It was the Kyle and Kyle Show during the final laps of Sunday’s Overton’s 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. As Kyle Busch led the way, Kyle Larson began closing in to spark a dramatic finish on the final lap. After a physical battle, Busch came out on top.
For the first time in nearly a decade, Paul Menard started on the pole for Sunday’s race, his first top-qualifying position since the 2008 Coke Zero 400. Starting alongside him on the front row was Team Penske ally Ryan Blaney. Seven drivers started at the rear: Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Chris Buescher had their qualifying times disallowed after failing inspection, while Reed Sorenson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Daniel Suárez had unapproved pre-race adjustments.
Blaney took the lead as Menard began to fall. At the back, Truex quickly moved up the field, entering the top twenty by lap four. Clint Bowyer, who started fifth, took the lead from Blaney on lap 19. Three laps later, Truex passed Kevin Harvick to crack the top ten, while Menard eventually dropped out of the range entirely.
Green flag pit stops began on lap 36 as Truex hit pit road. Suárez received a penalty for having a crewman over the wall too soon, but Bowyer especially suffered during his stop when he was caught speeding as he exited pit road. When he returned to serve his pass-through penalty, he sped once again, resulting in a stop-and-go punishment. His woes continued when he failed to stop during the second penalty, forcing him to return to the pits. By the end, he was in thirty-fifth and two laps down.
Following stops, Aric Almirola was in first to lead his first laps since the Daytona 500. He eventually scored his first stage win, ahead of Larson, Truex, Kurt Busch, Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Blaney, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, and Erik Jones.
Almirola won the race off pit road ahead of Harvick, while Truex lost six spots on his stop. Larson reported a loss of power before his stop, prompting him to recycle the ignition.
Stage #2 began on lap 86. Harvick led the first lap of the stage before Almirola took first back. After ten laps, Larson re-entered the top ten. By the triple-digit-lap mark, Fords comprised the top four with Almirola, Harvick, Keselowski, and Busch.
On lap 129, Logano, Hamlin, and Truex pitted to begin green flag stops. Harvick pitted two laps later, with Almirola doing so after him. Jamie McMurray briefly led until he pitted to complete the pit cycle, placing Harvick back in first. The caution came out on lap 128 for debris in turn two. The field pitted, with Blaney taking two tires to lead off the pits as Ryan Newman stayed out to become the leader. Blaney, who restarted alongside Newman, took the lead after one lap, but Almirola caught up to Blaney and passed him on lap 136.
Almirola pitted from the lead on lap 142 for a loose wheel, allowing Busch to inherit the lead. Upon returning to the race, Almirola was one lap down. Harvick caught Busch as the two battled to the finish of the stage, the former passing his Stewart-Haas Racing team-mate in the tri-oval to win the stage. Larson finished third, followed by Truex, Blaney, Keselowski, Elliott, Bowyer, Hamlin, and Logano.
Harvick and Busch led the field to the start of Stage #3 on lap 168. Busch led until Larson passed him on lap 171. Harvick answered by taking the lead on lap 177, though he did not get to enjoy the front as the caution came out a lap later for Hamlin’s spin in turn two. With a two-tire pit strategy, Logano led the pitting cars for the restart, while Truex dropped seven spots with another poor stop. Suárez suffered his second pit penalty of the race, this time for speeding.
Keselowski and Almirola stayed out to occupy the front row for the lap 182 green flag. A good restart enabled Keselowski to pull ahead, but he relinquished the lead to Harvick on lap 186. On lap 192, Austin Dillon pulled onto pit road when his brakes caught fire.
By lap 200, Harvick maintained a lead of over three seconds ahead of second-placed Kyle Busch. Eight laps later, Corey LaJoie hit the turn two wall to produce the yellow flag. The leaders pitted and Busch came out on top in front of Harvick. The restart took place on lap 213. Although Busch continued to lead, Harvick narrowed the gap, while Bowyer overcame his earlier pit struggles to enter the top five by lap 234. Hamlin also bounced back from his spin to join the top ten.
Larson passed Harvick for second on lap 248 and began his charge. With ten laps remaining, Busch’s advantage shrank to half a second as lapped traffic hindered his progress; Newman was especially persistent in preventing Busch from lapping him. On the final lap, Larson was on Busch’s bumper.
In turn one, Larson made his move on the inside; when he slid up the track as they exited turn two, Larson clipped Busch and sent him into the wall, but the #18 continued. On the backstretch, Larson tried again on the inside, clearing Busch. However, Busch bumped Larson’s rear, causing the #42 to spin and the #18 to hit the wall again. As Larson went around, Busch kept his car stable and pulled off to score the win. Larson recovered the car in the infield to finish second, ahead of Harvick, Truex, Bowyer, Jones, Hamlin, Keselowski, and Bowman.
It is Busch’s fifth win of the year and first at Chicagoland since 2008.
“If you don’t like that kind of racing, don’t even watch,” Busch stated. “When you start beating and banging doors, that’s the way it turns out sometimes.”
“That’s got to be one of the best NASCAR finishes of all time,” Larson commented in an NBC interview. “I’m not upset. I had an opportunity there to slide in front of him. I thought it was fair game.”
Next week, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series travels to Daytona International Speedway for the third restrictor plate race of the year. Stenhouse is the defending winner.
2018 Overton’s 400 results
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