Kyle Busch saves enough to end winless drought

For Kyle Busch, the question was simple: Did he have enough to make it on fuel?

Wednesday, the answer was yes.

While’s he’s out of the championship battle, Busch saved enough fuel in the closing laps of the rain-delayed NASCAR Cup Series Autotrader Echopark Automotive 500 to win for the first time in 2020.

Yeah,” Busch said, “it was obviously much needed and very much a lot of relief, as well, too.”

“I take them as they come, that’s for sure,” Busch’s crew chief, Adam Stevens, said. “But I do feel like we had the best car today, looking at the lap times as a whole. Once we broke free from traffic — I don’t remember when it was, before halfway, we definitely really picked up the lap times. We had the speed that we needed. We did have to adjust a little bit but not much. So you know, we were close off the truck, which is good, and adjusting to these ever-changing weather conditions.”

It’s Busch’s 57th career victory, in 567 starts, and his fourth career victory at Texas Motor Speedway. Moreover, it extends his streak of seasons with a victory to 16.

“For me having the opportunity to continue that win streak was certainly high on our list,” Busch said, “and when you fall out of the playoffs and you’ve got nothing else to race for, that’s all you have to race for is trophies and getting wins for the rest of this year, and it feels really good to be able to come here to Texas and score that win.”

He led a race high of 91 laps.

“We haven’t been the best on mile-and-a-halfs this year but we’ve been working on it and strategizing on things that we can do to improve and it was nice to see some of that in that fruit pay off tonight,” he said.

Teammate, Martin Truex Jr., came from the rear and led 53 laps on his way to a runner-up finish.

“I had a lot of confidence in (the car), in the 50 whatever laps we ran there on Sunday,” he said. “We had to start at the rear and quickly worked our way up through the field, and definitely had a good feeling for the car balance-wise and speed-wise and felt like the longer we were going there, the better it was getting.”

Christopher Bell earned a career-best finish of third.

“Yeah,” he said, “that was a very hard-earned third-place finish. It felt like we were coming from the back almost every yellow flag. I was very happy to see that last stage go green. I knew our car was really, really good. We were able to pass guys pretty easily and really carry momentum. I was happy with our Procore Camry pretty much all day. I was a little bit loose to start on Sunday and I knew if we could get it tightened up that we’d be pretty fast. Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) did a great job and we were able to execute and come away with a nice finish.”

Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman rounded out the top-five.

Race summary

First stage

FORT WORTH, Texas – October 25: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford, pits during the NASCAR Cup Series Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Oct. 25, 2020, in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Kevin Harvick led the field to green, Sunday, at 3:49 p.m. He led the first 28 laps, but hit the wall off Turn 2. As a result, Alex Bowman took the lead for the next 17 laps. During the third caution of the race, Clint Bowyer took fuel only and exited pit road with the race lead.

The weather didn’t let up. So NASCAR red-flagged the race on Lap 52.

After a 72-hour, 28-minute and 34-second red flag, the race resumed Wednesday, at 5 p.m. After a few laps under caution. The green flag flew, again, on Lap 57.

Aside from one lap led by Martin Truex Jr., Bowyer controlled the stage to the conclusion on Lap 106.

“That will conclude our longest Stage 1 to date,” the race director said, pulling a line straight out of the David Hoots playbook.

Bowman took just fuel under the first stage break and exited pit road with the lead.

Second stage

He led the field back to green on Lap 112, and kept the lead until the seventh caution on Lap 134. Ryan Blaney took just fuel and exited the pits with the lead.

FORT WORTH, Texas – October 28: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, leads the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Oct. 28, 2020, in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

He got loose in Turn 2 on Lap 156, and Truex pulled to his inside for the overtake. With 10 laps left in the stage, he ran out of fuel and Kyle Busch passed him for the lead.

Following a green flag pit cycle, Busch cycled back to the lead and won the second stage.

Busch stayed out under the second stage break, but the rest of the lead lap car pitted.

Rest of the race

Bowyer pitted from second on Lap 258, because he ran out of fuel.

Busch pitted from the lead with 67 laps to go for his final stop of the race. He cycled back to the lead with 55 to go. From that point, it was a fuel-mileage run to the finish.

What else happened

Three laps into the resumed race, Matt Kenseth got loose in Turn 4 and spun down the track, with some help from Denny Hamlin. He clipped Bubba Wallace and sent him into the outside wall on the frontstretch.

“I just hate it for my guys for sitting around for four days to have the race taken away from us like that,” Wallace said. “We’ll wait, sit on the plane and wait to go home.

“It’s just unfortunate.”

Jimmie Johnson‘s top-10 run ended 53 laps shy of the finish, when his engine blew up. Barring an oval start in the NTT IndyCar Series in 2021, the all-time wins leader at Texas Motor Speedway finished 36th in his final start.

Playoff picture

With Busch taking home the checkered flag, only Joey Logano is still locked into the championship race at Phoenix Raceway.

Harvick has a 42-point cushion over the cutoff. Barring a collapse at Martinsville Speedway, he’s locked in.

Hamlin (+27) and Brad Keselowski (+25) round out the cutoff spots.

Nuts and bolts

The race lasted three hours, 45 minutes and 43 seconds — over a period of four days — at an average speed of 181.854 mph.

There were 23 lead changes among 11 different drivers, and eight cautions for 47 laps.

The Cup Series returns to actions Sunday, at 2 p.m., at Martinsville Speedway.

TOP IMAGE: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

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