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NASCAR Cup: Kurt Busch wins at home

Playoff contender Kurt Busch, driver of the #1 Monster Energy Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, celebrates his first hometown victory Sunday night, September 27, 2020 during the first Playoff Round of 12 NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada. No fans were on hand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

By AMANDA VINCENT

After a NASCAR Cup Series championship and 31-career wins, Las Vegas native Kurt Busch claimed his 32nd-career win at his hometown track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, on Saturday night in the South Point 400. His first win at his home track was his first win of the season and clinched his advancement to the “Round of Eight” of the 2020 playoffs. It also snapped a 46-race winless streak.

“This is what kids dream of when they grow up racing,” Busch said. “You dream of winning at your hometown track. And for two decades, it’s kicked my butt. And tonight, with this Monster Energy Chevy, I’m in awe. I knew the race would come to us. We needed to get to nightfall, and one of those quirky Matt McCall (crew chief) pit sequences finally unfolded. We got lucky. You’ve got to be lucky. And you have to be lucky in any race, but we did it tonight with teamwork and pulling through and just not giving up.”

Busch had yet to make his final pit stop when the yellow flag waved for Jimmie Johnson, interrupting a cycle of green-flag pit stops on lap 236. Meanwhile, the caution caught Matt DiBenedetto on pit road.

Previous frontrunners, including Denny Hamlin, who had led a race-high 121 laps by that point, had already pitted under green and took the wave-around to get back on the lead lap for the restart. Hamlin, who led before the green-flag cycle of stops began, restarted the race in the 11th position.

DiBenedetto and Busch restarted on the front row, and Busch took the lead on lap 243 — a lead he maintained through two additional restarts, the last of those restarts sending the race into overtime for one additional lap.

“The No. 11 (Hamlin) had a ton of speed,” Busch said. “I was wide-open. And you just have to manipulate the draft. I pulled out some old drag racing skills on the restarts. I knew that was our strong suit. We just put ourselves in position and we held off. Chip Ganassi was up in the suite somewhere, and I could feel him breathing over my neck. I want to win, and we did it.”

DiBenedetto matched a career-best finished of second.

“Two seconds at Vegas. It’s tough to come that close; just wanted it so bad for this team,” DiBenedetto said. ”I love driving for the Wood Brothers. I want that number 100 for them so bad, and for Menards, the whole family and everything they do for us and the team, and having Duracell on the car this week, we’re keeping her charged up good. Motorcraft/Quick Lane, Ford, Roush Yates Engines, all these folks that allow me to drive a really fast hot rod. Our car was the best it had been at the end, just couldn’t get control on those restarts. The 1 car, Kurt, did a great job. We had completely different ratios for the restarts, and once he gained control of the race, he played the right games on the restarts, knew what we had on our weakness, there.  Man, it’s tough to come that close. I just want it so bad, but I’m proud of the team. They did a great job. My pit crew did a great job tonight and really earned that one for us.”

Hamlin wound up third at the checkered flag.

“We had a dominant car today, and I’m proud of the whole FedEx team for giving me such a great car,” Hamlin said. “By far the best car I’ve had in Las Vegas in a long time. It was really, really good. Happy with it and this new tire here. We’ll run that a few more times this year. Really encouraged by the way we ran, but very disappointed that we didn’t get a win. It’s just been the way that the playoffs have gone. Whoever stays out the longest puts themselves in a great spot to win.”

Hamlin failed to gain ground after the lap 236 caution, so he pitted, again, for two tires during a lap-250 caution for John Hunter Nemechek and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and restarted 13th. He got up to fourth in the running order by the final caution for a William Byron spin on lap 261.

Hamlin was joined by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. in the top-five of the finishing order. Truex finished fourth, and Alex Bowman rounded out the top-five.

Hamlin and Chase Elliott led most of the laps in the first two 80-lap stages of the race. Hamlin won the opening stage after taking the lead from another JGR teammate, Kyle Busch, on a lap-31 restart.

Elliott led the first 27 laps of the race after taking the lead from pole sitter Kevin Harvick on the opening lap. He lost his first lead on pit road to Kyle Busch on pit road during a lap-25 competition caution.

Busch, once again, got off pit road first during the caution after the opening stage, but on lap 88, one lap after the race restarted, he was passed by Hamlin for the lead.

Elliott took the lead from Hamlin on lap 92. He gave up that lead during the race’s first cycle of green-flag pit stops on lap 119. The cycle was a lengthy one, with Elliott cycling back to the lead on lap 145.

Hamlin beat Elliott off pit road after the second stage ended on lap 160. Bowman took the lead on the lap-167 restart, but his lead was short-lived, with Hamlin retaking the position five laps later.

All four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers finished in the top-10, joining Hamlin and Truex were Kyle Busch in sixth and Erik Jones in eighth. Ryan Blaney finished seventh, Chris Buescher was ninth, and Kevin Harvick finished 10th.

Below, is the complete finishing order of the South Point Casino 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

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Posted by on September 28, 2020. Filed under Breaking News,Cup Series,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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