HOMESTEAD, Fla. — No one had any chance of catching Kyle Busch in the third stage of Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Busch got the lead from teammate Denny Hamlin shortly after the beginning of the third stage and cruised after a round of green-flag pit stops to win the race and the 2019 Cup Series title.
It’s the second championship of Busch’s career. He won the 2015 title by winning this same race in an injury-shortened season. Busch suffered severe lower-leg injuries in a hard crash in the season-opening Xfinity Series race. The wreck caused him to miss the first 11 Cup Series races of the season but Busch ended up winning five of the 25 races he competed in.
Busch’s second championship also comes as he broke a 21-race winless streak. While Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. — the three drivers he was racing against for the championship — had all won a race in the previous round of the playoffs, Busch’s most recent win came on June 2 at Pocono.
After winning four of the season’s first 14 races, Busch was mired in a slump. Relatively speaking. He still racked up 13 top-10 finishes in those 21 races but didn’t get to victory lane as his teammates Hamlin and Truex Jr. won eight races in that span.
Busch is now the 16th driver with multiple Cup Series titles. The win is also the 19th of the season for Joe Gibbs Racing. It’s the first time in modern NASCAR history that a multi-car team has won over half the races in a season. JGR’s 19 wins beats Hendrick Motorsports’ 18 wins in 2007.
“I mean, damn, what a season Joe Gibbs Racing put together,” Busch said. “For as awesome as our group is, everybody back in the shop, how awesome they are at building some really, really special racecars. We put it on them this time.”
Truex’s team mismatches tires
Truex had the dominant car of the first part of the race. Hell, dominant may be an understatement. He lapped 27 cars through the first 80 laps of the race and set sail to start the second stage.
But he lost the lead and never got it back when he had to come to pit road shortly after his pit stop in the middle of the second stage. His team had put the front tires on the wrong sides of the car.
“I've never had that happen,” Truex said. “No. No. I don't even know what to say. No. It doesn't drive good with the left front on the right front, though, I can tell you that. It's very tight.”
Truex obviously noticed the issue right away and quickly came back to the pits. But he lost enough track time that he had to unlap himself during the stage.
He easily did that because his car was so fast. But he didn’t get close to the lead after that. Truex ultimately finished second but was over 4.5 seconds behind Busch.
“Ultimately it was the loss of track position that bit us,” Truex said. “We restarted the third stage in third, and really wish I could have been either second or fourth. I got blitzed on the outside by [Erik Jones] and [Joey Logano] and a couple of those guys, and then I had to just run the crap out of my right front to get by back them and I got tight on that run and it took me forever to just get by a few cars.
Harvick hopes for caution, finishes fourth
After fading from Busch’s rear view mirror throughout the third stage of the race, Harvick and his team decided to wait as long as possible in the third stage of the race to pit.
With tire wear exceptionally high at Homestead, that was a decision that cost Harvick time on the track. His team was hoping for a caution. It never arrived as the final stage went caution-free.
Harvick ended up finishing fourth behind Erik Jones.
“We just needed to do something different,” Harvick said. “They were so much better than us on the long run, that was our best chance, to have a caution there at the end and we never got one. We did something different, hoping for a caution. We had to do the opposite and it just didn't work out."
Ill-applied tape dooms Hamlin’s chances
Hamlin brought his car back to pit road in the third stage of the race after his car’s engine started spewing water. Hamlin’s team had applied tape to the grille of the car to make a significant adjustment during his final scheduled pit stop.
But the tape was too much and started to overheat the engine. Hamlin, convinced that the engine would fail if he tried to keep it on track with over 40 laps to go, pitted so that his team could remove the tape from the car.
That pit stop put him a lap down. But Hamlin’s car was fast enough after the stop that he drove past Busch to get his lap back before finishing 10th, the last car on the lead lap.
1. Kyle Busch
2. Martin Truex Jr.
3. Erik Jones
5. Joey Logano
6. Clint Bowyer
7. Ryan Newman
8. Austin Dillon
9. Alex Bowman
10. Denny Hamlin
11. Ryan Blaney
12. Daniel Hemric
13. Jimmie Johnson
14. Daniel Suarez
15. Chase Elliott
16. Chris Buescher
17. Paul Menard
18. Brad Keselowski
19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
20. Matt DiBenedetto
21. Kurt Busch
22. Aric Almirola
23. John Hunter Nemechek
24. Ty Dillon
25. Ryan Preece
26. Michael McDowell
27. David Ragan
28. Landon Cassill
29. Drew Herring
30. JJ Yeley
31. Corey LaJoie
32. BJ McLeod
33. Timmy Hill
34. Bubba Wallace
35. Ross Chastain
36. Josh Bilicki
37. Reed Sorenson
38. Joe Nemechek
39. William Byron
40. Kyle Larson
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports
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