INDIANAPOLIS – Kyle Busch’s Toyota was lights out fast and that is why the Joe Gibbs Racing driver left his competitors in the dark, winning his second-straight Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.
Busch swept both the NASCAR XFINITY Series Lilly Diabetes 250 on Saturday and the 23rd Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race on Sunday for the second year in a row. But he was far more dominant this year as he won the pole position for both contests and led a race-high 149 laps out of the 170 laps (including overtime) in the Combat Wounded Coalition 400. That is the most laps led in the history of the race.
He also became the first driver to sweep both poles and both races in the same weekend in NASCAR history.
It certainly was a lights out performance.
“I want to say I kind of figured it out actually a couple years before that,” Busch said after the win – the 38th NASCAR Sprint Cup win of his career. “I think I had a couple second places, maybe even a third‑place finish in there, and the guys that beat us on those days were just lights out, just stupid faster than us, and it was like, man, how are they that fast?
“Well, I finally got one of those here today. We were lights out and just that fast.”
Busch was never passed on the historic 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. The only time he gave up the lead was during pit stops. Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski led one time for 15 laps after Busch’s first green flag pit stop and Joey Logano led one time for six laps on laps 56-61.
Busch took the lead for good on lap 62 and never trailed until the checkered flag fell after 10 laps of overtime that pushed the race from its schedule 160-lap distance to 170 laps.
“It felt pretty good to be up front and obviously you’ve got to do everything in your power to not screw it up,” Busch said of having the best car in the field. “I can imagine if I would have won any of those races beforehand and beaten one of those guys with the super fast cars how they would have felt because I know how I would have felt here today.
“Certainly I feel like I have gotten better here over the years, and I just feel like it wasn’t the last two years. I feel like it was probably the last four or five.”
The victory appeared to be a runaway until a series of late-race cautions beginning on lap 151 for debris in turn one just nine laps from the scheduled distance. Busch had to prepare for a side-by-side restart and when the green flag waved on lap 154 he was gone.
But the yellow flag immediately came out for a multi-car crash in turn one behind the leader that involved Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Ryan Blaney, Danica Patrick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Newman. The red flag stopped the race for 7 minutes and 25 seconds until the track was properly cleaned from the carnage.
That meant another restart for Busch, who once again got a nice jump on teammate Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick when the green flag waved on lap 159.
Again, the yellow flag came out when Trevor Bayne and Clint Bowyer crashed on the backstretch on lap 159. That set up the first overtime restart.
Another restart saw another good jump by Busch on lap 165, but it went to waste when Jamie McMurray, Tony Stewart, Newman and Brian Scott were involved in a crash in turn one.
The green flag waved on lap 169 for the second overtime restart and Busch was able to drive away from the field for the final two laps to defeat JGR teammate Kenseth by 2.126 seconds.
If Busch had lost the race because of the restarts, it would have been bitter for the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.
“Yeah, no doubt,” Busch said. “We lost last week’s because there was a debris caution with 40 to go. It gets frustrating sometimes when you see those cautions and you’re not quite sure why. Certainly obviously NASCAR felt there was something out there that they need to go take care of and handle and get off the racing surface, but you know – it’s a double‑edged sword. Sometimes there may be something out there and you want that caution to come out and other times there may be nothing and you don’t need that caution. It goes both ways.
“This sport is long enough, I’ve been here long enough that those things kind of go full circle. You’ve just got to take them when they come to you and make the most of your opportunities, and thankfully we were the leader. We had the race in our hands that we can manipulate the restarts how I needed to and make sure that I got to the No. 1 spot and was able to do the same thing last week.
“Each and every week it’s power to the leader. That’s what we’ve all kind of asked for with this bigger restart zone and stuff, too, so when you are the race leader that you’ve earned that right to restart how you want.”