Kyle Busch scores first Cup win of 2020 in delayed Texas race
One of NASCAR’s longest-delayed races turned into a fuel-mileage gamble that allowed Kyle Busch to run his streak of consecutive Cup Series seasons with at least one win to 16.
Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway was halted after 52 of 334 laps and persistent rain in the area delated the resumption of the race until late Wednesday afternoon.
Busch, last season’s series champion, had already been eliminated from title contention earlier in the playoffs but he was determined to keep his consecutive wins streak alive.
On Lap 268, Busch made his final green-flag stop and he and his crew chief, Adam Stevens, worked feverishly on fuel-saving strategy to keep him in the hunt for the victory.
He crossed the finish line with drops to spare, holding off Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. for his first win of 2020 and the 57th of his career.
Asked about the importance of keeping his win streak intact, Busch said: “We finally got it. I was so nervous – I was nervous the whole last run. I’ve been in this position so many times. The last three laps though, that’s like winning the championship – that’s how nervous I was.
“I can’t believe it, but just so proud to be here. My team guys, awesome pit stops, they were phenomenal. We’re ready to fight next year, we’ll be back.”
Heading to Sunday’s race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway – the final race of the semifinal round – drivers Kurt Busch, Truex, Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott – are most in danger of missing out on the Championship 4 without a victory.
Christopher Bell finished third, Ryan Blaney was fourth and Bowman rounded out the top-five.
Completing the top-10 were Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Matt DiBenedetto, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.
Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, Kyle Busch elected to remain on the track while many lead-lap cars pit. Truex was the first off pit road.
On the restart on Lap 217, Kyle Busch was followed by Clint Bowyer and Logano.
On Lap 256, Bowyer dropped on pit road for a green-flag stop with what he thought was an engine issue but as it turned out, he was out of fuel.
With 75 laps to go, Kyle Busch had built a more than 7-second lead over Truex with Keselowski in third.
On Lap 268, Kyle Busch dropped down to pit road to make his final green-flag stop for new tires and fuel to make it to the end of the race. That turned the lead over to Truex.
Several more teams followed suit and began making their final green-flag stop in the ensuing laps.
On Lap 278, Kyle Busch reported smoke in his cabin and was concerned his engine was set to blow. His team said it may be from tire rubber that was on fire during his pit stop.
Once the cycle of stops was completed on Lap 280, Kyle Busch was followed by Bowyer, Truex and Bell.
On Lap 283, Bowyer got around Kyle Busch for the lead but because he pit early, Bowyer was still going to need to pit once more for fuel.
With 35 laps remaining in the race, Bowyer led Kyle Busch by more than 2 seconds but did not have enough fuel to make it to the finish. Truex ran third and Bell fourth.
Bowyer was finally forced to pit with 23 laps remaining for a splash of fuel, turning the lead back over to Kyle Busch.
With 10 laps to go, Kyle Busch was trying desperately to stretch his fuel to the finish while continuing to hold off Truex and remain in the lead.
Kyle Busch passed Truex after a round of green-flag pit stops and held on for the Stage 2 victory, his third stage win of the 2020 season.
Bowman finished third, Keselowski fourth and Blaney rounded out the top-five.
Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, all lead-lap cars pit with Bowman the first off pit road thanks to a gas-only stop.
When the race returned to green on Lap 112, Bowman was followed by Bowyer and Truex.
On Lap 117, Blaney moved into second and Johnson took over the fourth spot.
With 80 laps remaining in the stage, there were reports of weepers – water seeping up from the ground to the track – in Turns 3 and 4.
On Lap 134, Joey Gase wrecked after contact with William Byron in Turn 2 to bring out a caution. All lead-lap cars pit with Blaney the first off pit road with a gas-only stop.
On the restart on Lap 139, Blaney was followed by Truex, Austin Dillon and Elliott. Harvick had worked his way up to sixth.
Truex went to the inside and got around Blaney on Lap 157 to retake the lead as Kyle Busch moved up to third.
On Lap 177, Harvick was the first of the lead-lap cars to hit pit road for a green-flag stop for new tires and fuel to make it to the finish of the stage.
With 20 laps to go in the stage, most of the rest of the field still needed to make their final stop for fuel and Kyle Busch had closed to second behind leader Truex.
Blaney made his pit stop on Lap 196 and several others followed suit. On Lap 199, Kyle Busch got around Truex to take the lead for the first time in the race.
Elliott was forced to make two stops. He took gas-only on the first stop but then felt he had a tire coming apart and pit again for new tires.
Once the cycle of stops was completed on Lap 207, Kyle Busch returned to the lead.
Bowyer held off a determined Truex in the final laps to take the Stage 1 victory – more than three days after it first began on Sunday. It’s the fourth stage victory for Bowyer in the 2020 season.
Erik Jones was third, Blaney fourth and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top-five.
On Sunday, NASCAR halted the race after 52 laps when persistent rain enveloped the area that continued through Monday and late into Wednesday morning.
When the race returned to yellow late Wednesday afternoon, Kevin Harvick – who hit the wall during the wall on Sunday – pit for additional repairs.
When the race returned to green on Lap 57, Bowyer led the way followed by Johnson and Jones.
On Lap 59, Matt Kenseth got hit by Hamlin and turned into Bubba Wallace as both cars suffered severe damage. Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota also suffered some damage to its nose. Harvick received the free pass under the caution and returned to the lead lap.
The race returned to green on Lap 69 with Bowyer still leading the way.
NASCAR was forced to throw a caution on Lap 77 for a large piece of debris in Turn 4. The race returned to green on Lap 82 and Bowyer still in command.
Truex quickly got around Bowyer on the restart to take the lead for the first time in the race. On Lap 84, Bowyer was able to return the favor and returned to the lead.
With 15 laps remaining in the stage, Bowyer maintained a slight lead over Truex with Jones close behind in third.
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