Busch scores 42nd career Cup Series win at Dover
By Kyle McFadden
October 2, 2017
DOVER, Del.—Kyle Busch surged past Chase Elliott on the next-to-last lap at Dover International Speedway on Sunday, notching his fourth NASCAR Monster Energy Series win of the season in the Apache Warrior 400 presented by Lucas Oil.
Busch, who led four times for 30 laps, erased a 4.7-second deficit in the final 47 laps when he maneuvered around Elliott on the front stretch before taking the white flag.
It’s the third win of his career at the Monster Mile and the 42nd career win in NASCAR’s premier series.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to run him back down, but fortunately I did,” Busch said in his post-race news conference. “I gave it everything I had there for the last 60 laps. I was sore; my tongue was hanging out, the car’s tongue was hanging out. My right rear tire was shot.
“All in all, a fun race and fun to put on a good show like that, even though you have the agony or the delay for how long it took me to get there. And the pass was like, ‘Oh, that was quick.’ Trust me, from my standpoint it was pretty exciting.”
While Busch celebrated his third triumph in the past nine races, Elliott, who led a race-high 138 laps, sat in his car in agony after squandering what could have been his first Cup win. He then popped out and put his hands over his face as he leaned on the roof.
“I’m so sorry, guys,” Elliott told his No. 24 crew on the cool-down lap. “So sorry. Dadgum it.”
Moments later, teammate Jimmie Johnson comforted the hurting 21-year-old, now winless in 70 starts.
“I know I can’t help the situation, but I thought maybe I’d let him get a few cuss words out before they had the cameras and everyone else listening. I feel for him. I feel for that 24 team,” Johnson said. “They came so close. I know today stings.”
Elliott wasn’t only driver enduring hardship at the end. Sunday’s race was the cutoff for the Round of 12, as the 16-driver playoff field got chopped to 12.
Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch all the cut.
Newman, who missed out on advancing by a mere two points, stood somberly outside of his car after the race, wiping away tears that built around his eyes.
Dillon, meanwhile, missed the cutline by four points. Kahne and Kurt Busch missed it by 23 and 25 points.
Truex, who posted his 13th top five of the season with a fourth-place finish, remains the points leader with a 18-point advantage on Kyle Busch heading into Charlotte next Sunday at 2 p.m.
“Just off a bit today,” Truex said after the race. “Little disapointed in that, but when you run fourth and you’re disappointed, it shows what your team is made of.
“Looking forward to the Round of 12. … You never know how it’s gonna shake out.”
Larson, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Daniel Suarez, Jamie McMurray and Brad Keselowski comprised the top 10.
The race lasted three hours, five minutes, 48 seconds.
STAGE 1 (LAPS 1-120)
After some luck and a shade of strategy, Brad Keselowski navigated the middle of the pack to lead the final 30 laps of Stage 1 and steal an extra playoff point.
Truex led 47 laps, Larson led 35, Elliott led one and Busch led six, but it was Keselowski who took advantage of a well-timed caution on Lap 87.
Jeffrey Earnhardt lost control of his No. 33 Hulu Chevrolet and spun into the sand-filled yellow barrels that safeguarded the end of the pit road wall to trigger the yellow, which was then red-flagged for 15 minutes, nine seconds to clean up the spillage.
Another beneficiary of the Jeffrey Earnhardt spin-out was playoff bubble driver Ricky Stenhouse, who managed to finish fourth in Stage 1 and rack up seven extra playoff points.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his way up to third in the first 30 laps and was the fastest car on the track at one point, crew chief Greg Ives radioed to the 14-time most popular driver. Dale Jr. shuffled back to 12th after his nephew jumbled the order up with a caution.
Kyle Busch, Truex, Stenhouse, Danica Patrick, Larson, Elliott, Kevin Harvick, David Ragan and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 10.
Other playoff drivers finished Stage 1 in the following order: Jimmie Johnson 11th, Matt Kenseth 13th, Kasey Kahne 16th, Jamie McMurray 18th, Ryan Newman 19th, Ryan Blaney 20th, Kurt Busch 21st, Austin Dillon 23rd
STAGE 2 (LAPS 121-240)
Kyle Larson led 97 laps to take the 120-lap Stage 2. Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Jamie McMurray and Clint Bowyer comprised the top five.
A good stop from Kyle Busch put him in the lead off pit road during intermission stops between Stage 1 and Stage 2.
Busch led the first 20 laps in Stage 2 before Larson took over on Lap 141 where he led all but three of the final 100 laps in the stage. The driver of the No. 42 Target chevrolet led by as many as four seconds during the run.
Reed Sorenson brought out the only caution of the stage.
Kevin Harvick, who ran in the top five, reported a loose wheel and pitted on Lap 220 and shuffled him back to 22nd, two-laps down.
STAGE 3 (LAPS 241-400)
Chase Elliott won the battle off pit road during intermission stops between Stage 2 and Stage 3 and led the next 78 laps until he made a green-flag stop on Lap 324.
Larson, who won Stage 2 and held the lead at the time, stalled on his exit from pit road before Stage 3 began, which shuffled him back to fifth on the ensuing restart and he never recovered from there.
By the time green flag pit stops ran its course from laps 320-340, Elliott had opened up a five-second lead on second-place Kyle Busch, who began to chip away the deficit as the laps ticked away.
With 30 to go, Busch shaved Elliott’s lead to 3.2 seconds. Five laps later, the margin then became 1.8 seconds. With 12 to go, he was 0.69 seconds behind.
While Busch reeled in Elliott, the driver of the No. 24 struggled to manage lap traffic, which created a logjam at the front. Elliott remained adamant about running the bottom, while Busch used the whole track, primarily the top, to make up ground.
POINTS OUTLOOK (TOTAL, BEHIND LEADER, FROM CUTLINE)
Martin Truex Jr. (3059, +18, +51)
Kyle Busch (3041, -18, +33)
Kyle Larson (3034, -25, +26)
Brad Keselowski (3020, -39, +12)
Jimmie Johnson (3017, -42, +9)
Kevin Harvick (3015, -44, +7)
Denny Hamlin (3013, -46, +5)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (3010, -49, +2)
Ryan Blaney (3008, -51, -2)
Chase Elliott (3006, -53, -4)
Matt Kenseth (3005, -54, -5)
Jamie McMurray (3003, -56, -7)
The cars of Clint Bowyer and Erik Jones were found with two loose lugnuts after the race. No penalties have been announced at the time of publication.
These driver’s cars are being taken to the R&D center: Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Newman.