SPARTA, Ky. — If fans came to Kentucky Speedway hoping for a different kind of night at the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart, they got what they wanted.
Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch put on a show, but it was the elder brother who won the race and gave Chevrolet its first Cup Series win at Kentucky and the driver his 31st win in the Cup Series.
“What a battle with my little brother. To race him side-by-side, try to play the chess game at 180 mph in the side draft,” Kurt Busch said. “As we drove down into Turn 3 on the last lap, I just stared straight at the No. 18 on his door and I never lifted until I heard him lift and then I was like ‘wait a minute, I still gotta miss the wall’ and he gave me just enough room as a true racer would.”
After the race, Kyle Busch said Kurt would have to find a ride home as they were supposed to share a jet back to North Carolina. Kurt confirmed he’d be looking for a lift but said the Quaker State 400 trophy will be sitting on Kyle’s table when the brothers get together for their off-day Sunday.
The Busch brothers battled on the final two laps after a caution set up overtime laps. The lead cars were three-wide coming out of Turn 2 after the restart and it became a duel between Kurt and Kyle Busch in the middle of Turn 3.
Kyle Busch had the advantage over Kurt Busch heading into the front stretch, but Kurt battled back in the outside lane and took the lead going into the final drive into Turn 1.
Battling down the backstretch, it looked as if the Busch brothers might wreck on the final lap, but they battled side-by-side all the way to the finish line.
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After the race, Kurt Busch said he was glad Kyle didn’t push him into the wall going down the backstretch.
“I got him cleared just by a little bit getting into the three and I think I could have stood up in front of him, but I think if I did, I would have knocked the wall down on the edge of it,” Kyle Busch said of the battle. “It was just going to be gearing too much speed for how bad my front tires were and how tight I was… we just didn’t make the right adjustments.”
The win also is the first of the year for Chip Ganassi Racing. Kurt Busch moved to Ganassi this season after driving for Stewart-Haas Racing previously. After the win, he said winning at Kentucky makes a statement and it’s not a fluke like what can happen at superspeedways.
Joey Logano, who had one of the best cars throughout the race and led by more than a second before the final caution came out with six laps to go, left Kentucky disappointed.
When asked what he takes away from Kentucky, Logano simply said: “We had the best car and didn’t win.”
In addition to NASCAR’s new aero package debuting at Kentucky, track officials also applied traction compound, which made multiple grooves work in all turns. That led to four-wide racing in the middle of turns and exciting restarts all night long.
The traction compound wore off during the race, but the grip level on the track was more than enough that the first-ever overtime at Kentucky produced some of the best racing of the season.
Kurt Busch celebrates after winning the Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart at Kentucky Speedway. (Photo: Brian Lawdermilk, Getty Images)
STAGES ONE AND TWO
The Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustangs dominated the early laps after Daniel Suarez and Aric Almirola started on the front row. Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, took the first stage after Suarez short-pitted the stage to play the pit-strategy game later in the race. That gamble wouldn’t pay off as Suarez never again contended.
After Ricky Stenhouse Jr. began Stage 2 out in front due to pit strategy, he surrendered the lead to Kyle Busch, who never looked back and won the stage easily.