With hopes to win a second straight NASCAR Cup Series championship scuttled by a poor finish at Charlotte two-plus weeks ago, Kyle Busch still had something to race for in the final races of 2020 — prolonging his streak of consecutive seasons with a race victory.
On Wednesday evening, Busch secured his goal as he won the thrice weather-delayed Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
“It’s been a really long time,” Busch said as he hoisted the checkered flag and performed his signature victory bow.
It was the Las Vegas native’s 57th career win and marked the 16th straight season in which he has won at least one race.
So, a big win?
“They all mean a lot,” Busch said of the significance of the Wednesday victory. “This one means a lot just to keep the 16 going, obviously. We’re out of the playoffs, there’s nothing to shoot for. We don’t ever give up.”
Busch got the win by saving fuel — lots of fuel — on his final stint and by holding off Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and playoff contender Martin Truex Jr.
“It ran out (of fuel) coming in here to do a burnout so I had enough left to do a little bit of a burnout, but I don’t know if I’ll have enough to get it back” to the garage, he said.
“I was nervous the whole last run, but I’ve been in this position so many times. The three last laps, though, that was like winning the championship, that’s how nervous it was.”
For Truex, his second-place finish put him in a tough spot as he now, basically, needs to win next weekend at Martinsville in order to advance to the title-granting Championship 4 race in Phoenix in two weeks.
Truex heads to Martinsville 36 points behind the cutdown line.
“We knew he was close,” Truex said of Busch’s fuel situation. “The only thing we could do at that point, which we did all day anyway, was just run flat out.
“At this time of the year, second’s great, but it’s not good enough. I’m just excited about Martinsville (next Sunday). I know we can win there, we’ve showed that in the past.”
Christopher Bell, who will join Busch and Truex at Gibbs next season, finished third.
Ryan Blaney of Team Penske finished fourth while playoffs driver Alex Bowman of Hendrick Motorsports was fifth.
Two playoffs drivers — Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch — were the next two to cross the finish line.
The race at Texas began Sunday on schedule. However, with just 52 of 334 laps being completed, mist and drizzle forced the event to be red-flagged. Rain and mist subsequently ended attempts on Monday and Tuesday to continue the race.
Officials rescheduled the race for a third time when they announced a 3 p.m. ET restart for Wednesday. But track drying remained a problem, and the actual start time was pushed back to just past 5 p.m.
The race restarted with Clint Bowyer in the lead.
It also started with Cup’s winningest driver in 2020 and playoffs contender Kevin Harvick — who has nine victories — in trouble. The Stewart-Haas driver slapped the wall 29 laps into the race and had to pit for repairs. He was leading when he hit the wall.
When the race went from red to yellow before the restart on Wednesday, Harvick was kept in the pits when the rest of the field took to the track so his crew could work on the right-side damage on his car — work that couldn’t be done with the race halted. Apparently they did a good job as Harvick’s car was soon making its way forward in the field. It wasn’t long before Harvick was running in the top 10.
However, while running seventh on Lap 176, Harvick headed to the pits with a vibration. Once back on the track, he was never competitive again. He ended up 16th but still is in good shape in points heading to Martinsville next weekend, with a 42-point lead.
–Field Level Media