After missing out advancing in NASCAR’s Playoffs last month, defending series champion Kyle Busch said he had only one reason to race. After going winless the entire season, Busch said wanted nothing more than to keep his consecutive seasons with at least one win alive.
Mission accomplished Wednesday.
Busch played a fuel mileage gamble to perfection Wednesday winning his first race of 2020. He held off his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. in a rain delayed race in Texas that stretched out for three long days and now has 16 consecutive seasons with at least one victory.
Busch took the lead for the final time 23 laps from the end when Clint Bowyer was forced to pit from the lead for fuel. From that point, Busch had to balance saving fuel while keeping Truex, who had pitted seven laps after Busch, in his rear-view mirror.
“Just kept getting great leadership and mentoring from Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and Tony (Hirschman, spotter),” Busch said. “Those guys kept talking to me and kept reminding me about saving and being able to do what I could. Trying to stay in the draft as much as I could on the straightaways.”
Behind Truex, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman rounded out the top five.
“We knew he (Kyle Busch) was close,” Truex said. “The only thing we could do at that point, which we did all day anyway was try to run flat out. 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 second, third, fourth – we’re right there a lot. Just need a little bit more to be better.”
Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Matt DiBenedetto, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano finished out the top 10.
The race started on Sunday and completed 52 laps before the misty rains that had delayed the initial start stopped the action. NASCAR and track officials worked diligently Monday and Tuesday to dry the track. The efforts were futile until Wednesday afternoon when the rains stopped and after a 72-hour, 28 minute, 24 second red flag the field finally got the green flag.
It was the second longest rain delay in NASCAR’s modern era eclipsed only by a race at Bristol in March of 1973 that was rained out and had to be completed two weeks later and was won by Cale Yarbrough.
“We finally got it,” Busch said. “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 just so proud to be here. My team guys, awesome pit stops, they were phenomenal.”
Busch would go onto win Stage 2 and lead a race high 90 laps to score his fourth victory at the 1.5-mile Texas track and the 57th of his Cup Series career. More importantly he is now tied with Richard Petty, David Pearson, Jimmie Johnson, Rusty Wallace and Ricky Rudd with wins in 16 consecutive seasons.
“It means a lot just to keep that winning streak going,” Busch said. “That’s the biggest thing I was hoping for and obviously wanting to accomplish this year before the year was out.”
Busch’s win denied the Cup Series Playoff contenders an automatic berth in the Championship 4 field that will compete for the Cup Series championship in the Nov. 8 finale at Phoenix Raceway. Three spots are still up for grabs in Sunday’s Round of 8 finale at Martinsville Speedway.
Kevin Harvick, a nine-time winner this year, hit the wall Sunday prior to the stoppage, then battled through multiple vibrations Wednesday but was never able to recover and finished 16th the first driver one lap down. He heads to Martinsville 42 points above the cutline.
Denny Hamlin finished ninth and is 27 above; Brad Keselowski finished sixth and is 25 above the line.
Despite his fifth-place finish, Bowman heads to Martinsville 25 below the cutline, Chase Elliott had several pit road miscues that left him with a 20th place finish and 25 below the line. Needing a win, Truex is 36 below the line and despite a top 10 finish, Kurt Busch is 81 below.
Clint Bowyer who was leading when the race was called for rain on Sunday, led the second most laps, 89, won Stage 1 but with his late race pit stop for fuel managed to only finish 17th.
The Round of 8 finale is the Xfinity 500, scheduled Sunday afternoon at the .526-mile Martinsville track. The 500-lapper will be the next-to-last race of the year. The forecast shows no rain.
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500
Texas Motor Speedway
Fort Worth, Texas
Sunday, October 25, 2020
1. (9) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 334.
2. (6) Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 334.
3. (15) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 334.
4. (10) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 334.
5. (5) Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, 334.
6. (3) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 334.
7. (8) Kurt Busch (P), Chevrolet, 334.
8. (14) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 334.
9. (7) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 334.
10. (2) Joey Logano (P), Ford, 334.
11. (12) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 334.
12. (22) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 334.
13. (11) William Byron, Chevrolet, 334.
14. (16) Cole Custer #, Ford, 334.
15. (19) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 334.
16. (1) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 333.
17. (21) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 333.
18. (29) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 333.
19. (25) Ryan Newman, Ford, 333.
20. (4) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 333.
21. (17) Erik Jones, Toyota, 333.
22. (24) John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 332.
23. (13) Aric Almirola, Ford, 332.
24. (27) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 332.
25. (28) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 331.
26. (23) Michael McDowell, Ford, 331.
27. (30) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 328.
28. (31) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 328.
29. (37) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 326.
30. (36) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 325.
31. (38) Garrett Smithley(i), Ford, 325.
32. (35) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 321.
33. (34) Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 316.
34. (20) Chris Buescher, Ford, 310.
35. (40) Chad Finchum(i), Toyota, 310.
36. (26) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Engine, 279.
37. (39) Joey Gase(i), Ford, Suspension, 184.
38. (18) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, Accident, 59.
39. (32) Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, Accident, 59.
40. (33) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 20.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 135.263 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 42 Mins, 14 Secs. Margin of Victory: .468 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 8 for 47 laps.
Lead Changes: 23 among 11 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K. Harvick (P) 1-28;A. Bowman (P) 29-45;M. Truex Jr. (P) 46;B. Poole # 47;C. Bowyer 48-81;M. Truex Jr. (P) 82;C. Bowyer 83-108;A. Bowman (P) 109-134;R. Blaney 135-138;M. Truex Jr. (P) 139;R. Blaney 140-155;M. Truex Jr. (P) 156-198;K. Busch 199-201;M. DiBenedetto 202-203;A. Almirola 204;E. Jones 205-206;K. Busch 207-216;C. Bowyer 217;K. Busch 218-267;M. Truex Jr. (P) 268-274;C. Bell # 275-279;K. Busch 280-282;C. Bowyer 283-310;K. Busch 311-334.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Busch 5 times for 90 laps; Clint Bowyer 4 times for 89 laps; Martin Truex Jr. (P) 5 times for 53 laps; Alex Bowman (P) 2 times for 43 laps; Kevin Harvick (P) 1 time for 28 laps; Ryan Blaney 2 times for 20 laps; Christopher Bell # 1 time for 5 laps; Erik Jones 1 time for 2 laps; Matt DiBenedetto 1 time for 2 laps; Aric Almirola 1 time for 1 lap; Brennan Poole # 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 14,19,20,12,48,24,9,22,3,21
Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,19,88,2,12,95,3,14,47,4