HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Kyle Busch said during Championship 4 Media Day on Thursday that he felt like an underdog in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title fight, but Sunday night he was anything but.
In fact, Busch was the top dog during the Ford EcoBoost 400, winning for the second time at Homestead-Miami Speedway to earn his second Cup Series championship in six years.
After a playoff run where Busch had not won during the first nine races of the postseason, he showed his best cards when they mattered most, leading five times for a race-high 120 laps en route to the win.
Busch bested Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. on a long run to the finish Sunday night, taking the lead for good with 45 laps to go after a decisive green-flag pit cycle and never looking back after that.
In a race that has traditionally seen a late-race caution, the final 101 laps ran uninterrupted and saw Busch exhibit dominance as the temperatures cooled and the lights flickered on.
Busch weathered a back-and-forth battle with teammate Denny Hamlin for the lead early in the final stage, then started pulling away from Hamlin inside of 85 to go as his race car came to life.
After that, various maladies began befalling his competition as Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens remained perfect down the stretch.
Hamlin fell by the wayside due to overheating issues, forcing an extra pit stop, while Kevin Harvick was shuffled back after staying out 13 laps longer than the rest of his competition and Truex was already having to rally from an extra pit stop during stage two when his crew reversed the front tires on his car.
That all added up to a straightforward road to victory for Busch, who took the checkered flag 4.578 seconds in front of Truex for the 56th win of his Cup Series career, moving him into sole possession of ninth on the all-time list.
More importantly, the impeccable performance made Busch just the second active multi-time Cup Series champion, putting him in that exclusive category alongside seven-time titlist Jimmie Johnson.
As Busch celebrated on the frontstretch with his crew and began to soak in the moment, he was quick to note that his season-long performance was one built by far more people than just himself.
“We have a great race team and a great owner,” said Busch, nodding to team owner Joe Gibbs. “I just can’t say that enough or thank everyone enough for this opportunity. I may be the one that’s able to hoist the trophy or have a championship, but none of this would be possible without (crew chief) Adam Stevens, Coach Joe Gibbs, J.D. Gibbs, Coy Gibbs and the whole Gibbs family.
“This TRD engine was awesome tonight. It’s been awesome all year. We had one issue, that’s it,” Busch added. “But man, it’s so much fun to work with these guys, because everybody puts it all together for me. There are always your doubters. There are always your haters. But we are the champions tonight!”
Busch’s win was the record-setting 19th of the season in 36 races for Joe Gibbs Racing, breaking the record of 18 set by Hendrick Motorsports during Jimmie Johnson’s second championship year in 2007.
However, it was his first since June 2 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, a five-month and 21-race drought.
That made Sunday night’s return to the top a statement, one that Busch was particularly proud of.
“Everybody always says you never give up. We’re no different. We just do what we can do each and every week, and we showed that tonight,” Busch said. “Sometimes we may not be the best, and sometimes we may not have the right track position, but today we had a really good car and I could race around and move around. That’s what’s special about Homestead‑Miami Speedway, is its ability to put on a show.
“I felt like we did that tonight, racing all three of those guys,” Busch noted. “I know it kind of dulled out towards the end, but it was exciting enough from my seat. It was a lot of fun to cap off such an amazing year like that tonight.”
Truex came home second in the race and in the championship fight, despite his extra round of service at lap 122 to swap the front tires back, while Harvick ended up fourth in the race and third in points.
Hamlin, whose race came undone during the final pit stop after an added piece of tape made his car start overheating, ran his way back through traffic to finish 10th – lowest among the title quartet.
Notably, the year ended just like it began, with a Joe Gibbs Racing 1-2-3 finish. Erik Jones came in just behind Busch and Truex, while Harvick and outgoing series champion Joey Logano filled out the top five.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.