Kurt Busch wins in Vegas for first time after two decades of heartbreak

LAS VEGAS — Two decades of heartbreak at his home track finally ended for Kurt Busch when a little bit of luck fell his way at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Busch happened to be the leader when a late caution Sunday night jumbled the field and put him in control of his 0-for-21 losing streak in his hometown. He had three magnificent restarts, including one in overtime, to steal a vital playoff race.

The good timing helped Busch sneak his way into the third round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs. He had been ranked last among the 12 title contenders before the race; now he’s guaranteed a slot in the round of eight.

“This is 20 years of agony and defeat and today triumph,” Busch said. “I don’t know if I have any gas left or if I just filled my tank up to go win every race. This is my hometown and I have so many people to thank and I know they are watching on television so proud of their hometown driver.”

The win, the first of the season for the 2004 Cup champion, was celebrated alongside younger brother, Kyle. The reigning NASCAR champion slammed doors with his big brother on the cool-down lap. Busch then took the checkered flag to the finish line and smacked it on each of the letters in Las Vegas.

“This is what kids dream of when they grow up racing. You dream of winning at your hometown track,” said Busch, “and for two decades it’s kicked my butt.”

It was the first win of the year for Chip Ganassi Racing and the first in the playoffs for a Chevrolet driver.

Busch happened to be the leader during a a round of green flag pit stops interrupted with 32 laps remaining by just

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Valtteri Bottas wins in Russia as Lewis Hamilton misses F1 win record

SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton’s toughest opponents in the Russian Grand Prix weren’t even on the track. They were in the stewards’ office.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas cruised to the win Sunday after Hamilton, who was leading, was penalized 10 seconds for practicing his starts in the wrong place before the race.

Hamilton came into the race looking to match Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins in Formula One but had to settle for third behind Bottas and Max Verstappen. Bottas built a sizeable lead over Verstappen with ease and eased to his first win since the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.

Hamilton was already under investigation by the stewards when he started the race from pole position. Before the race he twice stopped to perform practice starts at the exit of the pit lane, rather than in the designated area. That eventually earned him two five-second penalties, dropping him as low as 11th at one stage.

Hamilton said he and Mercedes were under “a lot of scrutiny” from officials and that it sometimes felt as if that they were being targeted by the stewards “to keep the racing exciting” because of their dominant position in the championship.

“It feels like we’re fighting uphill. But it’s OK. It’s not like I haven’t faced adversity before. So we just keep our heads down and keep fighting and keep trying to do a better job and be cleaner and squeaky clean,” he said.

Hamilton had asked Mercedes over the radio if he could perform the starts at the pit exit, and was told he could. He later said he had been doing similar practice starts “for years,” though not in Sochi. The designated zone had too much rubber left from other drivers’ tires and was “not representative of what it’s like on

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Lewis Hamilton takes pole in dramatic Russian qualifying

SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record on Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by .563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of these two (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point,” Hamilton said. “I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

“I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us.

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