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Kyle Busch comes up short at Kentucky, but runner-up finish could be start of a turnaround

Jun 28, 2014, 11:26 PM EDT

(Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

Kyle Busch hoped to win all three races this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

He started off strong with a win in Thursday’s Camping World Truck Series race, but fell short of a second straight win on Friday when he finished third in the Nationwide Series race.

Saturday, Busch almost had a chance to salvage a second win for the weekend, but in the end, his Toyota Camry just wasn’t enough to match race winner Brad Keselowski.

Even so, Busch started 18th and finished second in the weekend’s main event, a hard-fought end result for a driver who had struggled at times over the previous seven races.

In fact, Busch’s finish at Kentucky was his best since winning at Fontana in the fifth race of the season.

And Saturday’s finish was also Busch’s first top-five finish since finishing third at Richmond more than two months ago.

“A longshot from where we’ve been this weekend, let alone this year,” Busch told TNT afterward. “It was the most competitive we’ve been and we’ll see how we can keep that speed going on in weeks throughout.”

Keselowski dominated most of the race, but Busch had his time to shine, leading 31 laps in the 267-lap event.

When asked after the race whether he thought he could have held off Keselowski and made it at least two wins for the weekend, Busch felt he could – until his car became progressively looser as the event continued.

“I thought I could,” Busch said. “I got out there in clean air and tried to take advantage of it as much as I could. I tried to hustle it as much as I could there early to get a big lead, and once we got to traffic, I knew I’d back up a little bit.

“That was the loosest I was in the whole race and the loosest I was at the end. I was trying to hang on to it best I could and not wreck. I thought I’d do probably 10 times in the last run.”

Overall, while he failed in his bid to win all three races on the same weekend for only the second time in NASCAR history (he performed that feat for the first and only time in August 2010 at Bristol), Busch and JGR have to feel encouraged by his second-place finish and teammate Matt Kenseth‘s fourth-place showing.

Now it’s on to Daytona.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

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