Kyle Busch dominates Coca-Cola 600 and captures first Cup Series win at Charlotte
By Rick Minter
Kyle Busch checked another box on his career goals list on Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, as his runaway victory in the Coca-Cola 600 was his first in the Monster Energy Cup Series at that track.
It also made Busch the first driver in NASCAR history to win a Cup race at every track in which he competed, although that record will only be good for about three months. That’s because the fall race at Charlotte will be run on the combination road course/oval track, or the Roval, and NASCAR’s records will consider that a separate track.
Still, Busch, at the relatively young age of 33, continues to set career records at an amazing clip.
He already owns the record for most wins in the Xfinity Series with 91, and he’s one win shy of tying the retired Ron Hornaday Jr. for most victories in the Camping World Truck Series. Busch now has 50 truck wins, giving him 188 victories across NASCAR’s top three series, including 47 in the Cup series.
Sunday’s win was one of total domination. He started on the pole, won all three of the preliminary stages and led 377 of the race’s 400 laps to get his fourth Cup win of the season.
“It’s just something cool to be able to accomplish something that I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid,” Busch said in his winner’s interview. “I remember being 8, 9, 10 years old and wanting to win races at Charlotte, wanting to win the Coke 600, wanting to win the All-Star Race and just remembering watching those races under the lights and dreaming of one day going to Victory Lane, and now finally it’s here.
“It’s taken so long, but it feels so good in the same breath. Just going to cherish the next 100 days and we’ll be back here at Charlotte again trying to go for another win at a different venue.”
Busch said his primary worry in the final laps was that something unexpected would happen and spoil his night.
“When you’re running down those last 40 laps or whatever, it’s just, ‘What’s going to happen, what’s going to go wrong?’” he said. “You’re basically hoping that none of the other cars hit the wall or nobody spins out or nothing stupid happens in order to cause a caution because you have a decent-sized lead.”
Busch said that as runner-up Martin Truex Jr. closed the gap on him for a time, he simply tried to manage his lead to be sure he kept his car in good shape to take the victory.
“I knew I was kind of giving up a little bit of lap time and Martin was kind of closing on us a little bit there when we were getting through traffic,” he said. “But when you have a lead like that, you’ve got to take care of your car. You’ve got to take care of the situations you put yourself in, and so that’s what we were doing there.
“Our car was phenomenal all night long. We just didn’t want to force any issues there with it late in the going, and if there was anything that kind of would cause a late dash for cash, if you will, that we were ready to go for it.”
Kevin Harvick, one of Busch’s primary challengers at Charlotte and at other tracks this season, was fast in the early going, quickly driving from the rear of the pack to fourth place. But he had a flat left-front tire on Lap 83, slammed into the outside wall and scored a very rare last-place finish.
“I can’t complain about anything that’s happened this year,” said Harvick, who was going for his sixth points-paying win of the season and his fourth straight, counting the non-points All-Star race. “We have to take the good with the bad. The guys did a great job in basically guessing at where the car needed to be today with all the penalties, no practice and starting in the back.
“To come out and have the fastest car again was quite an honor to drive and they’re doing a great job. It was just bad luck.”
Harvick did not run a lap in qualifying because his car did not pass a pre-qualifying inspection.
Truex, who finished 3.8 seconds behind Busch to claim the runner-up spot over Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson, said he just wasn’t fast enough to outrun Busch.
“I don’t know if that’s [Busch] taking care of his tires because he had such a big lead, because at the end of the long runs he was faster,” said Truex, who had to overcome two pit-road penalties that sent him to the rear of the pack during the race. “At the end of the day, we ran second. He kicked everybody’s tail. That’s just the way it goes. That’s how it is.”