Kyle Busch and his new Richard Childress Racing team debated their late-race strategy at Talladega Superspeedway as he ran out of fuel and wasn’t sure he would make it to the end of a double-overtime finish.
Busch would give up valuable track position and basically any chance to race for Sunday’s win if he stopped for gas.
He would be at the front of the field for the final restart if he didn’t stop, but there was no guarantee that he would have enough gas to complete two laps and compete for the victory. Crew chief Randall Burnett called Busch in for fuel at the last minute as the debate raged.
Busch responded, “Too late,” as he was unable to reach the pit road entrance when he finally received the message.
Busch won under caution and in double overtime for his second win of the season and second at Talladega, 15 years after his previous victory on NASCAR’s biggest and fastest track. The gamble and miscommunication paid off.
“In my own mind, I was like there’s no way you come to pit road and just throw away your day. Like, your day is done,” Busch said. “So I was just like, ‘Why not just take the chance?’ And so he said, ‘Pit, pit, pit’ and it was too late, anyway.
“But also, I wouldn’t have anyway. I would have just taken the chance and said, ‘You know what? Roll the dice. Let’s go.'”
Before moving to Richard Childress Racing in the offseason, Busch, who drove for Joe Gibbs Racing for 15 years, gave car owner Childress his 13th victory at Talladega. The main part of those wins came from the late Dale Earnhardt, yet Childress had last succeeded at Talladega with Clint Bowyer in 2011.
Childress brought an open bottle of champagne from his vineyard with him to the post-race news conference.
Childress stated, “I think my stomach was in knots, but not as bad as the crew chief.” “Look, we done this deal, we done our decision, let’s ride it out no matter what,” Kyle stated. He didn’t leave at all. We were getting close to running out of gas. Just holding my breath, I was. If we ran out of gas, it wouldn’t be fun.
However, Talladega has been so supportive of RC. In 1969, I raced here. Quite possibly of the greatest break I got. I left here with about $1,500, $2,000, thought I’d at absolutely no point ever need to work in the future. I’m still racing here.
When Bubba Wallace jumped into the lead, Busch won cautiously. However, Wallace tried three times to block good friend Ryan Blaney, and the third block caused the crash that ended the race.
“Sometimes you’ve got to be lucky. Some of these races come down to that,” Busch said. “You’ve got to take them when they come to your way.”
As Busch celebrated at the finish line, NASCAR had to examine the final finishing order. 57 leads were changed.
Team Penske’s Blaney finished second and appeared annoyed by Wallace’s blocks.
“In my mind you kind of triple move like that, triple block, and you can’t block three times,” Blaney said. “Runs are just so big, and as the leader with Bubba, he’s trying to block which is the right thing to do, but I think he kind of moved three times. You don’t really get a lot of those. I’ve got to go somewhere.”
Wallace accepted responsibility, with team owner Michael Jordan watching from his pit stand.
“Close, close, close block,” he said. “Not [Blaney’s] fault. I honestly thought that he would leave me high and dry coming back around. Hate it I caused that one. Man, I thought it would play out a little different, obviously not getting wrecked.”
Pursue Briscoe from Stewart-Haas Dashing was third, trailed by Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski of RFK Hustling as Passage drivers were second through fifth.
In a Chevrolet, Legacy Motor Club’s Erik Jones finished sixth, followed by Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron and Toyota’s Christopher Bell, who finished eighth.
The race was relatively clean, and the first multicar collision didn’t happen until 48 laps into the race when Noah Gragson ran into the back of Harrison Burton, who was leading at the time, causing a five-car collision.
When Daytona 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. gave Corey LaJoie a big push with five laps remaining, he crashed into Joey Logano, sending Logano spinning into the wall.
That resulted in the race going into its first overtime, which was a disaster right away.
Ross Chastain pushed his vehicle into the center for a third path and his vehicle bobbed off Gragson, who hit the stopping point to set off the accident. Ryan Preece was hit full-contact after Kyle Larson was thrown into the grass and his car flew back into the middle of the road.
Preece, whose helmet’s visor was knocked open by the blow, described it as “Definitely probably one of the hardest hits that I’ve ever taken in my racing career.”
Larson said he was lucky he was not harmed.
“Thankfully, I’m OK,” Larson said. “My car is absolutely destroyed. The cockpit’s a mess.”
In order to ensure their participation in the second overtime, Kevin Harvick, pole sitter Denny Hamlin, and Chastain were sent to pit road for fuel following the seventh caution. Ty Gibbs was running out of gas when the race started, so he pulled out of the line right away. Busch quickly took the lead. Busch won the race for the second time this season after Wallace briefly pushed ahead before he was spun by Blaney.
Dover International Speedway will host NASCAR races on Sunday. Pursue Elliott is the protecting race champ.