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Busch Completes Comeback; Wins Race And Championship

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, November 22 2015
Kyle Busch is the 2015 Sprint Cup champion and the winner at Homestead. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Rusty Jarrett)

Kyle Busch is the 2015 Sprint Cup champion and the race winner at Homestead. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Rusty Jarrett)

Racers have been wondering for years when super-talented driver Kyle Busch would finally win a Sprint Cup championship. They got their answer Sunday when Busch won the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway and, with it, the 2015 crown.

chase 15 logoThe victory and championship came with Busch doing what he does best – using mastery on a restart with seven laps to go to take the lead and then moving away from defending champion and fellow Chaser Kevin Harvick.

And it came in a season in which the Joe Gibbs Racing driver missed the first 11 races of the season after suffering a broken leg and broken foot in Daytona.

“Pretty unbelievable,” a choked up Busch said. “A dream come true. I can’t believe it with everything that happened this year. All the turmoil, all the things I went through, my wife went through, my family went through, people around me that they went through.

“Awesome, awesome, awesome.”

Harvick finished second.

“We just struggled all night,” Harvick said. “We had a lot of trouble getting up off the corner
and putting the power down.”

Jeff Gordon, in his last Cup race, finished sixth.

“Gosh,” Gordon, a four-time champion, said afterward, “I’m a little disappointed. I thought going into today’s race, we had something for them. I think when the sun went down we missed a little something and didn’t quite have it when the track cooled down.”

The fourth Chase driver, Martin Truex Jr of Furniture Row Racing., was 12th.

Denny Hamlin started the race from the pole but was quickly overtaken by Joey Logano.

On Lap 20, just after a restart, Busch took the lead away from Logano. Once out front, Busch eased away from the field and by Lap 25, had a 1.9 second lead over second-place Carl Edwards.

When NASCAR called a competition caution on after 30 laps, Busch had the lead while Harvick was third and Gordon fourth. Truex was eighth.

On the Lap 36 restart, Gordon went low on the track and jumped from third to the lead, prompting a huge cheer from the crowd.

On a Lap 45 restart, Gordon, who chose the inside line, was quickly passed by Harvick for the lead.

Two laps later, a wreck involving such drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Casey Mears, Clint Bowyer, Ty Dillon, Aric Almirolda and Ricky Stenhouse brought out another caution. On the restart the top three drivers were Chasers – Harvick, Busch and Gordon. Truex was sixth.

Gordon had a bad restart and dropped from third back to eighth, then, out of of the top 10.

Harvick, meanwhile, displayed the speed his Stewart-Haas Racing car has had for so much of the season and began to pull away from Busch a bit. On Lap 75, the margin was .5 seconds. Five laps later, the lead was over a second.

On Lap 89, Logano blew past Busch to take second place.

On Lap 90, green flag pit stops began and first in was Truex, who was running ninth.

When the pitting cycled through, Logano had the lead, Busch was second and Harvick third. Truex was ninth and Gordon had dropped back to 14th.

Out front, Logano took off. By Lap 110, his lead over second-place Busch was 1.4 seconds over Busch and 3.5 over Harvick.

At the half way point – Lap 134 – Logano led Busch by 3 seconds and Harvick by 8.5 seconds.

On Lap 137, green flag stops began. During Truex’s stop, a fire started while his car was being fueled. The gas man had to back away and Truex headed out with a short fuel load.

When pitting cycled through, Logano led, Busch was second, Harvick sixth, Truex 11th and Gordon 12th.

On Lap 150, debris brought out the yellow flag. The leaders all pitted, which was most welcome for Truex and his team. Logano kept the lead and Busch restarted third, Harvick fifth, Truex 11th, Gordon 12th.

On the restart on Lap 155, Busch raced to the lead past Logano.

Two laps later, Harvick moved to second. As Busch and Harvick fought for the lead, Truex and Gordon fought for 10th place.

With 100 laps to go, another yellow flag waved. During pit stops, Truex’s crew opted to change just two tires. The move put Truex into the lead.

Harvick restarted third and Busch fourth.

Keselowski, who restarted second, quickly took the lead and Busch quickly moved to second past Keselowski. A couple laps later, Harvick moved past Truex. During all this, Gordon sat 10th.

Truex, hoping for a short green flag run after his two-tire gamble, dropped out of the top 10.

With 60 laps to go, Keselowski led Busch by 1.6 seconds and fourth-place Harvick by 3.9 seconds.

With 54 laps to go, Truex took another gamble by pitting early while running 14th. A lap later, Harvick followed him in and then Gordon who was running ninth. Busch came in with 51 laps to go.

Those were the final scheduled pit stops. When they cycled though, Keselowski had the lead but Busch was second but almost 5 seconds ahead of fourth-place Harvick.

With 25 laps to go, Keselowski’s lead had been reduce to 1.5 seconds over Busch. But behind Busch, Larson was moving in on Busch. Havick was nine seconds behind the leader. With 14 laps to go, Larson passed Busch for second place.

Larson, looking for his first Cup victory, was moving in on the lead when a debris caution was called with 11 laps to go.

The leaders all pitted for tires. Keselowski kept the lead but Busch came out ahead of Larson. Harvick was fourth and restarted right behind Busch in the outside line.

On the restart, which came with seven laps to go saw Busch go past Keselowski for the lead. Harvick also moved past Keselowski.

“Yeah,” Keselowski said of picking the inside line. “I don’t really know if there was a right one or a wrong one to be honest. We just weren’t fast enough and I don’t think it would have mattered either way.”

Out front Busch began pulling away. With three laps to go, his lead over Harvick was 1.4 seconds.

“I knew it was time to go,” Busch said of the restart. “I don’t know why Brad (Keselowski) chose to the bottom, but he gave me the top and I thought, ‘This is interesting.’ It did put (Kevin) Harvick behind me so I knew I just had to protect whatever Harvick tried to do if he was going to shoot the middle or shoot the gap or whatever it was going to be. Man, I don’t think I got hit, I think I just got a really good restart and then just got going. I don’t know if Brad spun his tires or what. We got to turns one and two and we were pretty even, I just looked into four and gave it everything I had those last seven or eight laps. This Toyota Camry was awesome and Adam Stevens (crew chief) made a phenomenal adjustment on the last pit stop to get me exactly what I needed for those last eight laps and drive away.”

At the white flag the lead was 1.7 seconds and Busch had completed one of the most unlikely comebacks in NASCAR history.

“I said back then, I’ll say it again,” Busch said. “the rehab of getting back, getting ready and focused – all that was the hardest part and the hardest thing I have ever gone through. To put it all together and be heretonight, this wasn’t that hard but I have one special driver in Tony Stewart come see me and he helped me through a lot of that stuff. I’ve had about six or seven here tonight and it’s pretty awesome to have that opportunity to be here and to see guys like this one right here (Jeff Gordon), Mr. Four Time.”

(This story will be updated shortly)

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, November 22 2015
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