Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch clinched his first victory of the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season, beating his brother Kyle Busch in a thrilling overtime finish at Kentucky.
Penske’s Joey Logano had seemed on course for victory after he battled past dominant stage two winner Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing) to take the lead for the first time in the race with 20 of the 267 laps remaining.
But a right-rear tyre blowout on Darrell Wallace Jr’s Chevrolet with five laps remaining triggered a final restart and sent the race into overtime.
Logano was joined on the front row for the final restart by Kyle Busch. Both had fitted two new tyres on their final pitstops, but stage one winner Kurt Busch – restarting on the outside of the second row – had opted for four.
With a tyre advantage, he powered around the outside of Logano’s Ford and engaged in a battle with his brother Kyle.
The two spent the majority of the final lap side-by-side, and contact was made – leading to a right-rear tyre rub on Kurt Busch’s Chevrolet.
But Kyle was unable to hold off his brother. Kurt powered around the outside of Turn 4 and won a drag race to the line to clinch victory and book his place in the playoffs.
The win came one week on from the rain-shortened Daytona round, in which Kurt Busch was wrong-footed by what turned out to be a race-ending red flag for lightning, called one lap after he had given up the lead by pitting.
Erik Jones had briefly challenged for the Kentucky lead in a three-wide moment against the Busch pair after a strong launch at the final restart before finishing behind his JGR team-mate Kyle Busch in third.
Kyle Larson climbed up the order throughout the final stage to end up fourth, despite starting the race in 19th and having been anonymous though the opening two stages.
JGR’s Denny Hamlin recovered from a pitlane penalty for an uncontrolled tyre during a stage-two pitstop to finish fifth, assisted by a timely free pass opportunity at the end of the stage to recover to the lead lap.
Clint Bowyer finished sixth, despite also facing a recovery after being caught out when a right-rear puncture for Chase Elliott triggered a caution mid-way through the opening stage.
SHR’s Bowyer was one of only a handful of drivers to pit prior to the incident and lost significant track position.
But he was eventually able to cycle back to the front of the field – opting not to pit at the end of stages – leading the race during the opening exchanges in the final stage before sliding back on account of an early final pitstop.
William Byron had cycled to the front with a similar strategy to Bowyer. The Hendrick Motorsports’ driver dropped out of contention after being handed a penalty for jumping a restart when on the front row with Bowyer, and finished 18th.
|1||Kurt Busch||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet|
|2||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
|3||Erik Jones||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
|4||Kyle Larson||Chip Ganassi Racing||Chevrolet|
|5||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
|6||Clint Bowyer||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford|
|7||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford|
|8||Daniel Suarez||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford|
|9||Ryan Newman||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford|
|10||Chris Buescher||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet|
|11||Paul Menard||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford|
|12||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Roush Fenway Racing||Ford|
|13||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford|
|14||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford|
|15||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|16||Matt DiBenedetto||Leavine Family Racing||Toyota|
|17||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|18||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
|20||Brad Keselowski||Team Penske||Ford|
|21||Ryan Preece||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet|
|22||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford|
|23||Darrell Wallace Jr.||Richard Petty Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|24||Daniel Hemric||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet|
|25||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports||Ford|
|26||Ty Dillon||Germain Racing||Chevrolet|
|27||Matt Tifft||Front Row Motorsports||Ford|
|28||Corey LaJoie||Go FAS Racing||Ford|
|29||David Ragan||Front Row Motorsports||Ford|
|30||Jimmie Johnson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|31||Ross Chastain||Premium Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|32||Landon Cassill||StarCom Racing||Chevrolet|
|33||Bayley Currey||Petty Ware Racing||Ford|
|34||Quin Houff||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|35||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet|
|36||B.J. McLeod||Rick Ware Racing||Chevrolet|