Kyle Busch wins 2019 Cup Series title with Homestead-Miami Speedway race win
Kyle Busch hadn’t won in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series action since Pocono Raceway on June 2, but on Sunday, he finally claimed his fifth win of the season in the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. And that fifth win was, perhaps, his biggest of the year, as it garnered him the 2019 Cup Series championship. It’s is second championship, making him the only multi-time champion other than Jimmie Johnson among active Cup Series drivers.
“We have a great race team, a great owner and the best sponsors in sports,” Busch said. “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.“
Joe Gibbs Racing had three drivers in the championship, with teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin joining Busch in the title hunt in the season-finale. JGR also swept the top-three in the Homestead race finishing order, as Truex finished second and Erik Jones, who was eliminated from the playoffs early, was third. All four JGR drivers finished in the top-10 with Hamlin in 10th.
The other championship four driver, Kevin Harvick, finished fourth.
"On the restarts, I could do what I wanted to do and hold them off for 15 or 20 laps,” Harvick said.. “This race has come down to that every year. You kind of play toward that, and they were quite a bit better than us on the long run. We had a really good car for those first 15-20 laps on the restarts and had a lot of speed; we just never got to try to race for it, there, with the caution."
Last year’s champion, Joey Logano, who was eliminated from the playoffs a week earlier, rounded out the top-five.
The four playoff drivers, along with Kyle Larson, who, like Logano, was eliminated from championship contention the previous weekend, were in the top-five of the running order hezding into the final green-flag cycle of pit stops that began on lap 209. Busch wound up setting himself apart from the competition during the cycle. Truex and Harvick stayed out a few laps later than Busch and Hamlin. Extra laps on older tires before making their final stops resulted in a large deficit to overcome in the remaining laps of the 267-lap race.
"Yeah, we just needed to do something different,” Harvick said. “They were so much better than us on the long run. That was our best chance, to have a caution, there, at the end, and we never got one. We did something different, hoping for a caution. We had to do the opposite, and it just didn't work out."
Hamlin made an extra pit stop on lap 222 with his car overheating, because too big a piece of tape was put on the grille during his initial stop during the final green-flag cycle. Larson also made a second stop during the cycle, the second with his good going up on pit road as Larson reported a blown engine.
Busch and Truex combined to lead 223 laps, with Busch leading a race-high 120, mostly in the second half. Truex and Busch also were the stage winners at laps 80 and 160, with Truex running up front at the end of the first stage and Busch the second. Harvick was the only other driver who led more than two laps, running up front for 41.
“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,” Busch said. “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.”
Truex dominated the first half of the race. After Harvick took the lead on the opening lap and led the first 20 laps, Truex took his first lead on lap 21 and ran up front until a green-flag cycle of stops around lap 120. His team got its front tires switched, putting the left-side tires on the ride-side of the car and the right-sides on the left-side of the car. The mixup resulted in an extra stop to right the issue. Truex went a lap down, but got that lap back during a caution for a John Hunter Nemechek spin on lap 137. He was back up to fourth in the running order by the end of the second stage.
The caution for Nemechek’s spin was the only caution of the race for an on-track incident. The only other two yellow flags were the scheduled cautions at the end of each of the 80-lap stages.
Other top-10 finishers included Clint Bowyer in sixth, Ryan Newman seventh, Austin Dillon eighth and Alex Bowman in ninth.
“It’s really special to end the year with a top-10 finish,” Dillon said. “It’s been a hard year. We’ve changed our bodies and everything, just trying to get closer to the competition and working really hard. It was the first car we’ve had all year that’s been really competitive at these 1.5-mile tracks. We’ve had some good qualifying efforts, but we were racy tonight, and that was good to see.”