Kurt Busch Finally Wins At Home Track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway After 20 Years Of Tryingby Hunter Thomas September 28, 2020 0 comments
LAS VEGAS – After two decades of trying, Kurt Busch finally won a NASCAR Cup Series race at his hometown track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Sunday night’s win in the South Point 400 marked Busch’s 22nd NASCAR Cup Series start at the track. After taking the checkered flag, the 42-year-old was visibly emotional during his post-race interviews. Prior to this past weekend’s race, Busch had only captured two top-five and five top-10 finishes, but now the 2004 NASCAR Cup Series champion is a winner at his home track.
“This is 20 years of agony and defeat and now today with triumph, I don’t know if I have any more gas left or if I just filled my tank up to go win every race that I’m going to go race next,” Busch said. “This feeling of growing up here and watching the track get built from the desert gravel pit that it was by Richie Clyne and his group and then when Speedway Motorsports came in and bought it, I’m like, man, there’s going to be a Cup race there, I hope I can make my way up through Legend cars. And just all the memories, all the memories of everybody, my mom and dad, every Saturday night, all the commitment they gave me and my little brother to make it in racing.”
Busch led the final 26 laps on Sunday, but the victory didn’t come easy for him. On a restart with just 26 laps to go, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver had to battle Matt DiBenedetto who was looking to capture his first series victory.
On lap 251, John Hunter Nemechek spun in Turn 3 and slid up the track in front of traffic. With nowhere to go, Erik Jones got into the side of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who then bounced off the outside wall.
Once back to green, Busch had to once again, hold onto the top spot, but the seventh and final caution flew on lap 262 after Christopher Bell bounced off the outside wall on the frontstretch and William Byron ran into the back of his car. Corey LaJoie was also collected in the accident as well. The caution set the field up for a NASCAR Overtime finish.
On the final restart of the night, Busch took off and never looked back as he went on to win his 32nd career race in the NASCAR Cup Series.
“The race unfolded in our favor when we were leading and we were cranking out some great lap times on old tires, and a yellow came out, and I’m like, this is like a huge break, this is like having all your chips in on a roulette number and it came up 1, it came up our number, and we doubled down,” Busch said. “We had a good pit stop to hold our track position. We had to battle DiBenedetto on some of those restarts. I pulled out a few drag racing tricks on him.”
Heading into the NASCAR Playoffs, Busch and his No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet team weren’t necessarily the favorites, like Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, but on Sunday’s win guaranteed Busch a spot in the Round of 8 of the NASCAR Playoffs. While every round has its unique challenges, the Round of 12 is the most unpredictable of the three rounds, because it’s features a race at Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Busch and his team now won’t have to worry about the “big one” at Talladega or the unknown at the series’ third visit to the ROVAL.
“No Talladega worries,” Busch said. “No ROVAL worries. But we’re still going there to get points. We’re still going there to add up what we need to do to win this championship. So, thanks to Chevrolet. Thank you guys, and Jim Campbell, and everybody at the Ganassi shop.”
Matt DiBenedetto held on to finish second in his Team Penske No. 21 Menards/Duracell Ford. The runner-up effort marked his third top-five finish of the season. He also finished second earlier this year at Las Vegas back in February.
“Two seconds at Vegas,” DiBenedetto said. “It’s tough to come that close, just wanted it so bad for this team. I love driving for the Wood Brothers. I want that number 100 for them so bad and for Menards, the whole family and everything they do for us and the team, and having Duracell on the car this week, we’re keeping her charged up good. Motorcraft/Quick Lane, Ford, Roush Yates Engines, all these folks that allow me to drive a really fast hot rod. Our car was the best it had been at the end, just couldn’t get control on those restarts. The 1 car, Kurt, did a great job. We had completely different ratios for the restarts and once he gained control of the race, he played the right games on the restarts, knew what we had on our weakness there.
Finishing third was Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota. Hamlin continued his season dominance by winning Stage 1 and leading a race high of 121 laps, but in the end, he wasn’t able to drive through the field quickly enough to pass DiBenedetto and Busch. The effort marked his 16th top-five finish of the season.
“We had a dominant car today and I’m proud of the whole FedEx team for giving me such a great car,” Hamlin said. “By far the best car I’ve had in Las Vegas in a long time. It was really, really good. Happy with it and this new tire here. We’ll run that a few more times this year. Really encouraged by the way we ran, but very disappointed that we didn’t get a win. It’s just been the way that the Playoffs have gone. Whoever stays out the longest puts themselves in a great spot to win.”
NASCAR Playoff contenders, Martin Truex Jr. Alex Bowman and Kyle Busch finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. Rounding out the top-10 was Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Chris Buescher and Kevin Harvick.
The second race of the Round of 12 will be held at Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday, October 4. Live coverage of the YellaWood 500 will broadcast live on NBC and MRN at 2 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images