Everything just went Kyle Busch’s way on Sunday.
After battling for the lead with his teammate on the opening laps of the final segment of the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Busch drove away from the field.
He would race unchallenged to the win and his second career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship.
“Everybody always says you never give up and we’re no different and 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,” said Busch. “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 – is 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.”
The victory came after going winless in NASCAR Cup competition since June 14 at Pocono Raceway. On Sunday, Busch beat out teammate and fellow Championship contender Martin Truex, Jr. by over four and a half seconds in the end for his fifth win of the season, and the 56th of his series career.
“We have a great race team, a great owner and the best sponsors in sports,” said Busch. “I just can’t say enough and thank everyone enough for this opportunity. I may be the one that’s able to hoist the trophy, or to have a championship, but it wouldn’t be possible without Adam Stevens (crew chief) and Joe Gibbs, J.D. Gibbs, Coy Gibbs and the whole family. M&M’s of course and Interstate Batteries and Norm Miller. And, Toyota – this TRD engine was awesome tonight. It’s been awesome all year. 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. Thank you so much.”
While it’s Busch’s second title, it’s the fifth series championship for Joe Gibbs Racing, who bookends the season after winning the Daytona 500 in February with Denny Hamlin.
“It’s a thrill for us. The Lord blessed us with a great night,” said team owner Joe Gibbs. “I spent three and a half hours worrying about everything. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I want to thank Mitch, Monster and Toyota. Norm Miller got us started over here. Coy (Gibbs) a big part of our family – our whole family is here. Thank you to everybody for being a part of this. It’s a thrill for me and to all of our fans, thank you to each and every one of you guys. We appreciate it so much.”
The title also came in a year when the team remembered Joe Gibbs’ son, J.D., who passed away in January.
“I know it’s been a difficult time on Melissa and Joe and to reward him with a championship – I don’t know how much it means to them, but it’s the best I can do,” Busch said. “I know J.D. was looking down on us all year long. Damn, what a season Joe Gibbs Racing put together. For as awesome as our group is and everybody back at the shop and how awesome they are at building some really, really special race cars we put it on them this time.”
“I just want to say that J.D. spent his entire professional life building our race team and this whole year I think is just a tribute to him,” said Joe Gibbs. “Everybody that saw the Daytona 500 and everything that’s happened this year would have to think the Lord had his hand on what has taken place. I believe J.D. had a great view of it.”
Truex, Jr., who had the fastest car early, won the first segment of the race. But a miscue on a green flag pit stop left him with left side tires on the right side of his No. 19 Toyota. An extra pit stop left him a lap down, but got the free pass when the only on-track caution of the night flew for a spin by John Hunter Nemechek on lap 137.
Truex, Jr. drove his way back to second, but could never close on the leader.
“When things like that happen all you can do is do your best. Just try to forget about it and make it up,” said Truex, Jr. “We got most of the way back there, just not quite all of the way. It’s unfortunate. I thought we were going to be okay and then the start of the third stage I had to restart third and I wish I would’ve let Denny (Hamlin) beat me off of the pit road restart and restart fourth. I felt like if we could’ve got by him there we would’ve had a shot at it.”
Championship contender Kevin Harvick led early, but seemed to trail the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers on power. After staying out late on the final pit stop cycle in hopes of getting a caution, Harvick drove his way back to fourth by the end of the night.
“My car didn’t drive very well and it looked like mine drove a lot better than most of them,” Harvick said. “You didn’t see very many tire marks against the wall or anything like that. Just no cautions and nothing happening. When that happens, you just get spread out.”
The fourth Championship contender, Denny Hamlin, battled with handling issues early in the race, but found some speed during the final segment and seemed to be poised to battle for the win. But he had to pit late with an overheating engine to remove tape. He would rally back to a 10th place finish by the end of the night.
“We put too much tape on,” Hamlin said. “Chris (Gabehart, crew chief) is really aggressive with his calls and he tried to add some tape there and it just overheated. All of my gauges were pegged and they peg it up a really high number so we weren’t going to make it. But, I’ve got to say thank you to TRD for that thing staying together. That is unbelievable.”
Meanwhile, Daniel Hemric scored the Rookie of the Year honors with a 12th place finish. That comes on the heels of the recent announcement that he will be out of the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevy next year as the team brings NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick to the Cup Series.
Hemric will move back to the NXS ranks next year as a driver for Jr. Motorsports.
“Yeah, it’s pretty special to say the least,” Hemric said. “I wish we were able to win Rookie of the Year and have a couple more solid finishes throughout the year than what we had, but about five or six years ago, myself and Ryan Preece somehow ended up tied with four or five races to go, so we knew we had to buckle down. And really proud of this group for doing that.”
A pair of veteran drivers hung up their helmets on full-time competition after this race. Paul Menard, winner of the 2011 Brickyard 400, finished in 17th. Unadilla, Georgia’s David Ragan, winner at Daytona in July of 2011 and at Talladega in May of 2013, finished in 27th.
Erik Jones finished in third on the night, with Harvick fourth and Joey Logano in fifth.
Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon, Alex Bowman and Hamlin rounded out the top ten.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Homestead-Miami Speedway – Homestead, FL
Ford EcoBoost 400 – November 17, 2019
1. (4) Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 267.
2. (3) Martin Truex, Jr. (P), Toyota, 267.
3. (16) Erik Jones, Toyota, 267.
4. (2) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 267.
5. (5) Joey Logano, Ford, 267.
6. (10) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 267.
7. (15) Ryan Newman, Ford, 267.
8. (22) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.
9. (12) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 267.
10. (1) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 267.
11. (7) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 266.
12. (25) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 266.
13. (18) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 266.
14. (17) Daniel Suarez, Ford, 266.
15. (11) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 266.
16. (20) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 266.
17. (19) Paul Menard, Ford, 266.
18. (8) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 265.
19. (23) Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Ford, 265.
20. (21) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 265.
21. (13) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 265.
22. (14) Aric Almirola, Ford, 264.
23. (30) John Hunter Nemechek(i), Ford, 264.
24. (24) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 263.
25. (26) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 263.
26. (28) Michael McDowell, Ford, 263.
27. (31) David Ragan, Ford, 263.
28. (33) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 262.
29. (37) Drew Herring, Toyota, 262.
30. (34) J.J. Yeley(i), Ford, 262.
31. (29) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 261.
32. (39) B.J. McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 256.
33. (40) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 248.
34. (27) Darell Wallace, Jr., Chevrolet, 243.
35. (36) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 242.
36. (38) Josh Bilicki(i), Ford, Brakes, 240.
37. (35) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Brakes, 236.
38. (32) Joe Nemechek(i), Chevrolet, Steering, 227.
39. (9) William Byron, Chevrolet, Engine, 215.
40. (6) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Engine, 209.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 142.654 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 48 Mins, 47 Secs. Margin of Victory: 4.578 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 3 for 15 laps.
Lead Changes: 14 among 5 drivers.
Lap Leaders: D. Hamlin (P) 0;K. Harvick (P) 1-20;M. Truex Jr. (P) 21-38;R. Stenhouse Jr. 39;M. Truex Jr. (P) 40-86;K. Busch (P) 87;M. Truex Jr. (P) 88-120;K. Busch (P) 121-143;K. Harvick (P) 144-156;K. Busch (P) 157-167;D. Hamlin (P) 168-169;K. Busch (P) 170-209;M. Truex Jr. (P) 210-214;K. Harvick (P) 215-222;K. Busch (P) 223-267.
Leaders Summary: (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led) Kyle Busch (P) 5 times for 120 laps; Martin Truex Jr. (P) 4 times for 103 laps; Kevin Harvick (P) 3 times for 41 laps; Denny Hamlin (P) 1 time for 2 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 19,42,18,4,11,12,14,24,48,3
Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,4,42,19,11,12,22,20,48,14
Top 4 in Points: 1. Kyle Busch – 5040 (5 Wins); 2. Martin Truex, Jr. – 5035 (7 Wins); 3. Kevin Harvick – 5033 (4 Wins); 4. Denny Hamlin – 5027 (6 Wins).