Busch Wins Cup Title; No Asterisk This Time

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 17 2019
Kyle Busch celebrates winning the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series championship on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Kyle Busch picked the perfect time to end his much-discussed 2019 losing streak Sunday and that would be at the championship-deciding Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The victory, his first victory after 21-straight failed attempts, earned Busch his second career Cup championship.

“Today,” Busch said, “I had a really good car and I could race around and move around and that’s what’s so special about Homestead-Miami Speedway is the ability to put on a show and I felt like we did that. I dulled out I guess towards the end but it was exciting enough from my seat.”

Busch’s win was his fifth of the season but his first since June 2 at Pocono Raceway.

“We just had a cold spell there, you know?”, crew chief Adam Stevens said of the team’s late-season woes. “It’s been well documented. It really felt like 2015, take the broken legs out of the equation. We were really hot early in 2015 when Kyle came back. We didn’t win since Indy that year but came to Homestead and got the job done.”

The victory came thanks to a dominating run in the final stage of the 267-lap Ford EcoBoost 400. He led 120 of those laps. And it went to a driver who seems to hit both good and bad chords with fans.

“There’s always your doubters,” Busch said. “There’s always your hates but this one is for Rowdy Nation (as he calls his fan base) because you guys are the best.”

 Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and Championship 4 member Martin Truex Jr. finished second. The margin of victory was 4.578 seconds.

 Contender Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing finished fourth, while Denny Hamlin, a third contender for the Gibbs team, finished 10th.

 Busch’s first title came in 2015 when he also won at Homestead in the season finale. But that championship, according to differing opinions, came with an asterisk attach since he did not compete in the full season. The Las Vegas native was injured that season and had to sit out the first 11 races. NASCAR, however, waived its rule that drivers must start all races to be eligible for the championship.

Asked about this year’s championship vis a vis the one four years ago, Stevens said, “It really felt like 2015, take the broken legs out of the equation. We were really hot early in 2015 when Kyle came back. We didn’t win since Indy that year but came to Homestead and got the job done.”

 This championship will have no asterisk.

 Busch’s scary moment came just after the restart from the caution between Stages 2 and 3. He was challenged by Hamlin and the two traded the lead a couple times. On the final trade of the lead, the two JGR drivers banged doors. Busch emerged in front, and from there he sprinted out to a big lead.

 The victory was the 19th of the season for a Gibbs car. That is the most ever by one organization.

For the other three contenders in the Championship 4:

Truex became the first of the foursome to run into trouble. After leading 98 laps, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver lost the lead to Busch just after green-flag pit stops in Stage 2. Worse for Truex, during his stop his crew put wrong-side tires on the front of his car. He had to pit to fix the problem and in doing so, fell a lap off the pace.

Truex got a great break, however, when NASCAR opted to wave a yellow flag when John Hunter Nemechek got loose but kept going on Lap 137. Truex was the first car a lap down when the caution was called and, hence, was put back on the lead lap. By the early laps of the final stage, Truex was back running in the top three.

“We lost that track position and fell back too much,” Truex, a seven-race winner in 2019, said. “We were faster the whole last run but we were so far behind there was just too much to make up with traffic and lapped traffic. It’s unfortunate.

“Just one little mistake is hard to overcome here with track position.”

 Hamlin’s reputation of being the best current driver not to have won a championship remained intact. The 38-year-old driver started from the pole but was able to lead only two laps. He ran near the front until the final 50 laps. With 45 laps to go, his engine began to overheat as a result of too much tape on his grill and he had to pit, knocking him off the lead lap.

“It’s disappointing but all you can ask for is a chance,” Hamlin said. “We got our chance last week (by winning in Phoenix). Chris (Gabehart) is aggressive. He’s an aggressive crew chief and he tried to give me all the speed he could there and it was just too much tape. We were going blow up.”

Hamlin’s best points finish in his 15 career seasons is his runner-up showing in 2010.


Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – 21st Annual Ford EcoBoost 400

Homestead-Miami Speedway

Homestead, Florida

Sunday, November 17, 2019

                1. (4)  Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 267.

                2. (3)  Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 267.

                3. (16)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 267.

                4. (2)  Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 267.

                5. (5)  Joey Logano, Ford, 267.

                6. (10)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, 267.

                7. (15)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 267.

                8. (22)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.

                9. (12)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 267.

                10. (1)  Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 267.

                11. (7)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 266.

                12. (25)  Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 266.

                13. (18)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 266.

                14. (17)  Daniel Suarez, Ford, 266.

                15. (11)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 266.

                16. (20)  Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 266.

                17. (19)  Paul Menard, Ford, 266.

                18. (8)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 265.

                19. (23)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 265.

                20. (21)  Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 265.

                21. (13)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 265.

                22. (14)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 264.

                23. (30)  John Hunter Nemechek(i), Ford, 264.

                24. (24)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 263.

                25. (26)  Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 263.

                26. (28)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 263.

                27. (31)  David Ragan, Ford, 263.

                28. (33)  Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 262.

                29. (37)  Drew Herring, Toyota, 262.

                30. (34)  JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 262.

                31. (29)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, 261.

                32. (39)  BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 256.

                33. (40)  Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 248.

                34. (27)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 243.

                35. (36)  Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 242.

                36. (38)  Josh Bilicki(i), Ford, Brakes, 240.

                37. (35)  Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Brakes, 236.

                38. (32)  Joe Nemechek(i), Chevrolet, Steering, 227.

                39. (9)  William Byron, Chevrolet, Engine, 215.

                40. (6)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Engine, 209.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  142.654 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 48 Mins, 47 Secs. Margin of Victory:  4.578 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  3 for 15 laps.

Lead Changes:  14 among 5 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   D. Hamlin (P) 0;K. Harvick (P) 1-20;M. Truex Jr. (P) 21-38;R. Stenhouse Jr. 39;M. Truex Jr. (P) 40-86;K. Busch (P) 87;M. Truex Jr. (P) 88-120;K. Busch (P) 121-143;K. Harvick (P) 144-156;K. Busch (P) 157-167;D. Hamlin (P) 168-169;K. Busch (P) 170-209;M. Truex Jr. (P) 210-214;K. Harvick (P) 215-222;K. Busch (P) 223-267.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Busch (P) 5 times for 120 laps; Martin Truex Jr. (P) 4 times for 103 laps; Kevin Harvick (P) 3 times for 41 laps; Denny Hamlin (P) 1 time for 2 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 19,42,18,4,11,12,14,24,48,3

Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,4,42,19,11,12,22,20,48,14

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 17 2019
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