Kyle Busch Fights Off Kyle Larson for Chicagoland Win
Like two boxers in the final round of a closely-contested slugfest, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson traded hard shots on the last lap of Sunday's Overton's 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Moments later, it was Kyle Busch who was still standing - with his car parked on the finish line and his fifth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season in his pocket.
In the closing three laps, Larson gained on Busch, who had led from a restart on Lap 213 of 267. Busch was slowed by lapped traffic, and Larson had a strong run into Turns 1 and 2 on the final lap. Larson drove hard into the corner but couldn't clear Busch's No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry off Turn 2.
Larson tapped the left rear of Busch's car, knocking him into the outside wall. Larson passed Busch on the backstretch, but the 2015 series champion wasn't finished. Busch got back to the bumper of Larson's No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in Turn 3 and sent him spinning with a hard shot to the rear of the car.
With his second victory at Chicagoland, Busch earned the 48th victory of his career, tied with Herb Thomas for 14th all-time and one win behind three-time champion Tony Stewart. Busch tied Harvick for the most victories in the series this season, marking only the fourth time in series history that two drivers have each won five times in the first 17 races.
Busch appeared to be cruising to a one-second victory before Ryan Newman raced him hard trying to stay on the lead lap and a pack of lapped cars in front of him clogged the track.
"I got really boxed in and got really slow," Busch said. "I tried to get all of it on those last couple of laps. Larson tried to pull a slider but didn't quite complete it. He slid up into me and used me, and then I kind of used him a little bit in Turn 3 to come back for the victory.
"Great win for the Skittles Camry and all of these guys. We were horrible today. Absolutely horrendous. We just never gave up. It's always good to make the most of the days and get to where we needed at the end. I was able to lead all of those laps. And get through the rest of the traffic. If you don't like that kind of racing, don't even watch."
The last lap aside, a major key to Busch's victory was stellar work on pit road. After the final stop under caution on Lap 209, Busch beat Harvick back on track to take the lead and held it the rest of the way.
Even though Busch knocked him out of the way in the final corner for the win, Larson held no hard feelings.
"Yeah, I was fighting hard to catch him and had a really good car especially on the long runs," Larson said. "We were able to get the top going and finally run him down. Yeah, the lappers bottled him up pretty bad there, and I was able to get a run on him. He changed his line up there for a couple of laps in a row, and I got a big run and went to throw the slider on him and got really tight.
"My plan was pretty much to run into the side of him to try and slow his momentum down and was able to do that and get clear of him. I didn't really want to be clear of him in (Turn) 3, though, because I knew he would get to my back bumper and move me out of the way, which he did. So, I mean, I know some fans probably already don't like Kyle Busch, but that was just kind of hard racing there, I thought."
Martin Truex Jr. finished fourth but failed to lead a lap. Clint Bowyer recovered from three extra trips down pit road because of penalties to run fifth. Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Alex Bowman completed the top 10.
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Skittles Red White & Blue Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
How did that shake down there?
“I don’t know. I got really boxed in and got really slow. I tried to get all of it on those last couple of laps. (Kyle) Larson tried to pull a slider but didn’t quite complete it. He slide up into me and used me, and then I kind of used him a little bit in Turn 3 to come back for the victory. Great win for the Skittles Camry and all of these guys. We were horrible today. Absolutely horrendous. We just never gave up. It’s always good to make the most of the days and get to where we needed at the end. I was able to lead all of those laps. And get through the rest of the traffic. If you don’t like that kind of racing, don’t even watch.”
Did you see Harvick there at the end?
“I have no clue who third place was. 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.”
Is the way that played out what the sport is all about?
“Yeah it is. Tried to pull a slide job and didn’t quite get it all the way. He wasn’t close enough to get it all the way. But when he got into us there, he got me into the wall and killed my right side and it was gone after that. Couldn’t get back to the checkered flag first. Fortunately we had just enough in this Skittles Camry to get to Victory Lane. We made the most of this Camry today. Adam Stevens (crew chief) and all of my guys did a great job with race adjustments throughout the race to get us to where we needed to be near the end. We got some clean air towards the end. My crew chief did a great job helping me there and it was a way different race car up front. Can’t thank NOS Energy, Interstate Batteries, Cessna, Rheem, Stanley, Black Clover, of course the fans, my fans – they’re pretty passionate. They’re pretty powerful with what we got going with Rowdy Nation. The rest of the of them, I don’t know what they’re booing about. It was a hell of a race. You got problems if you don’t like that.”
Tell us about the last lap with you and Larson.
“It was a lot more hectic than I wanted it to be. 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. Adam Stevens did a great job today and turned this into something we could go race with at the end. Can’t thank Interstate Batteries enough. NOS Energy Drink, Toyota, Cessna, Rheem, Stanley, Black Cover and everyone. They work so hard. My pit crew did a great job as well.”
How did all of the external factors play into your car today?
“It all did. Track position was huge. That was the biggest benefactor. Us working on it as well was huge, too. We came a long ways with the balance of this thing. A couple of pit stops we said, let’s just sit here and work on it. Guys didn’t actually lose a lot of time or positions. We were able to get it where we needed it. Out front and got the lead, we took control of the race. We were able to hold off Harvick and Larson had a charge. He was coming but you have to pass a guy to win the race. You can’t drive through a guy to win the race. We did what we needed to do to get our Skittles Camry in Victory Lane.”
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