JOLIET, Ill. – Like two boxers in the final round of a closely-contested slugfest, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson traded hard shots on the last lap of Sunday’s Overton’s 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Moments later, it was Kyle Busch who was still standing — with his car parked on the finish line and his fifth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season in his pocket.
In the closing three laps, Larson gained on Busch, who had led from a restart on Lap 213 of 267. Busch was slowed by lapped traffic, and Larson had a strong run into Turns 1 and 2 on the final lap. Larson drove hard into the corner but couldn’t clear Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry off Turn 2.
Larson tapped the left rear of Busch’s car, knocking him into the outside wall. Larson passed Busch on the backstretch, but the 2015 series champion wasn’t finished. Busch got back to the bumper of Larson’s No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in Turn 3 and sent him spinning with a hard shot to the rear of the car.
Larson slid sideways, as the momentum of Busch’s charge into the corner carried his car into the outside wall. But Busch straightened his Camry and powered across the finish line 1.875 seconds ahead of Larson, who recovered to beat third-place finisher Kevin Harvick to the stripe by a half-second.
With his second victory at Chicagoland, Busch earned the 48th victory of his career, tied with Herb Thomas for 14th all-time and one win behind three-time champion Tony Stewart. Busch tied Harvick for the most victories in the series this season, marking only the fourth time in series history that two drivers have each won five times in the first 17 races.
Busch appeared to be cruising to a one-second victory before Ryan Newman raced him hard trying to stay on the lead lap and a pack of lapped cars in front of him clogged the track.
“I got really boxed in and got really slow,” Busch said. “I tried to get all of it on those last couple of laps. Larson tried to pull a slider but didn’t quite complete it. He slid up into me and used me, and then I kind of used him a little bit in Turn 3 to come back for the victory.
“Great win for the Skittles Camry and all of these guys. We were horrible today. Absolutely horrendous. We just never gave up. It’s always good to make the most of the days and get to where we needed at the end. I was able to lead all of those laps. And get through the rest of the traffic. If you don’t like that kind of racing, don’t even watch.”
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The last lap aside, a major key to Busch’s victory was stellar work on pit road. After the final stop under caution on Lap 209, Busch beat Harvick back on track to take the lead and held it the rest of the way.
Even though Busch knocked him out of the way in the final corner for the win, Larson held no hard feelings.
“Yeah, I was fighting hard to catch him and had a really good car especially on the long runs,” Larson said. “We were able to get the top going and finally run him down. Yeah, the lappers bottled him up pretty bad there, and I was able to get a run on him. He changed his line up there for a couple of laps in a row, and I got a big run and went to throw the slider on him and got really tight.
“My plan was pretty much to run into the side of him to try and slow his momentum down and was able to do that and get clear of him. I didn’t really want to be clear of him in (Turn) 3, though, because I knew he would get to my back bumper and move me out of the way, which he did. So, I mean, I know some fans probably already don’t like Kyle Busch, but that was just kind of hard racing there, I thought.”
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Martin Truex Jr. finished fourth but failed to lead a lap. Clint Bowyer recovered from three extra trips down pit road because of penalties to run fifth. Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Alex Bowman completed the top 10.
Notes: Aric Almirola won the first 80-lap stage of the race—his first career stage win—before two unscheduled pit stops for loose wheels took him out of contention. … Harvick won Stage 2, his ninth stage victory of the season. … Kyle Busch won the race without scoring a point in either of the first two stages.
The No. 2 Ford of Brad Keselowski and the No. 11 Toyota of Denny Hamlin were each found with one lug nut not safe and secure in a post-race check. Guidelines in the 2018 NASCAR Rule Book call for a $10,000 fine for each crew chief.