Kyle Busch had a well-connected pusher behind him for the final restart at World Wide Technology Raceway — a fellow Toyota driver, a de facto teammate, one with a shared last name. But his defeat in Sunday’s inaugural NASCAR Cup Series race at the 1.25-mile St. Louis track had plenty to do with a hand signal he never made.
Instead, Joey Logano got the necessary shove off the restart from teammate Ryan Blaney that ultimately lifted his No. 22 Team Penske Ford to victory in the Enjoy Illinois 300. Busch’s brother, Kurt, wasn’t close enough behind his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to provide the same launch for the two-lap overtime dash.
Kyle battled back and nearly executed a clean crossover before the white-flag lap, but couldn’t make the move stick through Turns 3 and 4, allowing Logano to scoot free. He settled for second and his brother claimed third, edging Blaney by a fender at the checkered flag.
“Not even close. Did you see me about wreck off of (Turn) 4?” Kyle told FOX Sports about his next-to-last-lap maneuver. “Way better than Phoenix, though, I guess. For as bad as Phoenix was, JGR, the Toyota guys, did a good job have getting us some improvements there and at least being able to keep up and have a shot at the win. Our car just took too long to come in. Better on the long run. Better up top. Top is not good to fire off on, but great job by the Snickers guys. Again, we stayed in the running all day long and fought hard and thought maybe we could, but that was it.”
When Kevin Harvick crashed with six laps remaining to extend the race distance, Kyle selected the top lane for the restart. That left the front row on the low lane available for Logano, who had a chance to redeem himself after a low-groove choice went awry on the previous restart. Blaney picked next and went low, filing his No. 12 Ford in behind Logano. Kurt then picked the top lane, aligning his No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota behind the allied car of his brother.
Kyle said he had intended to make a hand signal to Kurt outside his driver’s side window, but ultimately opted against it, suspecting Logano was lagging behind him on pace laps to intercept any strategy calls.
“I was going to put my hand out the window and signal to Kurt to push me along and Joey was half a car back out my window trying to see it, so the hand signal was going to be irrelevant, so I didn’t do it, which kind of made Kurt too far back,” said Kyle, who led a race-high 66 laps. “Got into Turn 1 by myself and was too far back. When you are the guy on the inside, you just flush the guy on the outside and it’s over. I got a crossover though but threw it into (Turn) 3 too far. It chattered all four tires. Just didn’t have any grip to get off the corner well enough to be on his outside, so I don’t know.”
Instead, the Logano-Blaney pairing got the two-car tandem locomotion that the two brothers wished they’d had.
“I thought there was going to be a hand signal on when it was going to be go time, and I was going to push the hell out of the 18,” said Kurt, who led 12 laps and won Stage 2, but was left to discuss the near-miss with his brother on pit road post-race. “We did the whole brother miscommunication. We should have won that. There should have been a Toyota in Victory Lane, a Busch in Victory Lane. Logano, he didn’t do anything smart – we just messed up on getting the launch. Then I wanted Kyle all on my own running 1-2, but what an awesome day for our Monster Toyota. We won a stage. I gambled on that, and then the team had my back.”