Story By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – CONCORD, NC – Unable to contain himself, Kyle Busch let out an elated scream as his car entered Turn 3 on the 400th and final lap of Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
And now, for the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, you’re going to need a bigger broom.
From start to finish, Busch fashioned a dominating victory at the only active Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series track at which he had never won a points event. That makes Busch the only driver in NASCAR history who has won at every Cup track at which he has started a race.
“Oh, yes! You guys are amazing,” Busch shouted over the team radio after he crossed the finish line 3.823 seconds ahead of runner-up Martin Truex Jr. “I can’t thank you guys enough. Unreal!
In winning for the fourth time this season and the 47th time in his career—15th on the all-time victory list—Busch started from the pole, swept all three stages of the race, led 377 laps and extended his series lead to 67 points over 22nd-place finisher Joey Logano.
“This one’ very special,” Busch said in Victory Lane. “I don’t know if there’s anything that can top Homestead (the 2015 title race), just with the meaning of what the championship is. But the Coke 600—I’ve dreamt of this race since I was a kid…
“To be able to come out here and win the Coca-Cola 600, it’s a little boy’s dream come true. Man, I just want to say that I thank NASCAR, for one, for giving me the chance to come out here and have this opportunity to race for my dreams and to accomplish those things.”
Alongside two sweeps at Bristol Motor Speedway, where Busch twice won races in all three of NASCAR’s top touring series in the same weekend, the unprecedented sweep of all active Cup tracks will maintain a special place in the pantheon of his successes.
“I’ve dreamt of that – not only winning here and winning the Coke 600 as a kid and being in Victory Lane here for this race, but to just be a force that people (have) to reckon with,” Busch said. “I go across the country and race Super Late Models because I want to win at every single race track. I just want to show that there is no weakness.”
There was no weakness at all on Sunday night, with Busch’s crew performing as flawlessly in the pits as the driver did on the asphalt. Truex, who rallied from two pit road penalties to run second attested to Busch’s dominance.
“Those guys did an awesome job all night, obviously, with qualifying on the pole, perfect pit stops,” Truex said. “I don’t think they ever lost a lead any time except for green-flag stops without cycling around.
“They did an incredible job, had a really fast car, and for us, I felt like we… I felt early on like we were probably second best to him, and then screwed up on pit road, and then we had two pit road penalties in a row.
“So it was tough to come from the back, but it was one of those nights where we just fought until the end and felt like we had a second place car to Kyle. I felt like that last run we were catching him a bit, but he was probably just managing his lead and taking care of his tires.”
Denny Hamlin, Busch’s teammate at JGR, finished third, 13.598 seconds behind the race winner. Brad Keselowski ran fourth, followed by Jimmie Johnson, who collected his second top five of the season. Johnson hasn’t led a lap this season, and his winless streak reached 36 races on Sunday.
“It feels good, but, damn, I want to win,” Johnson said of his run. “I’m tired of running fifth. I’m tired of running whatever it is. We got off on some adjustments today, and it was amazing how sensitive the car was. With some minor adjustments, the car just lost half a second. We had a hard time trying to grasp it and understand it and communicate about it.
“We put it back to the way it was, and it took off and I drove right back up into the top three. Just a very small sweet spot with the car. Luckily, we finished in that sweet spot and got a good finish out of it, including a spin (on Lap 120), and we had a jack break on a stop. We had to overcome a lot tonight.”
Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman, who came home sixth through ninth, were the only other drivers on the lead lap at the finish.
Kevin Harvick’s bid to win three straight Cup points races for the second time this season ended abruptly on Lap 83, when a flat left front tire sent Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas racing Ford into the Turn 3 wall.
A five-time winner in 2018, Harvick had worked his way up to fourth from his 39th-place starting position, with the deep-in-the-field start resulting from three pre-qualifying inspection failures on Thursday.
Harvick was chasing Kyle Larson for third when the tire went down and ended his day.
“I can’t tell if we ran something over,” said Harvick, who finished 40th. “There’s enough things that could have happened right there, but I’m just really proud of everybody on our Mobil 1/Busch Ford. The car was really, really fast. We came all the way through the pack, and sometimes those things happen.
“I can’t complain about anything that’s happened this year. We have to take the good with the bad. The guys did a great job in basically guessing at where the car needed to be today with all the penalties, no practice and starting in the back. To come out and have the fastest car again was quite an honor to drive, and they’re doing a great job. It was just bad luck.”
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – Coca-Cola 600
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Concord, North Carolina
Sunday, May 27, 2018
1. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 400.
2. (15) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 400.
3. (3) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 400.
4. (5) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 400.
5. (23) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 400.
6. (7) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 400.
7. (11) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 400.
8. (16) Kurt Busch, Ford, 400.
9. (27) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 400.
10. (13) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 399.
11. (22) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 399.
12. (28) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 399.
13. (9) Aric Almirola, Ford, 399.
14. (14) Paul Menard, Ford, 399.
15. (10) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 399.
16. (24) Darrell Wallace Jr. #, Chevrolet, 399.
17. (17) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 399.
18. (29) Michael McDowell, Ford, 399.
19. (4) Erik Jones, Toyota, 399.
20. (26) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 399.
21. (20) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 399.
22. (2) Joey Logano, Ford, 399.
23. (30) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 399.
24. (25) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 398.
25. (19) David Ragan, Ford, 396.
26. (33) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 396.
27. (32) * Parker Kligerman(i), Toyota, 394.
28. (35) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 394.
29. (18) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 394.
30. (37) * Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 389.
31. (34) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 388.
32. (36) * Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 383.
33. (38) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 373.
34. (12) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 348.
35. (6) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 344.
36. (8) Ryan Blaney, Ford, Engine, 278.
37. (31) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, Oil Leak, 257.
38. (40) * JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 191.
39. (21) William Byron #, Chevrolet, Accident, 139.
40. (39) Kevin Harvick, Ford, Accident, 83.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 136.692 mph.
Time of Race: 04 Hrs, 23 Mins, 22 Secs. Margin of Victory: 3.823 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 11 for 54 laps.
Lead Changes: 9 among 4 drivers.
Lap Leaders: Kyle Busch 0; J. Logano 1-4; Kyle Busch 5-85; B. Keselowski 86-87; Kyle Busch 88-158; D. Hamlin 159-165; J. Logano 166-173; Kyle Busch 174-352; D. Hamlin 353-354; Kyle Busch 355-400.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Busch 4 times for 377 laps; J. Logano 2 times for 12 laps; D. Hamlin 2 times for 9 laps; B. Keselowski 1 time for 2 laps.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 18,12,42,78,48,10,14,11,17,20
Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,78,42,11,14,10,9,48,31,20
Stage #3 Top Ten: 18,20,2,41,1,11,95,78,17,31