Kurt Busch Edges Brother Kyle To Win At Kentucky

Kurt Busch Wins at Kentucky
Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Denied victory at Daytona by an inopportune pit call last Sunday, Kurt Busch drove like lightning in a two-lap overtime dash to the finish to win Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

Swapping sheet metal with brother Kyle Busch as the siblings battled for the victory throughout the overtime, Busch collected his first victory of the season in the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. The 2004 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion won for the first time at Kentucky and the 31st time in his career.

Kurt Busch beat his brother to the finish line by .076 seconds, the closest margin of victory at a 1.5-mile intermediate speedway this season. It was also the first Cup triumph for a Chevrolet at Kentucky, which began hosting races in NASCAR’s premier series in 2011. It was also the first victory for Busch’s crew chief, Matt McCall.

"Hell yeah! Hell yeah!" Busch exulted after climbing from his car on the frontstretch. "I'm proud he (Kyle) gave me a little room on the outside. He could have clobbered us against the wall, and he probably would have got it."

Busch was running fourth, nine seconds behind then-leader Joey Logano, when Bubba Wallace spun in Turn 2 with six laps left in regulation. Logano, third-place Erik Jones, the Busch brothers and Denny Hamlin stayed out on older tires for the overtime, with Kurt Busch having fresher rubber on his left side, thanks to a four-tire pit stop under green on Lap 213 of a scheduled 267.

Kurt Busch goes old school taking his crew along on his victory lap at Kentucky
Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing

That caution helped balance the scales of fortune. Last Sunday at Daytona, Busch pitted from the lead when NASCAR gave the one-lap-to-go signal, only to have a lightning bolt within the eight-mile range return the race to caution. After rain hit the track, Justin Haley, who stayed out, got the victory.

The misfortune at Daytona, made Busch relish his Kentucky win all the more.

"What an awesome run," Busch said. "Whatever last week was, we got the 'W' now! That was epic. I was hopeful that we would get a shot, just one more restart. We got that yellow… with my little brother—it's the best guy in the world to go race against."

For the first time, Kurt beat his younger brother in a 1-2 finish.

"I'm glad it was a thriller," Kyle Busch said. "Just unfortunately we were on the wrong end of the deal for everybody at M&M's and Toyota, Interstate Batteries, all the folks that get us to where we're at.

"But congratulations to Kurt and Chip and (sponsor) Monster and all the guys over there. It's obviously cool to put on great races and great finishes, and (I’ve) been a part of a lot of them and not very many—in fact none with my brother like that, so that was a first. No hard feelings, and we move on."

In a one-year deal with Ganassi, Kurt Busch has been weighing his future in the sport. Saturday’s win may influence his decision.

Kurt Busch (1) edges out his brother Kyle (18) to take the checkered flag
Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

"I thought this year might be my last, but we're having so much fun, we'll have to see how things go," he said.

Jones finished third, followed by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson, who pitted for tires before the overtime. Hamlin held fifth, putting three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers in the top five.

Clint Bowyer, Logano, polesitter Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman and Chris Buescher completed the top 10.

KURT BUSCH & MATT MCCALL (CREW CHIEF) WINNER’S POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:

THE MODERATOR: We are going to get started with our postâ€'race media availability here at Kentucky Speedway after the Quaker State 400 presented by Walâ€'Mart. We are joined by our raceâ€'winning crew chief, Matt McCall, with the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet driven by Kurt Busch. This is Matt's first win as a crew chief in the Monster Energy Series.

Q: Matt, when Kurt joined the team, he signed, he comes over to Chip Ganassi, he meets all the guys and you all get ready for the season, what did he say to everybody in terms of this season? I heard something along the lines of he stood at the shop in front of everybody and said, "we're going to win. We're going to be winners," and that kind of pumped this team up because it had been a while since you guys had been to Victory Lane. How did he change the attitudes of this team right from the start?

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]MATT McCALL: Yeah, he came in and that was the goal from the very beginning. I think he has a lot of credentials, right, so when he starts talking he tells you we're coming in, we're going to win, it's definitely a confidence booster for sure. He's almost delivered and he delivered today, so it's been pretty fun this first half of the season.

Q: Your thoughts on a race that you had in your hand, that got away, to a race that was gone and out of your hand, to fall back in your hand, complete flipâ€'flop from last week?

MATT McCALL: Yeah, I think you call that racing luck, right? Today's scenario worked out where the call fell, and I'm like, oh, no, we should have pitted. We're in trouble here. And it worked out at the end. I knew we had the car capable, and Kurt obviously can get it done. When the caution came out, just the seas parted and the Lord was with us because if you look at last week, we were on the wrong end of the stick there.

Q: When that yellow came out I didn't realize you guys had quietly picked up two or three spots and you had gotten within shouting distance, and I thought, wow, this car is a lost faster â€'â€' did you feel like you had the fastest car at that point?

MATT McCALL: I did at the end of the race because it seemed like for everyone that took â€'â€' that was doing two tires or fuel only, the balance seemed like it would go away quicker than ours was, and the four tires and our balance seemed to stay good for the long run, so I was pretty excited when the caution came out because I felt pretty good about where we were at speedâ€'wise.

Q: On the box did you talk to Kyle's crew chief at all? Were y'all in communication with the 42, because he said he was committed to Kurt after the race; he was going to go with him no matter what.

MATT McCALL: Yeah, they talked on the spotter stand, Derek and Tyler. They communicated there and Kyle had committed to pushing him, because I think you've seen on the restarts if you don't have some push then it's kind of hard to pass.

Q: Walk me through what you're thinking those last two laps, what you're watching, just kind of what was going through your mind as all that was going down?

MATT McCALL: Yeah, it was sort of a blur. But when we restarted fourth, and our restarts had been really strong tonight, Kurt has been really able to get through Turn 1 right out of the gate there, and I felt like â€'â€' I'm not sure what happened to the 22, but when we got to the outside of him I felt like it was game on then for sure, and a pretty good chance at it.

Q: Matt, one crew chief was saying your call in the first stage going no tires kind of caught them off guard and thought it was a good move and keeping you in that track position. Can you kind of talk about that and what you were doing tonight to kind of keep your car in a position to allow Kurt to do kind of what he did once the last caution happened?

MATT McCALL: Yeah, I'm sure y'all have watched these races as much as we do every week, and our struggles have been in traffic, and I felt like this week with the minimal tire falloff it was going to be even more important. We had sort of committed to start the race that that's what we were going to shoot for is try to win the first stage if our car is capable of doing that. When you're running your fastest lap on lap 20 or 25, it makes the decision a little bit easier. Then when you see cars start having right front issues, you start to reconsider your strategy for sure.

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by our race winner, Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet with Chip Ganassi Racing. This is Kurt's first win since coming over to Ganassi this year, his 31st overall in the Monster Energy Series.

The Finish
The Finish

Q: Kurt, your thoughts on the last lap, battling your brother and how special it is to win that race and beat your brother at the same time?

KURT BUSCH: Yeah, you know, what an amazing finish, and to have it go our way right there, there was something about our team meeting today, our lead statistician told me that there's never been a greenâ€'whiteâ€'checkered at Kentucky Speedway, and in my mind he just kept going with the meeting, but I said, you know what, there's going to be one today. I want to be part of it, and I want to come out on top.

It's amazing what happened, for us to have that restart, to have Kyle Larson behind me in the sixth position, spotter said, teammate is going to go with you. I'm like, well, is he really? And he did, and he did a phenomenal job so that I didn't have to look in the mirror, and all's I had to do was play offense out in front of me, and what a battle. What a battle with my little brother, to race him side by side, to try to play the chess game at 180 miles an hour on the side draft. We're wide open through Turns 1 and 2, and we were trying to go wide open through 3 and 4, and it was a matter of me just staying as close as I could to his right rear quarterpanel because he was on my left rear down the straightaway, I had to be on his right rear through the corners. And as we drove down into Turn 3 on the last lap, I just stared straight at his door, I could see the No. 18 to my left and I never lifted until I heard him lift, and then I'm like, wait a minute, I've got to still miss the wall.

And he gave me just enough room, as a true racer would or as my little brother would. But I'm really proud of the way that we finished this race 1â€'2, put on one hell of a show, one of those oldâ€'school type races where it's two guys duking it out. Just happened to be brothers, different manufacturers.

But this one, I can't wait to go watch the video of and tell people about it and show the sport of NASCAR and the production and the pride that everybody has to try to get to Victory Lane was shown in those last few laps.

Q: Kurt, obviously any win is special, but is it more special to get Chevrolet's first win here at Kentucky Speedway?

KURT BUSCH: Yeah, it's very important, and it's special to get Chevy to Victory Lane. For us at Ganassi to win with this No. 1 car, tons of guys in Victory Lane tonight that have never won a Monster Energy Cup Series race, and I'm happy that they got their first win tonight.

To outâ€'duel my brother and to do it in front of a huge crowd tonight and a great production by NBC, this was like that oldâ€'school Saturday night brawl, and I was happy to be part of it and come out on top.

Q: Before the race you kind of called this. You said your car was fast, you had to make sure you did good on pit road, but you said the car was fast, you knew that coming into the race. Any thoughts on that, looking back?

KURT BUSCH: You know, we've got to be in position more often with fast cars, and to have the lap time that the car will produce and to run up front in the top 5 and to win a stage. That was our first stage win early in the race. And then I didn't â€'â€' I just kept telling them, the car is handling good, but you know you've got to stay with the track conditions. Keep up with the track conditions, and this was the first race with this amount of traction compound applied, but also with 40 cars out there, it burns off, and you have to make adjustments to keep the speed up. So I'm really proud of our guys and the way they kept the setup dialed in.

I just told them, it's good, it's not loose, it's not tight, just keep up with the track, and that's â€'â€' when you win, it's done by a team.

Q: Also, earlier this year, you and Kyle went 1â€'2 the opposite way. He edged you out at Bristol. But on the final lap there you were smoking. I don't know if you got into the wall or got into him but there was a lot of smoke coming off your car. Were you ever worried about what was about to happen and if you could hold off until the end of the race?

KURT BUSCH: Yeah, we had a bump side draft rub right after the startâ€'finish line taking the white, and so it was a matter of how far I wanted to push him left, how far he was trying to push me right, and there was a quick movement and the two of us came together. I felt it, and then I could smell it. Like oh, boy, I've got pretty good tire rub, but I only have a mile to go. It's going to hold, and it's going to hold, and if it doesn't I'm going to be yanking on my wheel to the left to take him with me. (Laughter.)

Q: I was just curious what your conversation was like with your brother afterwards. How do those exchanges go after races like this between the two of you?

KURT BUSCH: I haven't seen him yet, but I was supposed to fly home with him, and now I'm looking for a plane ride. So that's Kyle. (Laughter.) He won't even wait. We shared a plane ride earlier this year. I think it was Phoenix where he won, and I had to sit there and wait for him to do his little Victory Lane thing. It'll be fine. We're going over to his house tomorrow actually for a little getâ€'together on a Sunday off, and I'm going to plop the trophy down right on his kitchen counter. (Laughter.)

Q: Kyle actually said after the race that you'd have to find your own ride home. You joked at Michigan earlier this year if things would have played out a little bit different that you would have potentially wrecked him for the win. Was there any point you thought about roughing him up or that you considered doing that or were you planning on racing him clean at the end?

KURT BUSCH: Well, I was on the outside position, so he was in the offensive spot to cross the line and go into that category of sparks flying, tire rubs, wrecking somebody. I was in the vulnerable spot. But I had almost zero intention of lifting in Turns 3 and 4, and if I bounced off the fence, I probably would have then bounced off of him. It was magic the way it worked out, and I think it was two racers putting it out on the line, and we went as far as we could possibly go without wrecking each other, and that's what it's all about, when you can have a solid finish like that and two brothers going at it, and to put on a show, that's the best possible outcome. If both of us would have been in a pile in a steaming heap and third place would have won it, that would have been big. That would have been bad.

Q: How do you think you've changed the mentality of your race team? It had been a long time since the 1 car, the 1 team had been to Victory Lane, and from what I understand when you came in and you met with the guys and you signed, you came in and started talking about when we win races, we're going to win races. How do you think that kind of changed the attitude of this race team and maybe motivated them?

KURT BUSCH: For me with my wife Ashley and watching her play polo and her professional athlete side of her, the power of positivity is something she's taught me over these few years. You come in and you talk a game and you deliver it, and you do it with execution through team meetings, showing up early, staying late, and motivating guys to do a better job.

And the way that I've won races in the past, I try to go after the weakness of a team and try to fix that first and then start to make things better as we go.

But I'm the guy that gets to hold the steering wheel and go 200 miles an hour. I get the name recognition and all that, but this is a team effort. Matt McCall, when I first met him, I knew he could be a winner, and he's a winner now in the Monster Energy Cup Series. Tons of guys on this team, it's their first win.

There was a guy that is our car chief that I was with at Furniture Row when we were running up front but never winning. It's like, I know we can win with this group, and now here we've done it. But it's thanks to Chip Ganassi's commitment with Felix Sabates and Rob Kauffman, our ownership. They're in it to win it, and now we're winners, let's grab another gear, though. Let's try to get this thing where the second half is one of those phenomenal years.

Q: This is a hardâ€'hitting question. What are you going to do with that big jukebox?

KURT BUSCH: I love it. I love when there's the special trophies from our series and from the different tracks and states that we race. I'm trying to think offhand. I know with my personal shop I've got tons of trophies, tons of oldâ€'school cars. To me that belongs with my like '69 Chevy Camaro, it belongs with my '65 Cobra that I have. I've got a '70 challenger. That to me just reminds me of that era and throwing it back. And then my dad, he's got five 1932 Fords so he'll probably want to borrow it and play some music on it for a while. But it's really neat, with the grandfather clocks, to have the jukebox, the sword that's at Bristol now, and all the special wins and all the special pieces. Thank you, Kentucky Speedway, for a jukebox like this.

Q: What does this victory mean in light of last year at the end of last season, you don't come back to the team you're with, basically in essence told, hey, we don't need you or we can move on without you, and to come into a new situation and be able to win, to kind of â€'â€' I know throughout your career you've been knocked down. Is this just kind of another case of being knocked down and coming up a little bit, or what does it mean in light of kind of what happened at the end of last year?

KURT BUSCH: Yeah, whether you're knocked down or whether it's a lateral move or whether it was an upgrade, you can look at it in many different ways. When the contract was struggling at SHR to come together, I called Chip Ganassi, and it took 30 minutes, and it was done. And away we went. To me that meant respect. It meant that I was wanted. And when you have that, that's that extra desire to push and to make this group a winner.

They've won races in the past. Kyle Larson is a tremendous talent. But again, it takes all the little pieces, and I felt like Ganassi was the right move for me, and Monster Energy says, you know what, we'll roll with you, but our motto is we've got to win. We've got to be up front. We've got to be making noise. We've got to be partying. We've got to be having fun. We're going to get all that done as we move forward here in the second half of the year.

Q: What in 30 minutes convinces somebody to make a move like what you did? I think a lot of people see that as a very quick meeting, so what was it in 30 minutes that Chip convinced you that this was the right situation?

KURT BUSCH: His level of commitment as a racer is something that I saw, and yes, Tony Stewart is a racer, but I was more on the Gene Haas side. When Chip said, I want you to win for me, I want you to make these guys winners, and if you can bring that sponsorship with you, I'm going to pay you this, and it was just like the most respect that I had felt in a long time when it came to a contract negotiation.

Q: You've been successful here really back in the Truck Series and now to get your first victory here with Chip Ganassi, I think it's your fifth team that you've raced with here, maybe your sixth if you go back to Roush. What's it feel like to get that victory here finally after all that experience?

KURT BUSCH: I wrecked so big here in the Truck Series race back in 2000. I had never wrecked that hard before, and I was trying to find my team. I'm like, where'd they go? Oh, all right, I'd better go to the hauler. That moment that I had here in the Truck Series has lingered with me for years, and we joked about it today in our team meeting. 20 years racing at this place, and I still haven't won.

It's one of those tracks that can be really difficult, and this time around, I looked at Turn 3 and said, you know what, I've never even been there before. I don't even care what it looks like, I'm just going to go through there and carve through there with grip, confidence and some mojo, and the team gave me a car to do it. And so to conquer Kentucky Speedway and to get a beautiful trophy, a jukebox and to make winners out of the Ganassi team, tonight was a special night for me.

Q: You're the fifth different winner here at Kentucky in the Cup Series, three out of the other four have gone on to win the championship that same year. Does that give you a little extra encouragement towards the second half of the season, and are you guys in a place now being locked into the playoffs for that title run?

KURT BUSCH: I'm pumped up about the second half. We still know we need to improve in some certain areas, and guys like Kyle Busch or Martin Truex Jr. who won here and went on to win the championship, yes, this track challenges the mileâ€'andâ€'aâ€'halfs and the grip level, the downforce level, and the strategy calls. A lot of the tracks do. But yeah, we'll take it. This is a perfect feather in the cap. We started the second half this weekend, and we knew that we wanted to ramp it up, and today we're winners, and we want to continue to do that with the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet.

Q: Kurt, in Victory Lane when you were talking to us, you said, gosh, I was kind of thinking this might be my last year, but I'm having too much fun to make this my last year. Has this altered your thinking on what you thought your future plan was to be with such a team, a competitive team, now a playoff contender? Have you altered the plan in your mind? Is it beginning to change?

KURT BUSCH: For me it's a matter of just having the dominos line up and everybody fall together and to make it happen. I guess the easiest way to move things forward is request for proposals are going out Monday with sponsors, with manufacturers, with team owner. Yes, a win, that might have happened last week at Daytona is one of those moments. Tonight is one of those stamps on â€'â€' this 1 team is a powerful team, and it would be stupid not to keep this group together, and that's part of my leverage, but at the end of it, we just want to make it work for all parties.

Q: Were you seriously thinking about this being your last year?

KURT BUSCH: It's crossed my mind for different reasons, but again, that 30â€'minute conversation with Ganassi and the fun we're having this year and the management within the team, I can't wait to see my phone. I've got to call Chip. I only spend like 10 seconds with him on the phone. I'm kind of in trouble. I need to go call Chip. But with Felix Sabates, with Rob Kauffman, Max Jones, Tony Lunders and this whole group of people, it gives you that energy of, yeah, it's fun, and let's get our sponsors lined up and let's do this. That's what it tells me.

Q: Along that line, in talking with Chip, can you kind of come up with any kind of little intangibles about your relationship with him that kind of helped put especially this last week in context for you?

KURT BUSCH: Chip is one of those guys where when he speaks, you listen, and you comprehend the words of don't misconstrue what I'm telling you because you need to do it this way, and he doesn't waver from his strategies on team meetings. He doesn't waver when he checks in after a Friday qualifying session: Hey, man, why are you 22nd? I need an answer. I've never had an owner call me literally every Friday and go, all right, you qualified fourth this weekend; how is the race going to go? You've got to be straight up with him. There's no BS with Chip. I like that, and I think that's the way that he's treated all of his racing programs over the year with sports car, IndyCar, and with the NASCAR program.

It's a fun atmosphere to be part of, but also Chip is pretty tough. He's got that oldâ€'school, yeah, you screw up, I'll let you know.

Pretty sure he let Matt McCall know about it last week.

RACE RESULTS

Finish Start # Driver Sponsor/Make Laps Led Points Status
1 4 1 Kurt Busch Monster Energy Chevrolet 269 41 54 Running
2 10 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota Camry Toyota 269 72 53 Running
3 21 20 Erik Jones Craftsman Toyota 269 1 43 Running
4 19 42 Kyle Larson Clover Chevrolet 269 0 38 Running
5 18 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Freight Toyota 269 5 39 Running
6 7 14 Clint Bowyer Rush Truck Centers/Haas Automation Ford 269 40 37 Running
7 11 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 269 19 46 Running
8 1 41 Daniel Suarez Haas Automation Ford 269 52 29 Running
9 35 6 Ryan Newman Acorns Ford 269 15 28 Running
10 25 37 Chris Buescher Planters Chevrolet 269 0 27 Running
11 14 21 Paul Menard Menards/Quaker State Ford 269 0 29 Running
12 16 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Fifth Third Bank Ford 269 21 29 Running
13 15 12 Ryan Blaney DEX Imaging Ford 269 0 27 Running
14 2 10 Aric Almirola Valley Tech Learning Ford 269 0 30 Running
15 20 9 Chase Elliott DEWnited States Chevrolet 269 0 22 Running
16 23 95 Matt DiBenedetto Anest Iwata Toyota 269 0 21 Running
17 22 88 Alex Bowman Nationwide Children's Hospital Chevrolet 268 0 20 Running
18 12 24 William Byron Axalta Chevrolet 268 0 19 Running
19 8 19 Martin Truex Jr. Auto Owners Insurance Toyota 268 0 21 Running
20 3 2 Brad Keselowski Discount Tire Ford 268 3 17 Running
21 29 47 Ryan Preece # Kroger Chevrolet 268 0 16 Running
22 5 4 Kevin Harvick Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford 268 0 20 Running
23 27 43 Bubba Wallace Victory Junction Chevrolet 267 0 14 Running
24 6 8 Daniel Hemric # Caterpillar Chevrolet 267 0 15 Running
25 17 34 Michael McDowell Love's Travel Stops Ford 267 0 12 Running
26 26 13 Ty Dillon GEICO Military Chevrolet 267 0 11 Running
27 30 36 Matt Tifft # Southwestern Trucking Ford 267 0 10 Running
28 28 32 Corey LaJoie CorvetteParts.net Ford 266 0 9 Running
29 24 38 David Ragan Long John Silver's Ford 266 0 8 Running
30 13 48 Jimmie Johnson Ally Chevrolet 266 0 7 Running
31 32 15 Ross Chastain(i) Low T Center Chevrolet 264 0 0 Running
32 33 0 Landon Cassill(i) StarCom Fiber Chevrolet 263 0 0 Running
33 31 51 Bayley Currey(i) Jacob Companies Ford 262 0 0 Running
34 36 77 Quin Houff Go-Parts.com Chevrolet 260 0 3 Running
35 9 3 Austin Dillon AAA Chevrolet 238 0 10 Running
36 34 52 BJ McLeod(i) Jacob Companies Chevrolet 110 0 0 Electrical

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