FORT WORTH, Texas – A race at Texas Motor Speedway that took four calendar days to complete ended with Kyle Busch, already eliminated from playoff contention, accomplishing a personal mission.
Busch drove to victory lane during the conclusion of the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 Wednesday evening, snapping a 33-race NASCAR Cup Series winless drought in the process.
His triumph extended a streak of winning at least one Cup race every season to 16 years running, joining Richard Petty, David Pearson, Jimmie Johnson, Rusty Wallace and Ricky Rudd as only the sixth driver in premier series history to win at least one race in 16 or more consecutive seasons.
He also became the first non-playoff driver to win a postseason race since Matt Kenseth in 2017 at Arizona’s Phoenix Raceway.
“We finally got it,” said Busch of returning to victory lane. “I was so nervous – I was nervous the whole last run. I’ve been in this position so many times. The last three laps though; that’s like winning the championship. That’s how nervous I was. I can’t believe it, but I’m just so proud to be here. My team guys had awesome pit stops all day; they were phenomenal. I appreciate M&M’s, Interstate Batteries, Rowdy Energy Drink, and everyone for sticking with us.
“We’re ready to fight next year. We’ll be back (in championship contention).”
The 35-year-old Las Vegas native, whose last win prior to Wednesday was his title-clinching score during the 2019 finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway, won in a manner which he’s rarely been known for in his stock-car career – by saving fuel down the home stretch.
Busch pitted for the final time with 67 to go and, with consistent coaching from crew chief Adam Stevens and spotter Tony Hirschman, methodically paced himself over a long green-flag run to the finish.
He cycled back to the lead on lap 280 but quickly ceded command of the race to a charging Clint Bowyer, who had pitted multiple laps before Busch and was well short of the fuel needed to make it to the checkered flag.
Bowyer led the race until lap 311, when he finally gave up the ghost and came down pit road for service, putting Busch back in the lead with 24 to go and a fast-closing Martin Truex Jr. in hot pursuit.
But though Truex got to within half a second of Busch inside of 10 to go, Busch was able to conserve just enough to hang on over the final few laps, eventually winning by .468 seconds over Truex.
Asked how he was able to save enough fuel to make it to the finish, Busch simply smiled and shook his head.
“I don’t know. I just kept getting great leadership and mentoring from Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and Tony (Hirschman, spotter) … and those guys kept talking to me and kept reminding me about saving and doing what I could,” Busch explained. “I was trying to stay in the draft as much as I could on the straightaways. It ran out coming right in here (the quad-oval) to do a burnout, so I had enough to get a little bit of a burnout. I don’t even think it’ll make it back (to victory lane).
“I can’t say enough about Adam Stevens and everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing. I appreciate all their hard work,” Busch added. “Everybody at Toyota and TRD. … Winning the race was precedent. I knew we had a good car early in the race. We were really loose, but we made some adjustments before the rain and then obviously sat around for three days before we could get back at it.
“I knew we were going to have a good piece. It was just a matter of getting through traffic.”
For Truex, a win would have catapulted him into the Championship 4 from deep in the playoff standings.
Instead, by finishing second, he sits 36 points below the cut line and in a virtual must-win situation heading to the penultimate race of the year at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Sunday afternoon.
“We knew he (Kyle Busch) was close,” Truex said of Busch’s fuel situation. “The only thing we could do at that point, which we did all day anyway, was try to run flat out. This was a hell of an effort by the Bass Pro guys and everybody that helps us. It just seems like one of those years where we’re (finishing) second, third, fourth – we’re right there a lot. We just need a little bit more to be better.”
Christopher Bell came home a career-best third for Leavine Family Racing, followed by Ryan Blaney, who was a distant fourth and nearly nine seconds behind the race winner.
Alex Bowman filled out the top five, followed by Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Matt DiBenedetto, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.
The Texas playoff race was the first race in the modern era of the Cup Series to start on Sunday and have its conclusion pushed all the way to Wednesday by weather.
Rain interrupted the 334-lap, 500-mile affair after 52 laps were completed on Sunday afternoon. At that point, Bowyer was the leader and held command for more than 72 hours before action resumed.
Matt Kenseth and Bubba Wallace got together three laps after the restart on lap 57, eliminating them both from contention in disappointing fashion. It marked an inauspicious return to racing after three days of damp conditions, but after that, only two more cautions appeared aside from the stage breaks.
Once the final stage got underway at lap 217, the race went uninterrupted for the final 118 circuits.
The NASCAR Cup Series season continues Nov. 1 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway with the Xfinity 500.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.