"Hometown hero, way to make it happen," were the words Kurt Busch heard over the radio from his crew chief as he crossed the start-finish line as a winner at Las Vegas for the first time in his career, when he took the checkered flag at the South Point 400 in the NASCAR playoffs. Busch had never won at his hometown track in 21 Cup series starts.
The win becomes that much sweeter for Busch as he now advances to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Playoffs. The 2004 Cup Series champion was the last of the playoff drivers in the standings entering the opening race in the Round of 12.
"This is my hometown and I have so many people to thank," said Busch, who celebrated the win without fans in attendance. "Yes it's a bit empty but my heart is full. I've won at my hometown track."
Busch was put in position for the lead after a debris caution with 32 laps to go. The rest of the playoff drivers, including leader at the time Denny Hamlin, had all pitted while Busch stayed out on the racetrack. After multiple curses on the radios of Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr, who was also in contention, Busch assumed the race lead.
The veteran, Busch, then executed a perfect restart against Matt DiBenedetto to hold the lead. However, John Hunter Nemechek went spinning with less than 20 laps to go to bring out another caution. This allowed players like Hamlin to get fresh tires for the run at the end.
Busch then had to overcome another caution with seven laps to go and face a restart against Hamlin in overtime. Even though Hamlin had fresher tires, he proved to be no match for the 42-year-old veteran, who went on to win the race.
"I think he's checked about everything off on the box he needed to check," Kyle Busch said of his brother, who adds a home win to his resume that already includes a title and Daytona 500. "He's going out in high style whenever he decides he's all done."
"He's going out in high style here whenever he decides he's all done."— Matt Mayer (@MatthewMayerCBS) September 28, 2020
Kyle Busch on his brother Kurt Busch finally winning at Las Vegas and adding a home-track win to a resume that already includes a championship and Daytona 500. pic.twitter.com/XvB5dqyktB
Younger brother Kyle went up to Kurt on the racetrack after the win and congratulated him with a bump. After the race, Kurt said it brought him back to the days when they were kids racing in legends cars.
The remaining races in the Round of 12 are at unpredictable tracks in Talladega and the Charlotte Roval. The four drivers below the cutline entering Talladega are Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola and Austin Dillon.
Dillon was having a strong playoff run entering the day and was riding in the top 10 most of the night. However, he was penalized for a team safety violation and then overheated which put him multiple laps down and last place in the playoff picture. Joey Logano also had issues during the race but rebounded and was able to finish 14th and stay above the playoff cutline.
Matt DiBenedetto, who was eliminated in the Round of 16, finished second for a second straight time at the track. DiBenedetto is in the midst of a contract year with Wood Brothers Racing and has a deadline of October 1st to determine whether he will return next season.
"We haven't had a lot of conversations," DiBenedetto said. "I hope and expect to be back with them. I haven't pursued anything else."