Sometimes it pays to be lucky instead of good. Kyle Busch can certainly attest to that. He can also attest to ignoring his crew chief. At least this one time.
Busch emerged from a last lap double overtime crash after the field took the white flag to win Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. The Richard Childress Racing driver led only 3 laps including the most important to steal a win, his first at a superspeedway in 15 years, his second with RCR, and his second of the season.
“Sometimes you got to be lucky,” Busch said. “Some of these races come down to that. You got to take ’em when they come your way. “
With five laps to go, Ryan Blaney, who led a race high 47 laps, had a clear lead on the bottom ahead of a five-car breakaway. Behind the leaders the races 6th caution came out when Joey Logano running 17th was spun after being forced up into the outside line being formed by Corey LaJoie. LaJoie had too much momentum and shoved Logano into the outside wall. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Harrison Burton were also swept up in the melee. Burton, who led 11 laps earlier in the race, his first at Talladega, was done for the day as was Stenhouse.
That caution set up the first attempt at an overtime finish.
One the restart three Chevys led with Noah Gragson on the outside, three Fords on the inside led by Blaney on the bottom. Shortly after the start Ross Chastain behind Gragson tried to dive under Gragson after a push from Kyle Larson; the move shoved Gragson into the outside wall entering Turn 1. Larson spun down and back up into Ryan Preece. Gragson, Preece and Larson were done for the day.
With cars at the edge of their fuel window, Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Chastain pitted for fuel. Busch’s crew chief Randall Burnett called Busch in, but his driver ignored him and lined up third for the second attempt. Leader Blaney reported his fuel pressure light was blinking.
“I was like there’s no way you come to pit road and just throw away your day, like your day is done,” Busch said. “We didn’t have any stage points, we had nothing at that point in the race. I was why not take the chance.
“(Burnett) said, Pit, pit, pit…I was like, It’s a good thing it’s too late anyway.”
“I knew I wasn’t going to get it in there, but also I wouldn’t have anyways. I would have taken the chance and said, You know what, roll the dice, let’s go.”
On the restart. Ty Gibbs leading the outside line ran out of fuel on the restart and Busch took the lead, with Bubba Wallace who led the second most laps on the day, 35, second. Wallace was on the outside, Busch on the inside with Wallace having a slight advantage as the field took the white flag.
Exiting Turn 2 Wallace had a clear lead, but Blaney just behind got into him. Wallace was sent spinning, Blaney lost momentum, Busch got by for the lead and the caution waved freezing the field. Wallace finished a disappointing 28th.
“The seas kind of parted there when they went up the racetrack,” Busch said. “They were trying to push draft. These cars are just not stable enough to do that. I seen the 23 just turn a little bit sideways. I was like, Get out of the way, just miss it. Tried to see if I was ahead of the 12 by the time it was called.”
On the caution lap coming to the checkered flag, Busch’s crew chief wasn’t congratulating him on the radio rather telling him to “save, save, save” fuel to make it back to the line. That he did, and the car ran out of fuel just after he started a celebratory burnout.
“We were sweating it being close,” Busch admitted. “I thought back to California, Fontana, earlier this year where we have a win. I am like, We got to gamble. You’re up here, got to take the track position when you have it, give it what you can on the restarts, see what happens. Lo and behold, it worked out. Knock on wood for this one.”
Busch’s team owner, Richard Childress had to endure a tense final few laps.
“I think my stomach was in knots, but not as bad as the crew chief,” Childress said. “Randall was, ‘Pit, pit.’
“Kyle said, Look, we done made this deal, we done made our decision, let’s ride it out no matter what…He just stayed out. We were on the border of running out of fuel. I was just holding my breath.
“It wasn’t going to be fun if we run out of fuel.”
For his part Randall Burnett said he was fine with his driver calling his own shot.
“It’s hugely helpful,” he said. “For him to buy into what we’re doing, the communication is there, Hey, man, this is where we’re at in the race, this is what we’ve got going on. For him to understand that, process that, do everything he can to help us along the way, is huge for us, how we play our strategy.”
Blaney was scored second.
“I mean, it’s just you get big runs, take ’em when you can,” Blaney said of his duel with Wallace. “I’m glad everyone’s okay, but in my mind you kind of triple move like that, triple block, you can’t block three times. I don’t know. Runs are so big.
“As a leader, with Bubba, trying to block, which is the right thing to do. But I think a lot of those, I mean, I got to go somewhere. I hate that cars got torn up, I hate for us being so close to the win. I’m not blaming anybody. Just hard racing at the end of this thing. Unfortunate cars got tore up and we missed out on another win.”
Roush-Fenway Keselowski driver Chris Buescher was third, Chase Briscoe who overcame a two lap deficit was fourth and Brad Keselowski was fifth marking the best finish for the Roush-Fenway Keselowski team this season.
Last fall’s Talladega winner Chase Elliott led 18 laps and won Stage 1, his first stage win of the season. He finished the day 12th. Pole sitter Denny Hamlin led three laps, finished outside the top 10 in Stage 1, and 7th in Stage 2, but never contended for the win. The four-car crash during the first attempt at overtime had Hamlin on his reserve fuel and he was forced to pit. He came home 15th.
Aric Almirola won Stage 2 and was in contention for the win but ran out of fuel coming to the first overtime, he finished 20th.
Erik Jones, William Byron, Bell, Daniel Suarez and Todd Gilliland rounded out the top 10.
NASCAR heads to Dover Speedway next Sunday where Chase Elliott is the defending winner.
NASCAR Cup Series Race Results GEICO 500
Sunday, April 23, 2023
1. (17) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 196.
2. (5) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 196.
3. (10) Chris Buescher, Ford, 196.
4. (4) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 196.
5. (20) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 196.
6. (24) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 196.
7. (18) William Byron, Chevrolet, 196.
8. (6) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 196.
9. (22) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 196.
10. (28) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 196.
11. (38) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 196.
12. (29) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 196.
13. (27) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet
14. (32) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 196.
15. (33) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 196.
16. (13) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 196.
17. (1) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 196.
18. (37) BJ McLeod, , Chevrolet, 196.
19. (26) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 196.
19. (37) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 196.
20. (36) Riley Herbst(i), Ford, 196.
21. (11) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 196.
22. (2) Aric Almirola, Ford, 196.
23. (23) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 196.
24. (31) Austin Hill(i), Chevrolet, 196.
25. (34) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 196.
26. (15) Austin Cindric, Ford, 196.
27. (7) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 196.
28. (12) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, Accident, 195.
29. (19) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, Accident, 195.
30. (8) Joey Logano, Ford, 195.
31. (3) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, Fuel, 194.
32. (30) Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, Accident, 189.
33. (9) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 189.
34. (16) Ryan Preece, Ford, Accident, 189.
35. (21) Michael McDowell, Ford, 189.
36. (25) Harrison Burton, Ford, Accident, 183.
37. (35) Zane Smith(i), Ford, Accident, 141.
38. (14) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 141.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 146.575 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 33 Mins, 25 Secs. Margin of Victory: Caution Seconds.
Caution Flags: 8 for 34 laps.
Lead Changes: 57 among 21 drivers.
Lap Leaders: A. Almirola 1-6;C. Briscoe 7;B. Wallace 8-30;D. Suarez 31-34;K. Busch 35;R. Chastain 36-38;R. Preece 39-40;E. Jones 41-43;C. Elliott 44-47;A. Bowman 48-52;C. Elliott 53-55;A. Bowman 56;C. Elliott 57;A. Bowman 58-59;C. Elliott 60-62;B. McLeod 63;D. Hamlin 64-70;K. Harvick 71-76;J. Logano 77;M. Truex Jr. 78-82;J. Logano 83;M. Truex Jr. 84;J. Logano 85;M. Truex Jr. 86-97;B. Wallace 98-99;K. Harvick 100-104;B. Keselowski 105-106;C. Elliott 107;M. Truex Jr. 108;C. Elliott 109;B. Wallace 110-114;C. Elliott 115-119;A. Almirola 120-122;W. Byron 123;A. Almirola 124-125;B. Wallace 126;H. Burton 127-130;R. Blaney 131;H. Burton 132-137;R. Blaney 138-140;H. Burton 141;R. Blaney 142-143;D. Suarez 144;R. Blaney 145-146;B. Wallace 147-149;R. Blaney 150-154;T. Gibbs # 155-156;R. Blaney 157-168;T. Gibbs # 169;R. Blaney 170-179;T. Gibbs # 180;R. Blaney 181-188;N. Gragson # 189;R. Blaney 190-193;K. Busch 194;B. Wallace 195;K. Busch 196.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Ryan Blaney 9 times for 47 laps; Bubba Wallace 6 times for 35 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 4 times for 19 laps; Chase Elliott 7 times for 18 laps; Harrison Burton 3 times for 11 laps; Aric Almirola 3 times for 11 laps; Kevin Harvick 2 times for 11 laps; Alex Bowman 3 times for 8 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 7 laps; Daniel Suarez 2 times for 5 laps; Ty Gibbs # 3 times for 4 laps; Ross Chastain 1 time for 3 laps; Erik Jones 1 time for 3 laps; Joey Logano 3 times for 3 laps; Kyle Busch 3 times for 3 laps; Ryan Preece 1 time for 2 laps; Brad Keselowski 1 time for 2 laps; BJ McLeod 1 time for 1 lap; Noah Gragson # 1 time for 1 lap; William Byron 1 time for 1 lap; Chase Briscoe 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 9,48,1,24,5,2,42,22,41,99
Stage #2 Top Ten: 10,9,4,23,21,19,41,11,47,42
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