Kyle Larson called the final lap of Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series Overton’s 400 “One of the best NASCAR finishes of all time” and that’s saying a lot considering he finished second.
It was Kyle Busch who scored the 48th win of his career and his second at Chicagoland Speedway. Busch battled lapped traffic in the closing laps and survived a wild last lap that saw him hit the wall for his fifth win of 2018.
Busch was leading at the start of the final lap, but in heavy traffic Larson, in second, dove underneath Busch entering turn 1; Larson came up to the rear of Busch’s Toyota exiting turn 2 bumping him and sending Busch into the wall.
Busch was able to continue as Larson took the lead. Entering turn 3, Busch got to the back of Larson’s Chevy and returned the favor sending Larson up into the wall. Larson was able to hang on as Busch charged to victory.
“It was a lot more hectic than I wanted it to be” Busch said. “Those lapped cars just got in our way and slowed us down so much that we just had no momentum. Finally I got through a couple of them. Larson just threw a dart there in Turn 1 and 2 and tried to pull a slide job. I don’t think he was close enough. He didn’t get enough clear on me to be able to slide. And when he got to me, he throttled up and drove us in the wall. And going down the backstretch, I lost all of my momentum. I tried to side-draft him as much as I could to keep him alongside of me. He cleared me and I gave him what he gave me back into Turn 3 and 4. And I was able to come back and get ahead.”
Larson recovered, pointed his car towards the line and charged home for second.
“Oh man, I’m not upset,” Larson said. “I ran into him first, he got me after that, maybe a little bit worse than I got him, but that is alright. I love racing Kyle (Busch). I know all these fans are probably mad at him, but hey we put on a hell of a show for you guys and that was a blast. I had the top rolling there. I ran the right front off of it a little bit trying to run those guys down and yeah, that has got to be one of the best NASCAR finishes of all time.”
Kevin Harvick who led 39 laps on the day and won Stage 2 finished third and Martin Truex Jr. fourth. Clint Bowyer who led early in the race for a total of 21 laps, overcame two pit road speeding penalties, the second coming when he was serving a pass through on pit road for the first that put him two laps down, to finish fifth.
“We were too fast,” Bowyer said managing a smile after it was over. “The guys work very hard on making sure that they are pushing the envelope, which you have to do in this world and against this competition. You have to push everything. Certainly pit road is a big part of that. You are splitting hairs out there on the race track down to the tenths of a second and you can gain seconds on pit road. Obviously our pit road speed was just a little too fast.”
Bowyer took the lead on lap 19 from early leader Ryan Blaney. Bowyer would go on to lead from that point until his pit road speeding issues that started on lap 39 during green flag stops. Aric Almirola would inherit the lead after those stops and would go on to win Stage 1.
Almirola was leading on lap 141 when he reported a possible loose wheel and pitted a lap later handing the lead to Kurt Busch. Busch held station until the final lap of Stage 2 when he was passed by his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Harvick on the final corner of the final lap as Harvick won the stage.
Kyle Busch was pushed to the lead by Truex on the restart after on lap 168 as Harvick rebounded to second.
In the closing stages, Harvick searched for speed trying to reel in Busch as Larson charged forward taking second no lap 247. Larson began chipping away at the lead, slowed only by a brush with the wall with 8 laps to go, and made his dive on the final lap that ended with his second-place finish.
Erik Jones was sixth, Denny Hamlin who went for a solo spin on lap 176 recovered to finish seventh, Joey Logano was eighth with Brad Keselowski and Alex Bowman rounding out the top 10. Almirola led a race high 70 laps but faded in the closing laps and finished 25th.
With his fifth win of the season Busch is not only tied with Harvick for most wins this season but also moved ahead of Harvick in the point standings.
“I have no clue who third place was,” Busch said. “It was a race between Larson and I. We raced each other and it was fair game after that. That’s how it goes sometimes. Proud to get us another win here in Chicago. It’s been a long time. Pretty cool, going to Victory Lane.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads back to Daytona International Speedway next Saturday night for the mid-summer classic that marks the halfway point of the season. The Coke Zero Sugar 400 will get the green flag just after 7:30 p.m. ET with live coverage on NBC.