Denied victory at Daytona by an inopportune pit call last Sunday, Kurt Busch drove like lightning in a two-lap overtime dash to the finish to win Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.
Swapping sheet metal with brother Kyle Busch as the siblings battled for the victory throughout the overtime, Busch collected his first victory of the season in the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. The 2004 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion won for the first time at Kentucky and the 31st time in his career.
Kurt Busch beat his brother to the finish line by .076 seconds, the closest margin of victory at a 1.5-mile intermediate speedway this season. It was also the first Cup triumph for a Chevrolet at Kentucky, which began hosting races in NASCAR’s premier series in 2011. And it was the first victory for Busch’s crew chief, Matt McCall.
“Hell yeah! Hell yeah!” Busch exulted after climbing from his car on the frontstretch. “I’m proud he (Kyle) gave me a little room on the outside. He could have clobbered us against the wall, and he probably would have got it.”
Busch was running fourth, nine seconds behind then-leader Joey Logano, when Bubba Wallace spun in Turn 2 with six laps left in regulation. Logano, third-place Erik Jones, the Busch brothers and Denny Hamlin stayed out on older tires for the overtime, with Kurt Busch having fresher rubber on his left side, thanks to a four-tire pit stop under green on Lap 213 of a scheduled 267.
That caution helped balance the scales of fortune. Last Sunday at Daytona, Busch pitted from the lead when NASCAR gave the one-lap-to-go signal, only to have a lightning bolt within the eight-mile range return the race to caution. After rain hit the track, Justin Haley, who stayed out, got the victory.
The misfortune at Daytona, made Busch relish his Kentucky win all the more.
“What an awesome run,” Busch said. “Whatever last week was, we got the ‘W’ now! That was epic. I was hopeful that we would get a shot, just one more restart. We got that yellow … with my little brother. (He’s) the best guy in the world to go race against.”
For the first time, Kurt beat his younger brother in a 1-2 finish.
“I’m glad it was a thriller,” Kyle Busch said. “Just unfortunately we were on the wrong end of the deal for everybody at M&M’s and Toyota, Interstate Batteries, all the folks that get us to where we’re at.
“But congratulations to Kurt and Chip and (sponsor) Monster and all the guys over there. It’s obviously cool to put on great races and great finishes, and (I’ve) been a part of a lot of them and not very many—in fact none with my brother like that, so that was a first. No hard feelings, and we move on.”
In a one-year deal with Ganassi, Kurt Busch has been weighing his future in the sport. Saturday’s win may influence his decision.
“I thought this year might be my last, but we’re having so much fun, we’ll have to see how things go,” he said.
Jones finished third, followed by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson, who pitted for tires before the overtime. Hamlin held fifth, putting three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers in the top five.
Clint Bowyer, Logano, polesitter Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman and Chris Buescher completed the top 10.