CP MOTORSPORTS - BUSCH CRUISES TO VICTORY, CHAMPIONSHIP IN CUP FINALE
Kyle Busch had but one objective entering Sunday's Sprint Cup finale and defacto championship race from Homestead-Miami Speedway -- just win.
Busch was not going to be kept from his goal, the driver of the No. 18 M&Ms Crispy Toyota left his competition in the dust following the race's final restart with seven laps to go to clinch his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Busch won the title by just a single point, one position, over last season's champion Kevin Harvick.
The 30-year old Las Vegas native missed the first 11 races of the season due to injuries sustained in the opening Xfinity series race of the season. Busch still managed to win five races on the season.
"It’s pretty unbelievable, a dream of a lifetime, a dream come true and something that only happens every so often," Busch said. "I just can’t believe with everything that happened this year and all the turmoil, all the things that I went through, that my wife (Samantha) went through and the people that are around me went through. This championship is all for these guys, my wife, my family, everyone who has had to sacrifice so much to get me here to this place today, whether it was on my team right now, or on my teams in the past.
"It’s really awesome, awesome, awesome."
Busch's crew chief Adam Stevens was in his first year on the job and believes his driver helped him work through the first year's challenges.
“I leaned on Kyle Busch pretty heavily," Stevens said. "You just have to get him close – that’s the beauty of Kyle and his talent, skill and dedication. His feedback is so good, I think anybody could adjust on his car tonight and all year, really. The total strength of JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) with all the wins we’ve had and how competitive we’ve been – it could be any one of the teams right here right now if you shook the Chase up and reran it again. I’m just proud of everyone at home and JGR and TRD for all the total team effort and team work.
"I’m thrilled to be a part of Kyle Busch’s career. He’s a future Hall of Famer and to be anywhere close to him is amazing for me.”
Finishing in second place is nothing new for Kevin Harvick this season while the defending champion won three races he finished in the runner up spot 13 times. Harvick also recorded an astounding 28 top-ten finishes.
Despite the sting of disappointment, Harvick applauded Busch's gutsy performance.
"It's just exciting," Harvick said. "I think when you race your whole life and you accomplish what you've raced for your whole life, it's exciting. I've been fortunate to experience that last year and know that feeling and know how gratifying that is. You know, it's fun to see that excitement. He broke his leg at Daytona, and to come back from everything that he came back from, it's like I told you guys three or four days ago, I mean, there's four phenomenal stories that were sitting up on the stage, probably three that were much more exciting than mine.
"That's a great comeback story from where he was after Daytona."
Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano finished in third and fourth place, respectively. Kyle Larson won the Xfinity race on Saturday, routinely ran the fastest lap times and was on the hunt for the lead when the race's final caution came out, had to settle for a fifth place finish.
In the final start of his championship career, Jeff Gordon finished in sixth place. The finish allowed Gordon to finish third in the points standings in his final year of competition.
Gordon believes his former Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kyle Busch, was destined to win this season's championship.
"His talent is so strong, and that team really found some things this year but I will say that what he went through this year, I see a changed Kyle," Gordon explained. "I don't know what it is. I've never talked to him and got into details about it. But when he came back, not only was he driven and just inspired by it, but you can tell he was racing smarter, with more patience, just being more deliberate, and I think he just -- between having a baby, the thing that happened to him at Daytona, the time with his wife, and other things, maybe Joe Gibbs, I don't know, family, friends, I think that time, he had a lot of time to think about a lot of things.
"I don't know what he did, but he came out of it even better than he was before, and I think he showed it right away when he came back that there was a pretty good chance he was destined to win this championship."
Matt Kenseth finished in seventh place followed by Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin rounding out the top ten finishers.
Martin Truex, Jr, finished in 12th place but grabbed fourth in the final points standings. The driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet believes the future is bright for the single car outfit based out of Denver, Colorado.
"I think this is great motivation for us for next year," Truex said. "I think that with the things we have coming and going to Toyota and teaming up with JGR and all that stuff. I think the future is bright for this team, and we're keeping all our guys together. Hopefully this is our first season battling for a championship but not our last. I really feel strong that this is a special group of guys and if we can keep that together for hopefully the rest of my career, I'd love to drive for them."