By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
FORT WORTH — After winning the three-time-weather-delayed Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Wednesday, Kyle Busch climbed from his car and pointed to the image of a zombie on his helmet.
“This is what we’ve all looked like around here for the last three days,” Busch quipped. “Everybody just zombied into their phones.”
In reality, 72 hours, 28 minutes and 34 seconds elapsed between the time NASCAR red-flagged the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race on Sunday and lifted the red at 5:03 p.m. ET on Wednesday afternoon after many attempts to dry the track and complete the event on Monday and Tuesday.
Using every trick in his arsenal, and with constant direction from crew chief Adam Stevens, Busch saved enough fuel over the last green-flag run to get 66 laps out of his last tank of gas. Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota ran out of fuel during the celebratory burnout on the frontstretch.
The victory was Busch’s first of the season, preserving a 16-year streak of winning at least one race per season, starting with his rookie year in 2005. It was his third win at the 1.5-mile speedway in Fort Worth and the 57th of his career.
“We finally got it,” Busch said. “I was so nervous… I was nervous the whole last run. I’ve been in this position so many times. The last three laps, though, that’s like winning the championship. That’s how nervous I was.
“I can’t believe it, but just so proud to be here. My team guys, awesome pit stops, they were phenomenal. We’re ready to fight next year—we’ll be back.”
The victory also was welcome consolation for the reigning series champion, who was eliminated from the Playoff in the Round of 12.
By winning, though, Busch frustrated teammate and Playoff driver Martin Truex Jr., who likely needed a victory at either Texas or next Sunday at Martinsville to advance to the Championship 4 event at Phoenix Raceway. After his final green-flag pit stop on Lap 276 of 334—eight laps after Busch came to pit road for the last time and packed his Camry full of fuel—Truex chased his teammate, trimming a deficit of more than five seconds to .468 seconds at the finish line.
“We knew he was close (on fuel),” Truex said. “The only thing we could do at that point is what we did all day anyway, which is try to run flat-out. Hell of an effort by the guys… It seems like one of those years when we’re second, third, fourth. We’re there a lot. We just needed a little bit more to be better.”
Sunoco rookie Christopher Bell ran third, followed by Ryan Blaney and Playoff driver Alex Bowman. Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Matt DiBenedetto, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano completed the top 10.
Logano already has qualified for the Championship 4 with a victory Oct. 18 at Kansas Speedway. Kevin Harvick finished 16th after suffering damage from a brush with the wall on Sunday (when 52 laps were completed), but the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford remained 42 points above the Playoff cut line.
Hamlin and Keselowski are 27 and 25 points, respectively, above the cutoff heading to Sunday’s elimination race at Martinsville. Chase Elliott had to make an unplanned pit stop to change a corded tire, lost a lap and finished 20th. Both he and Bowman, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, are 25 points behind Keselowski in the standings, in danger of falling out of the Playoff.
NASCAR Cup Series Race – 16th Annual Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500
Texas Motor Speedway
Fort Worth, Texas
Sunday, October 25, 2020
- (9) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 334.
- (6) Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 334.
- (15) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 334.
- (10) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 334.
- (5) Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, 334.
- (3) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 334.
- (8) Kurt Busch (P), Chevrolet, 334.
- (14) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 334.
- (7) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 334.
- (2) Joey Logano (P), Ford, 334.
- (12) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 334.
- (22) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 334.
- (11) William Byron, Chevrolet, 334.
- (16) Cole Custer #, Ford, 334.
- (19) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 334.
- (1) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 333.
- (21) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 333.
- (29) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, 333.
- (25) Ryan Newman, Ford, 333.
- (4) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 333.
- (17) Erik Jones, Toyota, 333.
- (24) John Hunter Nemechek #, Ford, 332.
- (13) Aric Almirola, Ford, 332.
- (27) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 332.
- (28) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 331.
- (23) Michael McDowell, Ford, 331.
- (30) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 328.
- (31) Brennan Poole #, Chevrolet, 328.
- (37) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 326.
- (36) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 325.
- (38) Garrett Smithley(i), Ford, 325.
- (35) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 321.
- (34) Quin Houff #, Chevrolet, 316.
- (20) Chris Buescher, Ford, 310.
- (40) Chad Finchum(i), Toyota, 310.
- (26) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Engine, 279.
- (39) Joey Gase(i), Ford, Suspension, 184.
- (18) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, Accident, 59.
- (32) Matt Kenseth, Chevrolet, Accident, 59.
- (33) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 20.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 135.263 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 42 Mins, 14 Secs. Margin of Victory: .468 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 8 for 47 laps.
Lead Changes: 23 among 11 drivers.
Lap Leaders: K. Harvick (P) 1-28;A. Bowman (P) 29-45;M. Truex Jr. (P) 46;B. Poole # 47;C. Bowyer 48-81;M. Truex Jr. (P) 82;C. Bowyer 83-108;A. Bowman (P) 109-134;R. Blaney 135-138;M. Truex Jr. (P) 139;R. Blaney 140-155;M. Truex Jr. (P) 156-198;K. Busch 199-201;M. DiBenedetto 202-203;A. Almirola 204;E. Jones 205-206;K. Busch 207-216;C. Bowyer 217;K. Busch 218-267;M. Truex Jr. (P) 268-274;C. Bell # 275-279;K. Busch 280-282;C. Bowyer 283-310;K. Busch 311-334.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kyle Busch 5 times for 90 laps; Clint Bowyer 4 times for 89 laps; Martin Truex Jr. (P) 5 times for 53 laps; Alex Bowman (P) 2 times for 43 laps; Kevin Harvick (P) 1 time for 28 laps; Ryan Blaney 2 times for 20 laps; Christopher Bell # 1 time for 5 laps; Erik Jones 1 time for 2 laps; Matt DiBenedetto 1 time for 2 laps; Aric Almirola 1 time for 1 lap; Brennan Poole # 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 14,19,20,12,48,24,9,22,3,21
Stage #2 Top Ten: 18,19,88,2,12,95,3,14,47,4
Photo by NKP