KURT BUSCH WINS IN A BATTLE OF BROTHERS AT KENTUCKY
Redemption, that’s all Kurt Busch and his crew chief, Matt McCall, wanted after a late call to pit from the lead before the rain rolled in ruined their chance to win at Daytona. Saturday night during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Kentucky speedway; they got what they asked for.
“Racing your little brother and watching him win a lot, I’m proud of him, but I’m proud of him that he gave me a little room on the outside,” Kurt told NBC’s Marty Snider. “He could have clobbered us against the wall and third place probably would have gotten it. What an awesome run.”
The big story of the race before a car even hit the track was NASCAR trying to bring more lanes and more racing to the track by applying PJ1 to the track; something that drew some ire from fans and drivers alike. Not bothered by the PJ1; Daniel Suarez went out during qualifying to get his second career Cup pole with his teammate, Aric Almirola, alongside him on the front row.
When the green flag waved, Suarez immediately pulled away with a strong start, he remained upfront with no real opposition for the first 30 laps. Almirola got back to the bumper of Suarez and tried nearly every move possible for sixteen laps, but thanks to lap traffic and Suarez making defensive moves, he just couldn’t pass him. The fight for the lead came to an end after Chase Elliott had a tire go down that had sent debris out and brought a caution. Most of the cars on the track came in to pit while Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch stayed out to get the lead. Busch pulled ahead of Keselowski on the restart only for a caution to come out for Corey Lajoie spinning. The green came back out with twenty-one laps to go in the first stage, and Kurt got away again as Keselowski fell through the field with a valve spring issue that hurt him all day to a twentieth-place finish. The caution came out again after Bayley Currey and Landon Cassill got together; making it a fourteen lap run for the stage win. Kurt got out front again and had to hold off a very fast Joey Logano for the stage win; his first stage win of the season.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr and Clint bowyer brought the field back to green after the stage one caution. Stenhouse got out to the lead and would soon lose it as Kyle Busch started flying through the field to take it on lap 104. Meanwhile, Daniel Suarez began to have a tire go down and had to pit, resulting in a speeding penalty and going three laps down in what would be tough fight of a race for the pole winner. After green-flag stop, Kyle Busch easily kept ahead and went on to win the second stage.
After slowing down to keep his tire wear down; Kyle Busch only got fuel to leave the pits first to be right behind Clint Bowyer, Kurt, and William Byron along with others. The caution came out again after Jimmie Johnson spun and smacked the wall after Logano upset the air hitting Johnson’s car. Suarez, who had stayed out during green-flag stops in stage two got the free pass just in time. Thanks to a quick pit stop, Byron got into second place to restart beside Bowyer; a situation that seriously hurt his race. As they came to the restart line, Bowyer held up his line to slow them down and make Byron start moving ahead and get a restart line violation and have to come down the pits. The penalty would result in Byron finishing in eighteenth at the end of the night.
With Byron’s penalty, Kurt Busch inherited second place and got right beside Bowyer for the lead. The two racing beside each other let Logano and Kyle Busch get back up to them. Clint pitted on lap sixty on a strategy call for four tires and Kurt took the lead for a few laps until he was called and came out in front of Bowyer. Kyle Busch took the lead as Erik Jones pitted and only took two tires to start a whole new wave of pit strategies. Kyle Busch and Logano got into the pits and came out in the perfect situation to only have to race each other for the lead. Ryan Newman, who had stayed out for a long run, pitted to give the lead to Suarez who, with a good strategy and a caution, rallied back to an eighth-place finish. With lapped cars all through the field and Kyle Busch having an increasingly tight car, Logano started to reel in the lead.
Logano got by Busch right as Suarez finally pitted; giving him the lead. Logano navigated traffic and started to put himself in position for an easy win until Bubba Wallace lost a tire with six to go and brought the last caution.
The race restarted for an overtime finish and Logano and Kyle didn’t get the great start they needed. Meanwhile, thanks to a strong push from Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch got on the door of his little brother. The two raced hard for last two laps; they kept beating and banging into the corners but with Kurt having the outside line and fresher tires he would start to pull away out of the corners. Coming out of turn four with just enough of a run; Kurt Busch edged out his little brother in dramatic fashion to get his first Cup win of the season and the first one for the Chip Ganassi No. 1 team since 2013.