Kyle Busch caps off a perfect weekend with Gateway win after a marathon day

MADISON, ILLINOIS - JUNE 04: Kyle Busch, driver of the #8 3CHI Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Enjoy Illinois 300 at WWT Raceway on June 04, 2023 in Madison, Illinois. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)

A happy Kyle Busch is a dangerous Kyle Busch, at least to the rest of the NASCAR Cup series field.

Busch capped off a perfect weekend Sunday leading a race high 121 laps in route to scoring his third win of 2023 holding of his former teammate Denny Hamlin on an overtime restart to cross the line by .512 of a second at World Wide Technology Racing in St. Louis.

“That was pretty awesome,” Busch said. “Man, to sit on the pole, lead a lot of laps and have my guys do such a great job today was pretty phenomenal for us. Great for RCR. Just win, baby!”

After winning his first pole at the track Saturday, Busch said he was happy with his car and the speed he had. That translated over to Sunday in a race that turned into a marathon affair that had three red flags including one for lightning just after the races first of 11 cautions on lap 3 that lasted nearly two hours.

Once the weather cleared Busch would go on to win Stage 1 which ended on lap 45. In the middle of the race Busch’s biggest competition came from last week’s winner Ryan Blaney who led the second most laps on the day, 83, and won Stage 2.

The final 50 laps featured two more red flags, one for cleanup from a hard crash involving Noah Gragson and with just over 20 to go another red flag for wall repairs after a three-car accident involving Austin Dillon, Austin Cindric and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

In all, there were five restarts in the final 40 laps including the overtime caused by the race’s final caution when Bubba Wallace hit the turn 1 wall. Behind Hamlin last year’s winner Joey Logano was third.

“Yeah, I thought we were super dialed if it was 95 degrees like it was supposed to be with those delays,” Hamlin said. “It kind of took away from the advantage I thought that we had. I’m proud of this whole Sport Clips Toyota team – pit crew did a phenomenal job keeping us in it and doing really good on the money stop with about 60 to go. We are going to have to wait another to get that 50th (win).”

Kyle Larson, who struggled early in the race rallied to finish fourth.

“I want to be upset with fourth after running second there the last little bit of the race and having a shot to lineup on the front row for a green-white-checkered,” Larson said. “For a lot of the day, I thought I was going to run 20th on back. Huge thank you to Cliff Daniels (crew chief) and everybody on the No. 5 Chevy team for making the right adjustments. I don’t know if we were still amazing, but the strategy calls were perfect and at the right time and the late cautions fell at the right time. I think the car would have been fine had we just ran those last 50 laps under green”

Martin Truex Jr. overcame a pit penalty early in the race to finish fifth.

“Just really tough to get through the field,” Truex said. “We got some damage from when someone’s brake rotor exploded, that slowed us down even more. Really with all we went through today, a top-five is a really good day for us. I’m proud of the effort.”

Perhaps no one was as disappointed on the day as Carson Hocevar. Making his unplanned Cup debut subbing for Corey LaJoie, who was subbing for Chase Elliott, Hocevar ran as high as 16th until his Chevy lost a brake rotor on lap 92 and hit the outside wall hard. Hocevar finished last, Lajoie 21st.

Blaney was sixth, Daniel Suarez seventh with William Byron, Michael McDowell and Kevin Harvick rounding out the top 10.

NASCAR heads to Sonoma Raceway for next Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 300. Daniel Suarez is the defending race winner.

Photos: NASCAR at Gateway Sunday June 4, 2023

NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Enjoy Illinois 300 presented by TicketSmarter
World Wide Technology Raceway
Madison, Illinois
Sunday, June 4, 2023

1. (1) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 243.
2. (3) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 243.
3. (6) Joey Logano, Ford, 243.
4. (22) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 243.
5. (5) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 243.
6. (2) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 243.
7. (13) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 243.
8. (7) William Byron, Chevrolet, 243.
9. (21) Michael McDowell, Ford, 243.
10. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 243.
11. (17) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 243.
12. (27) Chris Buescher, Ford, 243.
13. (10) Austin Cindric, Ford, 243.
14. (11) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 243.
15. (28) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 243.
16. (23) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 243.
17. (29) Ryan Preece, Ford, 243.
18. (31) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 243.
19. (24) Aric Almirola, Ford, 243.
20. (15) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 243.
21. (30) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 243.
22. (8) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 243.
23. (14) Harrison Burton, Ford, 243.
24. (36) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 243.
25. (33) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 243.
26. (18) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 243.
27. (34) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 243.
28. (19) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 243.
29. (35) Gray Gaulding(i), Ford, 242.
30. (20) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, Accident, 236.
31. (16) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 223.
32. (12) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 219.
33. (32) Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, Accident, 197.
34. (25) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 193.
35. (9) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, Accident, 174.
36. (26) Carson Hocevar(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 91.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 87.508 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 28 Mins, 16 Secs. Margin of Victory: .517 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 11 for 67 laps.
Lead Changes: 10 among 5 drivers.
Lap Leaders: R. Blaney 1;K. Busch 2-60;R. Blaney 61-98;K. Busch 99;R. Blaney 100-143;K. Busch 144;T. Reddick 145-148;W. Byron 149-178;K. Larson 179-183;K. Busch 184-243.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Busch 4 times for 121 laps; Ryan Blaney 3 times for 83 laps; William Byron 1 time for 30 laps; Kyle Larson 1 time for 5 laps; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 4 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 8,12,11,19,22,4,24,1,2,99
Stage #2 Top Ten: 12,8,11,24,99,47,22,4,1,5

Greg Engle