Kyle Busch wins battle with Larson in thrilling Chicagoland Cup finish

Image by Cantrell/LAT

Kyle Busch wins battle with Larson in thrilling Chicagoland Cup finish

Monster Energy Cup

Kyle Busch wins battle with Larson in thrilling Chicagoland Cup finish

The latest edition in the Kyle and Kyle show didn’t disappoint.

Having gone to battle at Bristol a few times over the last couple of years, including for the win earlier this season, Busch and Larson traded paint and the lead on the final lap for the win Sunday afternoon in the Overton’s 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Busch led at the white flag before Larson drove his No. 42 deep into Turn 1. Larson slid up into the left rear of Busch, who then hit the wall.

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The shift in momentum saw Larson go inside Busch and take the lead going into Turn 3. It was short lived as Busch repaid the favor, hitting Larson in the rear bumper and sending him around. After Busch got his Toyota off the wall, he was able to take back the top spot and drive to the checkered flag for the fifth time this season.

“I got really boxed in behind lap cars and got really slow, and just tried to get all I could the last couple of laps,” said Busch after climbing from the car at the start/finish line. “Larson tried to pull a slider but didn’t quite complete it, slid up into me and used me, and then I kind of used him a little bit in [Turn] 3 and was able to come back for the victory.

“Great win for the Skittles Camry and all of these guys. We were horrible today. Absolutely horrendous. We just never gave up. We just always kept working on it, kept making the most of it and got to where we needed it right there at the end. … If you don’t like that kind of racing, don’t even watch.”

The battle scars are prominent on Kyle Busch’s winning Camry. (Image by Cantrell/LAT)

The victory was the second for Busch at Chicagoland and the 48th of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.

Larson finished second after getting his car in the right direction. Kevin Harvick finished third, Martin Truex Jr. fourth and Clint Bowyer rebounded from a rough day to round out the top five.

Completing the top 10 were Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Alex Bowman.

“Oh man, I’m not upset,” Larson said. “I had an opportunity there to slide in front of him, and I figured I wouldn’t clear him, or I would allow him to drive back underneath me. So, I tried to get to his door and you know I opened the door for him to retaliate into [Turn] 3. I thought it was free game.

“I ran into him first, he got me after that, maybe a little bit worse than I got him, but that is all right. I love racing Kyle. I know all these fans are probably mad at him, but hey, we put on a hell of a show for you guys, and that was a blast.”

The day started with pole-sitter Paul Menard having a brief stint at the front as he quickly lost the top spot to Team Penske alliance teammate Ryan Blaney. Blaney led the race’s first 16 laps before giving way to Bowyer. He would then give up the lead when he was caught speeding during his first trip down pit road and then again while serving his penalty.

When things cycled through, Aric Almirola took over the lead and won his first stage of the season.

But all eyes were on Truex in the first stage. After having his qualifying time disallowed when his car failed to get through inspection, Truex flew from 36th through the field. It took the two-time and defending Chicagoland winner just 22 laps to break into the top 10.

Stage two started with a hotly contested battle for the lead between Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Almirola and Harvick. Almirola hung onto the top spot until Harvick cycled ahead on green flag pit stops. A debris caution sent the field back down pit road where Blaney took the lead on a two-tire stop.

On the ensuing restart, Blaney quickly disposed of Ryan Newman, who had stayed out, before being overtaken by Almirola. However, Almirola had to pit from the lead with 18 laps left in the stage because of a loose wheel. Harvick inherited the lead but lost it late in the stage to another teammate, Kurt Busch, before charging back on the outside on the last lap to nip Busch at the line for his ninth stage win of the season.

Busch retook the lead to start the final stage after another round of pit stops with Larson and Truex in tow. Harvick fell to fourth.

A spin by Hamlin shortly after that brought the field back down pit road and shuffled the leaderboard. Keselowski stayed out to take over the lead with Almirola, who wanted to regain his track position. Keselowski’s teammate Logano took two tires and lined up third.

Almirola dropped on the restart while Keselowski and Logano enjoyed time at the front before Harvick again steamrolled to the top spot. Harvick took the lead on Lap 186 and would lose it when he was beaten off pit road following a Lap 208 caution.

Busch won the race off pit road and then jumped out front on the restart. He led the final 59 laps.

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