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Auto racing: Kyle Busch hopes he’s on track to finally win at Pocono

Kyle Busch, left, looks for an elusive first victory at Pocono Raceway. (Mel Evans / Associated Press)
Kyle Busch, left, looks for an elusive first victory at Pocono Raceway. (Mel Evans / Associated Press)
Associated Press

Kyle Busch’s next attempt at a weekend sweep should come at his race shop.

It’s time for a cleanup – Kyle Busch Motorports is bursting at the NASCAR victory trophy seams.

Busch’s shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, is undergoing a facelift, and until the renovation is complete, his trophies have nowhere to go. The trophies in honor of Cheez-Its, concrete monsters, even a 200-pound bronzed bear, are littered throughout the building. Workers can’t step foot in the merchandise store, offices, or the upstairs hallway without tripping over trophies.

Maybe somewhere in the mess are the shredded remains of the Gibson Les Paul custom guitar he famously smashed in Nashville.

Busch has an entire case dedicated to trophies from Bristol Motor Speedway alone and every winner’s flag from his 38 career Sprint Cup victories are framed on KBM’s upstairs hallway.

Busch has won at every Cup track from Darlington to Daytona, from Bristol to the Brickyard.

Every track but Charlotte Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway.

Busch can knock Pocono off the list Sunday in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, though he has only four career top-five finishes in 23 starts at the 2 1/2-mile tri-oval track. Busch starts 16th in the No. 18 Toyota, in the same row as big brother Kurt. Kurt Busch won the June Pocono race.

Kyle Busch’s best shot at winning at Pocono came in last August’s race, losing the lead on the last lap once the 18 ran out of fuel. His average Pocono finish is just 19th.

“You’ve got to have everything fall into place and the stars align and it just hasn’t quite happened here yet,” Busch said.

He’s certainly mastered Indy. Busch, tied with Brad Keselowski with four wins this season, is coming off a historic weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He won his second straight Brickyard 400 in dominant form, leading a record 149 of 170 laps. Coupled with an Xfinity Series victory a day earlier, Busch became the first NASCAR driver to win both poles and both races on the same weekend.

“It certainly is the best way to come to Pocono being able to race the way we did last week,” Busch said.

Only 31, the 2015 Sprint Cup champion’s best days still seem ahead.

Consider:

Busch already has 166 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions: Sprint Cup (38), Xfinity (83) and Truck (45).

With wins this season at Martinsville Speedway and Kansas Speedway, Busch has won races at 21 of the 23 active Cup tracks. He has multiple victories at 11 of 21 tracks.

His Indy win gave him 34 career wins at Joe Gibbs Racing, topping Tony Stewart for most on the career list.

Busch boasts 19 poles, 141 top-fives, 207 top-10s and 11,959 laps led in 410 career Sprint Cup races.

His legacy is far from defined.

“Hopefully, it’s one that would be hard to beat and it’s one that will be remembered,” Busch said. “We’ll just keep fighting for more wins. We’re not done yet.”

The KBM shop isn’t just stuffed with Busch’s trophies, either. KBM has won a Truck Series’ record four owner’s championships in just six seasons of competition and earned its first driver’s championship with Erik Jones in 2015.

The KBM renovation should be completed by the second week of September. He’s having an 11-by-13 case built just to hold at least one Cup trophy from each track – and he’d love to add Pocono to a shelf.

There is one trophy that won’t be found at KBM.

His 2015 Cup championship trophy is at his home, surrounded by the all hardware that came out of his leg and foot following his accident last year at Daytona. He’s on the hunt for a champagne bottle from his championship-clinching victory at Homestead to fill with screws once inside his body.

He broke his right leg and left foot when he crashed into a concrete wall in an Xfinity Series race the day before the Daytona 500. He missed 11 Cup races and needed a waiver from NASCAR to qualify for the Chase.

Now he’s intent on joining the list of drivers – Richard Petty, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt among them – who have won consecutive championships.

“I think it’s a great sports story,” Gibbs said. “It goes back really to the first of last year when he had that wreck, that horrible wreck, because we all know a lot of athletes, they can look at that and say, take a different approach. That Kyle, from the second day he was out of surgery, he has been on a mission to get back, and then to come back the way he did, and I’ll tell you, I don’t see anything in him but wanting to go to the front.”

NASCAR Xfinity

Erik Jones retook the lead from Ty Dillon with 16 laps to go and won the NASCAR Xfinity race at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, for his third victory of the season.

Jones led a race-high 154 of 250 laps, but it took a late inside move for Jones to overcome Dillon for his first victory since at Dover in May.

Dillon, seeking his first victory since Indianapolis in 2014, finished second. He’s winless in 66 races.

Elliott Sadler was third, followed by Brennan Poole and Dakoda Armstrong.

Brad Keselowski, the only Sprint Cup driver in the field, finished eighth. Keselowski will start seventh Sunday in Pocono in Pennsylvania in the Cup race. Daniel Suarez, the series leader entering the race, failed to finish because of damage to the No. 19 car.

NASCAR Truck Series

Just 18, William Byron already has a slice of NASCAR history. The promising young driver for KBM continued his dominance in the NASCAR Truck Series and won at Pocono Raceway for a rookie-record fifth time this season.

Byron added the Pocono victory to wins at Kansas, Texas, Iowa and Kentucky. He surpassed Kurt Busch, the 2004 Sprint Cup champion, who had four wins as a rookie in 2000.

IndyCar

Simon Pagenaud set a course record at Mid-Ohio Race Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, with a lap at 127.271 mph around the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course to edge Team Penske teammate Will Power. The Frenchman Pagenaud increased his lead to 48 points entering the race Sunday.

Power temporarily held the course record in qualifying before being surpassed by Pagenaud, but will start in the front row and is in good position to win for the fourth time in the past five races

German Grand Prix

Nico Rosberg beat Mercedes teammate and Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton to take pole position for Sunday’s German Grand Prix in Hockenheim, Germany.

Rosberg was the fastest in all three practice runs and set the pace again in the final of the three qualifying sessions, putting together just one late lap after experiencing problems with the throttle.

“A great lap, especially since I had extra fuel, I had fuel for three laps in case something went wrong and I had to do an extra lap,” Rosberg said after his 26th career pole.

Hamilton was .107 seconds behind Rosberg, with Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen taking the second row on the grid in their Red Bulls. The Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel will be in the third row.

Three-time world champion Hamilton, winner of the last two titles, has won five of the last six races and leads Rosberg by six points in the standings.

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