Kyle Busch Scores First Cup Series Victory of the Season

Kyle Busch celebrates his first Pocono victory
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Barely more than three hours after the Pocono crowd greeted Kyle Busch with a chorus of boos during driver introductions, Kyle Busch made converts of the fans in the grandstands – at least a large portion of them – with a spectacular burnout after his long-awaited victory in the Overton's 400.

Benefitting from a splendid pit call by crew chief Adam Stevens, Busch charged through the field after his final stop and pulled away to beat runner-up Kevin Harvick to the finish line by a whopping 6.178 seconds, breaking a career-long 36-race drought and giving Toyota its 100th victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

The win was Busch's first at Pocono Raceway, leaving Charlotte Motor Speedway as the only active Cup track the driver of the No. 18 Camry hasn't conquered.

Having won his fourth Pocono pole earlier in the day – on the first instance where the Monster Energy Series drivers have qualified and raced on the same day in NASCAR's modern era – Busch recorded the 39th victory of his career when he took the checkered flag.

"It's been a frustrating year, but an awesome day today," Busch said in Victory Lane. "This is also a meaningful win for me in another way. This is the first time I've been to victory lane in a points-paying race since my grandmother passed away. This one's for her, and she's smiling down on us here today, and I appreciate that."

Harvick came to pit road for the final time on Lap 124. Eventual third-place finisher Martin Truex Jr. pitted two laps later, leaving Busch on the track to lead 10 of his race-high 63 laps in clean air.

Kyle Busch leads the pack at Pocono
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

When Busch finally hit pit lane on Lap 135, he left with fresher tires than those on the cars ahead of him and in short order, picked off Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, who finished fourth, and Truex.

Busch and crew chief Adam Stevens had discussed the strategy before the race.

"I knew what he was thinking and that's what it all came down to," Busch said. "We didn't really outsmart anyone today. We just kind of played our race and our own strategy and thought about it a little differently than others, and it worked out for us."

Busch caught Harvick in Turn 3 on Lap 144 of 160, and when Harvick got loose and slowed in the corner, Busch gave the No. 4 Ford an inadvertent shot to the rear bumper. Busch flashed past Harvick and was gone.

"The only chance that I had was to get into the corner correctly," Harvick explained. "I got in there and was loose all the way through the corner on entry and just kept holding the brake down, holding the brake down, holding the brake down and finally, I'm sure he thought I was going to go and I didn't accelerate.

"I was trying to stay on the bottom to park the thing to get going and he had a good run. Kyle had the class of the field all weekend. His car was really, really fast. He got the pole. Got the win. Pretty much just charged through the field. We definitely have a little bit of work to do. I feel like we got closer and closer. I feel like we raced around all the Toyotas all day."

Kyle Busch bows to the crowd after taking the checkered flag
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Busch collected his eighth stage win of the season when he took the green/checkered flag at the end of Lap 50, and the victory gave him an additional five playoff points, bringing his season total to 13, tied for third in that category with Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski.

Clint Bowyer collected his first stage win of the season on Lap 100, after Truex, Busch, Harvick and Hamlin all came to pit road just before the end of the stage to set up their prospects for a race win. Bowyer finished sixth behind Keselowski.

Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth (who recovered from a spin in Turn 3 on the first lap) and Chase Elliott completed the top 10.

QUOTES

KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Caramel Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

Finishing Position: 1st

Was the word ‘finally’ the overwhelming thought when you crossed the finish line?

“For today, that was the word. It’s been a frustrating year and this certainly relieves a little bit of that – I wouldn’t say all of it. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and these guys did an awesome job today. I can’t say enough about this M&M’s Caramel Camry – Toyota, this is their 100th Monster Energy Cup Series win. I can’t say enough about all of our partners and everyone on this team. All these guys, the pit crew – they do a great job each and every week. We had to rely on them on that final stop so we didn’t lose too much time to those guys because we had so much distance that we were letting them have it on us with those fresher tires that they had. It’s been a frustrating year, but an awesome day today."

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Were you comfortable with Adam’s strategy for this race?

“I knew exactly what he was doing, we talked about that before. I was all on board with everything we had going on there. Our car was really fast on the long run with nobody in front of us – we were just flying there. When those guys were in front of us, we were running 53.30s or whatever and then they dumped off and peeled off and we had clean air and we were running 52.50s – faster than they were on older tires. We were fine. You can’t get through traffic and it’s kind of frustrating in that regard. This is also a meaningful win for me in another way, this is the first time I’ve been to victory lane in a points paying race since my grandmother passed away. This one’s for her and she’s smiling down on us here today and I appreciate that."

How were you able to catch the leaders in the closing laps with the strategy?

“I knew what Adam (Stevens, crew chief) was doing and I knew what he was thinking and I was all on board for that. When all those guys dumped off, they were all in traffic with one another and they were slowing each other down just with the aerodynamic deficit so they were running 53.30s or whatever when I was with them and then they pulled off to pit road and I could run 52.60s and 80s so I was a half-a-second faster and just being able to run those laps in clean air and kind of pick off a few seconds from what they were going to have when they cycled back to old tires again, then that was kind of making up ground for us and we had to go to the long, long end of that before we put our tires on to make our fresh tires and our mechanical grip make up for the deficit that we gave them with them having fresher tires before us. I knew what he was thinking and that’s what it all came down to. We didn’t really out smart anyone today, we just kind of played our race and our own strategy and thought about it a little differently than others and it worked out for us."

What was causing your handling issues midway through the race?

“Traffic, I got by Brad (Keselowski) on the outside there and got a run down the frontstretch and was clear of him, but he had help from behind him that kept him right on my tail so when we all kind of pulled off into turn one under the brakes and at my rear bumper and it made me really, really loose – I about wrecked. Glad I held onto it there so that was interesting and I just heated up the right rear for the next few laps and couldn’t do anything. Once the car was settled down and ready to go forward again, I was at a deficit with just the aerodynamics so I couldn’t make up any time on anybody. We just played a different strategy today and that worked for us. Really excited to get this M&M’s Caramel Camry to victory lane again and thanks to Interstate Batteries – this is Toyota’s 100th win in the Monster Energy Cup Series so this is awesome for them, for us, for me and then of course the fans. We appreciate the KB fans all here today and everybody. It’s been a long time coming trying to win a race here at Pocono. This one means a lot and it’s pretty special for all of us, this team and everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing."

What does it mean to score Toyota’s 100th Cup victory and get a victory at Pocono?

“It’s awesome, anytime you’re able to accomplish something it means extra – you’re glad to be the guy to be able to do it. I have won at that other race track in the Monster Energy Cup Series, there’s an asterisk next to that one. It never ends, there’s always something. I was hoping this one was the last one, but there’s still one more to go so we’ll figure that out."

RACE RESULTS

Pos. # Driver Make Start Laps LapsLed Status Points
1 18 Kyle Busch Toyota 1 160 74 Running 50
2 4 Kevin Harvick Ford 6 160 0 Running 43
3 78 Martin Truex Jr Toyota 2 160 31 Running 43
4 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota 4 160 18 Running 37
5 2 Brad Keselowski Ford 11 160 6 Running 48
6 14 Clint Bowyer Ford 7 160 5 Running 44
7 19 Daniel Suarez Toyota 8 160 0 Running 30
8 77 Erik Jones Toyota 9 160 4 Running 29
9 20 Matt Kenseth Toyota 15 160 9 Running 28
10 24 Chase Elliott Chevy 13 160 0 Running 28
11 5 Kasey Kahne Chevy 12 160 0 Running 31
12 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevy 23 160 0 Running 25
13 41 Kurt Busch Ford 18 160 0 Running 31
14 31 Ryan Newman Chevy 20 160 0 Running 29
15 10 Danica Patrick Ford 22 160 0 Running 30
16 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Ford 21 160 11 Running 25
17 13 Ty Dillon Chevy 30 159 0 Running 20
18 95 Michael McDowell Chevy 17 159 0 Running 21
19 27 Paul Menard Chevy 27 159 0 Running 18
20 6 Trevor Bayne Ford 19 159 0 Running 20
21 3 Austin Dillon Chevy 26 159 2 Running 16
22 38 David Ragan Ford 33 159 0 Running 15
23 47 AJ Allmendinger Chevy 28 159 0 Running 15
24 72 Cole Whitt Chevy 32 159 0 Running 13
25 23 Corey Lajoie Toyota 34 159 0 Running 12
26 1 Jamie McMurray Chevy 3 159 0 Running 16
27 22 Joey Logano Ford 10 159 0 Running 10
28 37 Chris Buescher Chevy 24 159 0 Running 9
29 34 Landon Cassill Ford 31 158 0 Running 8
30 21 Ryan Blaney Ford 5 158 0 Running 13
31 15 Gray Gaulding Chevy 35 157 0 Running 6
32 83 Stephen Leicht Toyota 36 153 0 Running 5
33 42 Kyle Larson Chevy 16 148 0 Running 6
34 55 Derrike Cope Toyota 37 85 0 Transmission 3
35 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevy 14 57 0 Accident 2
36 33 Jeffrey Earnhardt Chevy 38 24 0 Engine 1
37 32 Matt DiBenedetto Ford 29 1 0 Accident 1
38 43 Aric Almirola Ford 25 0 0 Accident 1


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