Kyle Busch is now 2-1 against older brother Kurt when it comes to the duo finishing first and second in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
The younger Busch brother had been a perfect 2-0 going into Saturday’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. But on this night, Kurt Busch wasn’t going to be denied, and the brothers frantic duel in overtime ended with Kurt nipping Kyle at the finish line by 0.076s.
“No hard feelings; that was fine,” Kyle said afterwards. “He’s got to find his own ride home, though, because I’m not waiting for him.”
Kyle had previously bested Kurt in 2015 at Sonoma and earlier this season at Bristol. It might have happened again in Kentucky if Kyle had made one move differently — or it could have ended in disaster.
“I got him cleared just by a little bit getting into (Turn) 3, and I think I could have slid up in front of him; but I think if I did, I would have knocked the wall down on the exit,” Kyle said. “I was just going to be carrying too much speed for how bad my front tires were and how tight I was.”
Kyle led a race-high 72 laps and appeared to be headed to a second-place finish even before the overtime battle with his older brother. He and Joey Logano pitted with 42 laps remaining in the regular race distance and left pit road within striking distance of each other, knowing they were in a position to be up front when the field cycled through.
But Logano got around Busch and drove away, moving into the lead on Lap 249 when Daniel Suarez pitted. Busch then resigned himself to being the runner-up, calling over the radio that his car was plowing.
The final caution on Lap 262 set up overtime. Kyle restarted on the inside of the front row alongside Logano. As he charged into Turn 1 on the bottom looking for the lead, Kurt challenged for the top spot on the outside. Briefly, it turned into three-wide battle off Turn 2 with Erik Jones getting to the inside of Kyle before the brothers pulled clear in Turn 3.
Kyle, on the inside, was unable to clear Kurt, who was on the outside, and Kurt led them as they crossed under the white flag. Kyle then edged ahead in Turn 1. Kurt pulled alongside and then ahead off Turn 2 and down the backstretch. Kyle pulled ahead in Turn 3 before Kurt powered around the outside in Turn 4 and down the frontstretch as Busch tried to get his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota back under control after getting loose off the corner, only able to follow his brother across the finish line.
“We just didn’t quite make the right adjustments there through the final pit stop putting right-side tires on it; we got way too tight,” said Kyle. “That’s what lost us the race with the 22 (Logano, before the caution). The 22 got us, we were going to lose anyway, and so at least I salvaged the same place we should have finished anyway.”