Busch Brothers Battle in the Bluegrass
By Andrew Gillespie
Saturday night, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series went racing in the Bluegrass, and with heat, speed, and a touch of luck, Cup Series driver Kurt Busch notched his first win in nearly a year in the Quaker State 400 Saturday night. With a late race caution and restart, a roaring crowd cheered Kurt Busch as he battled none other than his younger brother, driver Kyle Busch, for the win at Kentucky Speedway.
As a result of a late race caution flag, coming as a result of a spin by the No. 43 of Bubba Wallace, the field of cars restarted one last time for an overtime finish. As the lead cars thundered around the track three-wide, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch made clear that the race would be a duel between the two. Throughout the last lap, Kyle Busch seemed to hold the advantage over his brother, but Kurt Busch was able to battle back in the outside lane. The two brothers led the field to an electrifying finish, their machines making contact coming around Turn 4, looking as if they might wreck, as they raced to the checkered flag. Battling side-by-side, Kurt Busch edged ahead of younger brother Kyle after the contact to take the checkered flag, giving him his 31st win in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Addressing the crowd from the racetrack after the race, Kurt Busch remarked, “You know, racing your little brother every week, watching him win a lot, I’m proud of him. He gave me a little bit of room on that outside. He could have clobbered us against the wall…” He finished by exclaiming, “What an awesome run. We got this Monster [Energy] Chevy in Victory Lane. Thank you Kentucky!”
Rounding out the top 5 were Erik Jones in third place, Kurt Busch’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Kyle Larson, in fourth place, and Denny Hamlin with a late race march to finish in fifth place.
In addition to his 31st Cup Series win, Kurt Busch earned a win in the first stage of the race as a result of a steady push and a fast No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. In the first stage, Kurt masterfully held off strong advances from the No. 22 of Joey Logano. And, as if foreshadowing the final laps of the race, Kyle Busch raced his way to the win in stage 2 of the race, setting up an epic showdown between the brothers as they eventually fought fiercely for the final checkered flag.
Other notable events included a shredded tire for the No. 9 Chevrolet of Chase Elliot, bringing the first caution flag of the race on Lap 46. The No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson also suffered some mishaps throughout the race, the most remarkable incident occurring during the final stage as the No. 48 spun and slammed the wall, causing rear damage to the car. Daniel Suarez, driver of the No. 41 car, started on the Pole, but after a strong lead, fell much further back in the pack, bringing yet another surprise to race fans.
Joey Logano may have been the most disappointed driver after the race, as he stated simply, “We had the best car and didn’t win.” He gave a strong showing all race long, and worked his way to the lead with a fast No. 22 Ford. Despite Logano leading the race by more than a second just prior to the final caution with 6 laps to go, he finished in a disappointing seventh place.
Because of Joey Logano’s seventh place finish, Kyle Busch closed the gap on Logano’s series-leading points standing. Beginning Saturday night’s race 18 points behind Logano, Kyle Busch finished just 11 points behind Logano due to Busch’s runner-up finish. Meanwhile, despite being third in points standings, Kevin Harvick sits at 101 points behind the lead of Joey Logano. Perhaps most importantly, as a result of his win at Kentucky Speedway, Kurt Busch locked himself a spot in the NASCAR playoffs.
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