Kyle Busch parked his damaged car at the start/finish line, climbed out and retrieved the checkered flag, to a chorus of boos from the fans in attendance. In response, he turned to the NBC cameraman and gave a “boo-hoo” gesture.
“I don’t know what y’all are whining about,” Busch said, as he gestured towards the grandstands. “If you don’t even like that kind of racing, don’t even watch.”
He was cruising unchallenged to victory until Kyle Larson passed Kevin Harvick with less than 30 to go. Larson reeled him in but lost ground after making contact with the wall in Turn 2 with eight laps remaining. A group of lap traffic with four to go allowed Larson to pull back up to him. On the final lap, Larson pulled a slide move into Turn 1, came back up the track and put Busch into the wall. He quickly passed Busch down the backstretch, but Busch responded in part by bumping Larson in Turn 3. While he veered into the wall, Larson slid long enough for him to drive by and score his 48th career victory.
“I got really boxed in behind lapped cars and got really slowed, and I was just trying to get all I could there the last couple of laps. Larson tried to pull a slider, didn’t quite complete it. Slid up into me, used me. I kind of used him as a little bit of a brake going into (Turn) 3, and was able to come back for the victory.”
Busch wasn’t threatening for the lead most of the day, nor was he running Top-five for most of it, but his pit crew gained him track position on his final two stops to put him in position to win for the second time in his career at Chicagoland Speedway.
“Great thing for this Skittles Camry and all these guys. We were horrible today, absolutely horrendous. We just never gave up. We just always kept working on it, kept making the most of it. Got to where we needed it right there in the end and I was able to lead all those laps. If it wasn’t for lap traffic, it wouldn’t even have been a race.”
Larson recovered from his spin to finish second.
“Oh man, I’m not upset,” Larson said. “I had an opportunity there to slide in front of him and I figured I wouldn’t clear him or I would allow him to drive back underneath me. So I tried to get to his door and you know I opened the door for him to retaliate into (Turn) 3. I thought it was free game. I ran into him first, he got me after that, maybe a little bit worse than I got him, but that is alright. I love racing Kyle (Busch). I know all these fans are probably mad at him, but hey we put on a hell of a show for you guys and that was a blast. I had the top rolling there. I ran the right front off of it a little bit trying to run those guys down and (seeing the replay) yeah, that has got to be one of the best NASCAR finishes of all time. I know I’m on the short end of the stick again, but you know it was fun. Our Credit One Bank Chevy was amazing. Not great on the short runs, but man, on the long runs I could really get the top going and was able to get the top of (Turns) 3 and 4 figured out and really made up some time there. Just a lot of fun. My team did a great job, the pit crew was on it again, so thanks to them. Thanks to all you fans for coming out, it was a hot weekend, really hot, but we put on a good show for you.”
Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer rounded out the Top-five.
Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Alex Bowman rounded out the Top-10.
Paul Menard led the field to green at 2:34 p.m., but Ryan Blaney cleared him exiting Turn 2 to lead the first lap. Clint Bowyer reeled in Blaney and powered by his inside to take the lead, going into Turn 1, on Lap 19. He pitted from the lead on Lap 40, handing the lead to Brad Keselowski, who too pitted from the lead on Lap 47. Austin Dillon inherited the lead but pitted on Lap 61 and the lead cycled to Aric Almirola, who drove on to win the first stage.
Back to green on Lap 87, Kevin Harvick edged out teammate Almirola at the line to lead the lap, but Almirola cleared him exiting Turn 2 to take back the lead on Lap 89. Almirola pitted from the lead on Lap 122, but thanks to pitting a lap earlier, Harvick usurped him and cycled to the top spot.
The caution flew for the second time on Lap 128 for debris. Blaney exited the pits with the lead and led the field back to green on Lap 132. Almirola’s four new tires ran down Blaney’s two and edged him out at the line to retake the lead on Lap 136. Six laps later, however, he made an unscheduled stop for a possible loose wheel. Kurt Busch assumed the race lead. While he fended off most of Harvick’s advances, his teammate powered by his outside, and all but touches the outside wall exiting Turn 4, to win the second stage.
Back to green on Lap 168, Martin Truex Jr. shoved Busch past Harvick exiting Turn 2 to retake the lead. Two laps later, Kyle Larson edged him out at the line to take the lead. Harvick powered around him entering Turn 3 to retake the lead on Lap 177.
The caution flew for the fourth time on Lap 178 when Denny Hamlin got loose and spun down the track, exiting Turn 2. Keselowski exited the pits first, after taking just right-side tires, and led the field back to green on Lap 182. Harvick powered by him on the outside exiting Turn 2 to retake the lead on Lap 187.
A caution flew for the fifth time with 59 laps to go, when Corey LaJoie hit the wall in Turn 2. Kyle Busch exited pit road with the race lead.
Back to green with 55 to go, Busch maintained a half-second gap over Harvick for roughly 15 laps. But with 40 to go, right about the time the cloud cover disappeared, Harvick started to reel him in. After a few laps, Harvick radioed to his team that his car was “just too tight.” Larson usurped Harvick for second and quickly ran down Busch. He made contact with the wall in Turn 2 with eight to go and lost time to Busch. Larson made the ground back up when Busch ran into a group of lapped cars, setting up the final lap finish.
NUTS & BOLTS
The race lasted two hours, 50 minutes and 52 seconds, at an average speed of 140.636 mph. There were 24 lead changes among 10 different drivers, and five cautions for 23 laps.
Busch leaves with a 62-point lead over Harvick.