Kyle Busch gets hot when it matters winning at Homestead to secure his second NASCAR Cup title

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 17: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead Speedway on November 17, 2019 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Talk about timing.  After going winless for 21 races, Kyle Busch got hot when it mattered leading a race high 120 laps in the second half of the season ending race at Homestead Sunday to win the Ford EcoBoost 400 and his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series title.

Busch took control of the race for the final time on lap 223 building a lead of 10 seconds after a round of green flag stops and crossing the line 4.5 seconds ahead of championship contender Martin Truex Jr.

It was his first win since Pocono in June, his fifth of the year and the 56th of his Cup career.

“Everybody always says you never give up,” Busch said.  “We’re no different.  We just do what we can do each and every week.”

“Sometimes we may not be the best, sometimes we may not have the right track position.  Today we had a really good car and I could race around and move around.  That’s what’s so special about Homestead‑Miami Speedway, is the ability to put on a show.”

“I felt like we did that there racing those guys.  I know it kind of dulled out towards the end.  It was exciting enough from my seat.  It was a lot of fun to cap off such an amazing year.”

Erik Jones was third championship contender Kevin Harvick fourth and last years champion Joey Logano was fifth.  Early on the 4 vying for the title ran inside the top five.

Truex led the early part of the race and won the first stage, but after leading 98 of the first 121 laps, a miscue during pit stops had the crew put the wrong tires on the Toyota and Truex was forced back into the pits. He came back out in 13th one lap down.  He was in the free pass position by lap 135 when John Hunter Nemechek spun bringing out the caution.

“Ultimately it was the loss of track position that bit us,” Truex said.  “We restarted the third stage in third, and really wish I could have been either second or fourth.  I got blitzed on the outside by the 20 and the 22 and a couple of those guys, and then I had to just run the crap out of my right front to get by back them, and I got tight on that run, and it took me forever to just get by a few cars.

“I lost a bunch of ground on that run because of getting tight in traffic and then just was too far back to make anything happen the last run.  Ultimately it came down to track position, and I felt like if I could have been up front and controlled the race, I could have drove away from them.

“At the end we were quite a bit quicker, but it’s just ‑‑ it was too much of a gap.  Yeah, it’s part of the deal.  You’ve got to be perfect, you know, and one mistake probably cost us a shot at it.”

Busch would take the lead on lap 157 and go on to win Stage 2 with Harvick finishing second, Truex fourth and Hamlin sixth.

After pit stops Hamlin would take the lead briefly until Busch retook the lead a lap later.

During another round of green flag stops that started on lap 203, Harvick and Hamlin would stay out hoping for a caution. Hamlin would pit on lap 221, Harvick on lap 223.

“We just needed to do something different,” Harvick said.  “Those guys, they were so much better than us on the long run.  Really our best chance was to have a caution there at the end and never got one.  We just did something different hoping for a caution, and that’s what you’re supposed to do in those late situations like that.  Just do the opposite of the cars you’re trying to race, and it just didn’t work out.”

Busch would go back to the lead by 9.5 seconds while Truex was slowly cutting into the lead.  Hamlin meanwhile had to re-pit after his crew put on too much tape on his Toyota’s grill and the engine began to overheat. He came back out 19th one lap down.

Harvick would retake the lead on lap 215, but Busch was able to get by for the final time on lap 223.

Hamlin would earn his lap back but was unable to stage a rally and had to settle for 10th.  Ahead of him, Clint Bowyer was sixth, Ryan Newman seventh, Austin Dillon and Alex Bowman ninth.

“Like I said, last week, I was going to come in here and do the best I could and live with the result either way,” Hamlin said.  “I definitely feel like I couldn’t have done anything different.  Certainly we got a little aggressive there, and it cost us, but I mean, he’s also been really aggressive and won us races, too.  It’s just he’s going for it.  He saw an opportunity there to really add some speed to the car, and it just didn’t work out.”

With his winless streak coming into the Playoffs, and even coming in as the regular season champion with 4 wins, Busch was somewhat of an underdog.  As the 2019 Playoffs end, he’s a two-time Cup champion.

“We had a cold spell there,” crew chief Adam Stevens said.  “It’s been well documented, believe it or not.  Quite a few questions about it.  Felt a little bit like 2015 to me.  Take the broken legs out of the equation.  We were hot early in 2015 when Kyle came back.  We didn’t win since Indy that year, then came to Homestead and got the job done.”

“You got to remember, too, we’re in such a unique situation, as a competitive team that runs up front with the goal of winning the championship every year, everything we do is to make that happen, right?”, he added. “To win the regular season points championship, then try to maintain that and get to Homestead, that’s what it’s all about.”
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Ford EcoBoost 400 Homestead-Miami Speedway
Homestead, Florida
Sunday, November 17, 2019
1. (4)  Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 267.
2. (3)  Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 267.
3. (16)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 267.
4. (2)  Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 267.
5. (5)  Joey Logano, Ford, 267.
6. (10)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, 267.
7. (15)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 267.
8. (22)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.
9. (12)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 267.
10. (1)  Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 267.
11. (7)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 266.
12. (25)  Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 266.
13. (18)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 266.
14. (17)  Daniel Suarez, Ford, 266.
15. (11)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 266.
16. (20)  Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 266.
17. (19)  Paul Menard, Ford, 266.
18. (8)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 265.
19. (23)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 265.
20. (21)  Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 265.
21. (13)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 265.
22. (14)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 264.
23. (30)  John Hunter Nemechek(i), Ford, 264.
24. (24)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 263.
25. (26)  Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 263.
26. (28)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 263.
27. (31)  David Ragan, Ford, 263.
28. (33)  Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 262.
29. (37)  Drew Herring, Toyota, 262.
30. (34)  JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 262.
31. (29)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, 261.
32. (39)  BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 256.
33. (40)  Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 248.
34. (27)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 243.
35. (36)  Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 242.
36. (38)  Josh Bilicki(i), Ford, Brakes, 240.
37. (35)  Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Brakes, 236.
38. (32)  Joe Nemechek(i), Chevrolet, Steering, 227.
39. (9)  William Byron, Chevrolet, Engine, 215.
40. (6)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Engine, 209.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  142.654 mph.
Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 48 Mins, 47 Secs. Margin of Victory:  4.578 Seconds.
Caution Flags:  3 for 15 laps.
Lead Changes:  14 among 5 drivers.
Lap Leaders:   D. Hamlin (P) 0;K. Harvick (P) 1-20;M. Truex Jr. (P) 21-38;R. Stenhouse Jr. 39;M. Truex Jr. (P) 40-86;K. Busch (P) 87;M. Truex Jr. (P) 88-120;K. Busch (P) 121-143;K. Harvick (P) 144-156;K. Busch (P) 157-167;D. Hamlin (P) 168-169;K. Busch (P) 170-209;M. Truex Jr. (P) 210-214;K. Harvick (P) 215-222;K. Busch (P) 223-267.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Busch (P) 5 times for 120 laps; Martin Truex Jr. (P) 4 times for 103 laps; Kevin Harvick (P) 3 times for 41 laps; Denny Hamlin (P) 1 time for 2 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 19,42,18,4,11,12,14,24,48,3
Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,4,42,19,11,12,22,20,48,14

Greg Engle