Kyle Busch has accomplished a great deal in his career. Sunday, he did something he has never done in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series; with a dominating performance Busch won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, becoming the first Cup driver to win a points paying race at every track on the circuit.
“This one’s very special,” Busch said. :I don’t think there’s anything that can top Homestead, just with the meaning of what the championship is, but the Coca-Cola 600 – I’ve dreamt of this race since I was a kid and being able to win this race. Always watching the All-Star race and then the 600 the following weekend and being able to come out here and now win the Coca-Cola 600 is just phenomenal. It’s a little boy’s dreams come true and man, I just want to say that I thank NASCAR, for one, for giving me a chance to come out here and have this opportunity to race for my dreams and to accomplish those things.”
The M&M’s sponsored driver led 377 of the 400 laps in NASCAR’s longest race beating Martin Truex Jr. to the line by over three seconds and leaving only 9 cars on the lead lap.
“My guys were on it tonight,” Busch said. “They were certainly really really good on pit road. I can’t say enough about my crew. They’ve been that way all year long. You know a lot of wins are due to a lot of circumstances going right and certainly we’ve got the pit crew going right with us right now. Fast race cars as well too. There were a few other fast cars out there I was keeping my eye on as they were coming up through the field. The 4 (Kevin Harvick) for one, the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) for another and it just seemed like they could never really get into our territory, but you know all in all just a phenomenal night.”
Busch led from pole and only dealt with three other leaders at various times for his fourth win of the season.
His biggest contender this season, Kevin Harvick, who has five wins on the season had a tall mountain to climb even before the race started. Harvick failed pre-qualifying inspection on Thursday three times and failed to set a qualifying lap. He started Sunday’s race at the rear of the field but by lap 67 he was fifth. Harvick was looking for fourth when on lap 83 he lost a left front tire and slammed the outside wall in turn 3; Harvick’s day was done and he would finish 40th.
“I can’t complain about anything that’s happened this year,” Harvick said. “We have to take the good with the bad. The guys did a great job in basically guessing at where the car needed to be today with all the penalties, no practice and starting in the back. To come out and have the fastest car again was quite an honor to drive and they’re doing a great job. It was just bad luck.”
The Team Penske drivers of Joey Logan and Brad Keselowski would lead laps as would Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, but in the closing stages only Martin Truex Jr. seemed to have a shot at Busch.
Truex rallied back from two pit road penalties, one for speeding and the second for an uncontrolled tire. He charged forward in the final laps and had second by lap 367. By then however, Busch had nearly a seven second lead; try as he might Truex could only manage to cut the lead to 3.8 seconds.
“Those guys did an awesome job all night, obviously, with qualifying on the pole, perfect pit stops,” Truex said. “I don’t think they ever lost a lead any time except for green flag stops without cycling around. They did an incredible job, had a really fast car, and for us, I felt like we ‑‑ I felt early on like we were probably second best to him, and then screwed up on pit road, and then we had two pit road penalties in a row. So it was tough to come from the back, but it was one of those nights where we just fought until the end and felt like we had a second‑place car to Kyle. I felt like that last run we were catching him a bit, but he was probably just managing his lead and taking care of his tires. We were just off a little bit tonight but definitely gaining on it, and hopefully we can get some more wins here pretty soon.”
Hamlin also overcame a pit road speeding penalty to finish third, Keselowski fourth and Jimmie Johnson scored a much-needed fifth place finish recovering from a spin after a meeting with Hamlin on lap 121.
Nothing could hold back Busch has he became the first driver not only to win a Cup race at every track on the circuit, but the first driver to sweep all three stages.
There were 11 cautions three for stages and 8 for incidents that included last year’s 600 winner Austin Dillon, Harvick, and a fiery crash involving Ryan Blaney who ran among the top five much of the race but lost an engine on lap 285. Blaney was able to escape unharmed.
Jamie McMurray had several meetings with the wall but held onto finish sixth, Kyle Larson brought out the 10th caution when he spun on lap 277 but rallied to finish 7th’ Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. rounded out the top 10.
Busch keeps his points lead with a 67-point margin over Joey Logano who finished 22nd.
The Cup series heads to Long Pond PA. for next Sunday’s Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway. Live coverage will be on Fox Sports 1 with the green flag falling just after 2:00 p.m. ET.