leading the field across the line in his No. 21 Ford moments after Ryan Newman had an oil pump problem that forced him out.
Newman was running in the top 10 before his engine quit.
Johnson had all kinds of trouble during the stage. He was penalized for driving through too many pit boxes entering his own, then made contact with Kurt Busch that caused his tire to go down.
DAVE SKRETTA, AP Sports Writer