Kyle Busch took a giant step along his “Comeback Trail” on Sunday with a victory at Sonoma Raceway. After missing the first eleven races of the season while recovering from injuries suffered in February at Daytona International Speedway, Busch returned to competition last month. And in just his fifth start since then, he steered his Number-18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota around race leader Jimmie Johnson with five laps remaining and kept it there the rest of the way to notch his thirtieth career Cup Series victory and first since March 2014 in Fontana, California.
Busch benefitted from a late caution brought about by Casey Mears’ broken axle. A trip to pit road for four fresh tires put Busch in prime position to chase down Johnson and others who remained on the track with old rubber. From the drop of the green flag on the final restart, Busch quickly began his march toward the front and easily moved past Johnson for his final lead of the day.
The margin of victory over older brother Kurt was a half-second, marking the first time that the Busch brothers finished one-two in Sprint Cup Series competition. Clint Bowyer ran third with regular-season points leader Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano completing the top five. Johnson held on for sixth place.
Pole sitter A-J Allmendinger led just one lap and was slowed by an issue with his fuel system that forced him off the pace, leading to a thirty-seventh-place finish. Defending race winner Carl Edwards placed fortieth in his bid for back-to-back victories. Five-time Sonoma winner Jeff Gordon finished sixteenth on Sunday in what was most likely his final race on the two-mile Northern California road course.