Splitter to Spoiler: Toyota passes the century mark as Busch ends drought

Toyota reaches 100 wins behind Buschs impressive run, Kenseth escapes disaster for top 10, Logano nearing the breaking point

Matthew OHaren—X02835
Jul 30

It was going to happen eventually, NASCAR fans just didn’t know when exactly. Ironically enough, Kyle Busch’s first win of the season — and first in 36 races — came at Pocono, a track where he was winless in 25 previous attempts.”Never thought this day would happen,” Busch said after performing a series of burnouts at the start/finish line. “We had such an awesome race car. We’ve been fighting all year but something always seemed to go wrong — just wasn’t sure why or what was next.After winning the pole, Busch made it clear who the best driver on the track was throughout Sunday’s race. He led a total of 74 laps, but most of the laps led by other drivers were due to pit cycles being different and Busch setting up for the win rather than stage victories.Busch’s victory also marked a historic one for Toyota Racing, clinching the 100th win for the manufacturer. Of those wins, Busch has claimed 35 of them and now only lacks an elusive win at Charlotte in order to win at every track on the circuit.Reminder: Charlotte moves to a “Roval” for the fall race next year. Busch is really successful at road courses.Though his spot was completely locked up before claiming the win, Busch now has his spot secured and heads to Watkins Glen eyeing another victory. And while he hasn’t put together the wins he normally has since making the move to Joe Gibbs Racing 10 seasons ago, he certainly doesn’t lack any confidence.”We’re not all that flashy,” Busch explained, “But when our backs are against the wall — we haven’t necessarily had that situation thankfully, had to go out there and win in those playoff instances like some of these other teams have.”(Kevin Harvick) has been able to do it, (Truex) has been able to do it, a couple other guys. But we just methodically go about our races, and that’s our mentality. And when it works for us, we go to victory lane, and that’s how we get to Homestead.”Kenseth escapes disaster for top 10 finishMatt Kenseth lost control of his car on Lap 1, sparking a massive pileup that ended the afternoon for two cars and damaged several others. Somehow, Kenseth survived unscathed and went on to finish inside the top 10.Had he bowed out on that opening lap, he would have almost certainly been outside of the playoff bubble. Thanks to that save, however, he now sits in 16th place still, just 17 points ahead of Clint Bowyer.Already out of a seat for next season — Erik Jones will be taking over the No. 20 in 2018 — these next five races are especially crucial for Kenseth’s career. When asked whether or not he’ll drive with a competitive team next season, Kenseth couldn’t give a clear answer.”I don’t feel like that’s going to be an opportunity I’m going to have,” Kenseth said. “I really I don’t know. I really honestly don’t have anything lined up for sure. I will say that I’m not really that worried about it. I’m not really losing sleep over it. I’m not that concerned about next season.”If Kenseth can hold onto that final spot, he can keep his name on the radar for several weeks in the playoffs. Racing meaningful races and putting up results like he has recently — three straight top-10 results and two top fives — Kenseth might have a chance to serve as a bridge for a team hoping to build a young driver.Logano still firmly outside of playoff bubbleSince making the switch to Team Penske back in 2013, Joey Logano has never missed the cut for the playoffs. In fact, he’s never finished worse than eighth in the points standings since the switch, finishing in the final round of the playoffs twice with a second-place result last year.After Pocono, the Penske standout sits 69 points outside of the final playoff spot currently in 18th position. That’s not a good spot to be in after finishing 27th place at Pocono and only having five races before the postseason begins.While Logano didn’t speak after the race, his crew chief Todd Gordon explained why the team isn’t concerned heading into Watkins Glen.”We finished first and second the last two years at Watkins Glen,” Gordon said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We get to go to Michigan after that, which we’ve won twice, been a really strong track for us. Bristol, we won the night race twice. I think Bristol night race is a better race for us than the Bristol spring race. Look forward to that.”We won Richmond in the spring. Let’s not leave that one out.”That last part is especially important given the fact that Logano is being shoved outside of the playoffs due to that encumbered win. Ironically enough, Logano was also penalized on Sunday on pit road, which led him to finish outside of the top 20 again.Given his insane amount of talent behind the wheel of a Penske Ford, there is no doubt that he can collect a legal checkered flag to make the playoffs. And with 14 wins over the last three years, Logano not finishing the season with multiple wins seems unlikely — but he needs to do so in the next five races.