NASCAR's defending champion Kyle Busch will not repeat in 2020, but earned a consolation prize by winning for the first time this season at Texas. Busch entered the third-to-last race of the season without a win and was approaching his first winless season in 16 years.
Busch took the lead from teammate Martin Truex Jr. towards the end of Stage 2 during green flag pit stops and then crew chief Adam Stevens elected to stay out between stages, which proved to be the winning move. Busch created a lead of seven seconds in the Final Stage before making his final pit stop of the day.
The No. 18 then was instructed to allow Clint Bowyer to take the lead knowing that Bowyer was short on fuel. This allowed Busch to save more fuel himself knowing he'd eventually cycle back to the lead. Busch reclaimed the lead with 24 laps to go but only had a one-second lead over Truex. Busch was able to hold off Truex and save enough fuel to win his first race of the year.
"It ran out coming in here to do a burnout," Busch said of his fuel after the win on TV. He then went on to thank his crew chief and team, which Busch also did on the radio as he crossed the start-finish line. Busch actually forgot to do his signature bow to the crowd after winning.
"The last few laps, that's like winning the championship. That's how nervous I was," Busch said. "We're ready to fight next year, we'll be back."
Truex finished both stages second and also finished the race second. Despite the strong showing, Truex is basically in a must-win situation entering the Round of 8 finale at Martinsville after failing inspection twice and having his spoiler confiscated pre-race on Sunday. The No. 19 was docked 20 points and crew chief James Small was ejected. The bright side for Truex is that with the lengthy delay, Small was able to work on his car for Martinsville while other teams remained in Texas. Truex has won Martinsville two straight times.
Looking at the playoff picture, Joey Logano (win) Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski are the four drivers above the cutline entering Martinsville. Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Truex and Kurt Busch are the four drivers below the transfer line. Elliott was running towards the front throughout the race but during green flag pit stops late he had to pit twice for a vibration which took him out of contention.
Busch, who was eliminated from the playoffs following the Round of 12, now has two career wins at Texas. The two-time champion now has 57 career Cup Series wins overall, which is one back of Kevin Harvick for ninth all-time. While Busch was the big non-playoff driver to win, the other one still looking for a win is Jimmie Johnson, who blew up in the Final Stage. The 7-time champion only has two more chances to win in his final season before retiring from full-time competition.
#2020 🤬— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) October 28, 2020
Entering Wednesday, the story of the race was weather. The race originally started on Sunday, but inclement weather delayed it all the way to Wednesday. It took 72 hours, 28 minutes and 34 seconds following a red flag for moisture on Sunday to get the race restart. Track teams spent all day Monday and Tuesday drying the track, but ultimately were forced to start the race on Wednesday. Sunday's Round of 8 finale is still on schedule despite the mid-week race.