By no stretch of the imagination was Kyle Busch the driver to beat in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Although, maybe that’s how he ended up in victory lane when the race met its chaotic conclusion.
Taking his turn at the front of the pack in three one-lap segments, Busch called an audible while pacing under the eighth and final caution of the afternoon, electing to stay on the track when his crew chief Randall Burnett told him to pit for fuel.
As it turned out, that call ended up netting the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion the victory, as carnage broke out around him on the final lap of Sunday’s 500-mile contest, when the leaders got tangled up in ‘The Big One’.
Running in third coming to the white flag, Busch was able to avoid the carnage from the leaders Ryan Blaney and Bubba Wallace and had just enough speed to clear the No. 12 Ford Mustang on the other side of the crash.
Busch was in turn able to bring a brand-new sponsor, McLaren Custom Grills to victory lane at the 2.66-mile superspeedway, sneaking to the inside and avoiding the spinning Bubba Wallace to clear the incident, and be named the winner under caution.
“Sometimes you have to be lucky. Some of these races come down to that,” said Kyle Busch, after climbing from his car on the frontstretch. “You got to take them when they come your way.”
The triumph for Busch at Talladega is the 62nd of his NASCAR Cup Series career, and his second driving for Richard Childress Racing, an organization in which he contested his tenth points-paying race on Sunday.
“We were sweating it being close,” Busch said on his fuel concerns. “I thought back to California, Fontana, earlier this year where we have a win. I am like, We got to gamble. You’re up here, got to take the track position when you have it, give it what you can on the restarts, and see what happens.”
After triggering the final accident of the day, Ryan Blaney was credited with a second-place result, coming one spot short of snapping a winless streak that dates back to Daytona, two seasons ago.
Running at the back of the pack throughout the entire event, Chris Buescher came home with a third-place finish, while Chase Briscoe recovered from an early pit road accident to finish in fourth.
Despite having significant damage, Brad Keselowski was awarded fifth, rounding out the top five for RFK Racing. Erik Jones, William Byron, Christopher Bell, Daniel Suarez, and Todd Gilliland completed the top-10.
Throughout the entire event, the intensity continued to ramp up more and more, which eventually led to a multi-car accident between Joey Logano and Corey LaJoie, which collected several others, including Harrison Burton.
That crash was the catalyst in making the conclusion of the race chaotic, sending the field into NASCAR Overtime, where Kyle Larson, Ryan Preece, and Noah Gragson were involved in a major pileup, that mangled the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet.
On the final restart of the race, Ty Gibbs and Aric Almirola both had fuel pickup issues, which hindered their results, after both drivers had spectacular runs inside the top 10 throughout the majority of the race.
Exiting Talladega, Christopher Bell maintains the points lead in the NASCAR Cup Series, holding an 11-point advantage over Ross Chastain. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, and Kyle Busch completed the top-five in points.
Now, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Dover Motor Speedway, for its once-a-year stop on the one-mile concrete track. Can Chase Elliott back up his victory from last season, in only his third race back from injury?