HOMESTEAD-MIAMI, Fla. — A nearly-flawless night for Kyle Busch, a tougher night for the rest.
Essentially, that was the difference in crowning the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team as the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champions on Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“It’s been awesome all year, Busch said. “We had one issue, but man it’s so much fun to work with these guys and this group, everybody that puts it all together for me. There’s always your doubters, there’s always your haters, but you know what, this one is for Rowdy Nation because you guys are the best.”
The four championship hunters combined to lead 266 of the 267 laps on the evening, but Busch led the most at 120, including the final 45 laps en route to victory.
Despite claiming the 2019 Regular Season Championship a few months ago, it was Busch’s first victory since Pocono Raceway, earlier this season in June.
Busch was the only driver without a victory in the Playoffs.
None of that mattered.
“Everybody always says you never give up, and we’re no different,” Busch said. “We just do what we can do each and every week, and sometimes we may not be the best, and sometimes we may not have the right track position.
“Today, we had a really good car, and I could race around and move around. That’s what’s so special about Homestead-Miami Speedway… the ability to put on a show, kind of like we did there racing those guys.
“It was exciting from my seat. It was a lot of fun to cap off such an amazing year.”
FORD ECOBOOST 400 STAGE 1
Denny Hamlin led the Championship 4 contenders, and the rest of the field, to the green flag to start the event.
Kevin Harvick arguably the best short run speed, and showcased it immediately, leading the first lap over Hamlin.
Martin Truex, Jr. arguably the best long run speed, and showcased it to take victory in Stage 1.
Busch, meanwhile, laid dormant early, running last of the four for the majority of the stage, eventually finishing the stage in third.
Harvick wound up finishing in fourth, while Hamlin ended up in fifth. The Championship 4 showed early what they were made of, with only Kyle Larson showing strength otherwise with a second place stage run.
FORD ECOBOOST 400 STAGE 2
Truex, Jr. was making his presence known early and often, but catastrophe struck the No. 19 team during the green flag pit stops.
As Truex, Jr. exited the pits, he reported that something was off, and his crew chief Cole Pearn told him they had to come back in.
The front tires got switched up during the stop, and were put on the wrong side. The extra pit stop put the team behind a lap to the new leader, which was Busch.
On lap 138, the caution flag flew for a half spin by John Hunter Nemechek, just as Truex, Jr. had gotten into the free pass position.
There were only 12 cars on the lead lap at the time, so on the following restart, Truex, Jr. was able to cut through the field before ultimately finishing fourth in the stage.
Busch went on to win the stage, but for both he and Truex, Jr., a stage win meant nothing towards winning a title on Sunday night.
The battle continued on to the final stage.
FORD ECOBOOST 400 FINAL STAGE
With Truex, Jr. back in the fight, all four title contenders led the field back to the final restart, the beginning of the final stage of the night.
Hamlin finally showed his strength, and led the first two laps of the restart, but Busch fought back to the front.
Back in traffic, Truex, Jr. wasn’t as dominant as he once was before his issue, and it took him a while to get back up to second.
The strategy began to play out on the final round of stops. Hamlin pitted first, followed by Busch, then Truex, Jr.
Disaster struck for Hamlin a few laps after his pit stop. The car began to overheat, and he had to pull his No. 11 Toyota back down pit road to fix the issue. This left him trapped a lap behind, needing of a caution or two to put him back into contention.
It never came.
Harvick played the strategy of having the freshest tires at the end, and pitted last of the group.
The wait was too long, and Busch had already gotten such a large advantage from pitting earlier.
The race played out green, and it was Busch hoisting the championship trophy once again, as Truex, Jr. just couldn’t catch him at the end.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) November 17, 2019
Five wins on the season, and the last one was the most important.
With the championship in hand, Busch joins Jimmie Johnson as the only active drivers with multiple championships heading into the 2020 season.
Only 91 days until the 2020 Daytona 500.
Until then, it’s officially the NASCAR off-season.
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com