FORT WORTH, Texas (OCT. 28, 2020)
Reigning NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kyle Busch outlasted a three-day rain delay and the rest of the field at Texas Motor Speedway to overcome a season-long winless streak to win the 16th annual Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500.
Busch beat Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. to the checkered flag by 0.468-of-a-second.The victory was his 57th in NASCAR’s premier series and fourth at The Great American Speedway (Spring 2013, Spring 2016, Spring 2018). He was presented in Speedy Cash Victory Lane with the track’s traditional Smith & Wesson 629 Deluxe six-shooters and cowboy hat.
“It means a lot just to keep that winning streak going,” Busch said. “That’s the biggest thing I was hoping for and obviously wanting to accomplish this year before the year was out. I can’t say enough about Adam Stevens (crew chief) and Tony Hirschman (spotter), my pit crew guys and everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing for all their hard work and everything that they do year in and year out.
“Winning the race was (paramount). I knew we had a good car early on in the race. We were really loose, but we made some adjustments before the rain and then obviously sitting around for three days. Being able to get back at it, I knew we were going to have a good piece. It was just a matter of getting through traffic. Some of those guys on the short runs were just putting me in really bad aero spots and I was able to make something happen once we all got single-filed out I could roll and show them what we really had.”
Wet weather postponed Sunday afternoon’s race after just 52 of the scheduled 334 laps. Attempts to restart the event both Monday and Tuesday were again thwarted by wet weather. The race finally restarting Wednesday at 4:11 p.m. CT after a 72:28:34-hour delay, the longest in NASCAR’s modern era (since 1972).
The balance of the top-10 finishers of the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 were Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Matt DiBenedetto, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.
Kevin Harvick, attempting to win his fourth consecutive fourth consecutive fall race at No Limits, Texas finished 16th. Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson, the all-time series win leader at TMS with seven and who is retiring from fulltime NASCAR competition at the end of the season, finished 36th.
Texas Lottery® pole winner Harvick led the field to green Sunday afternoon followed by fellow championship contenders Logano, Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Bowman, Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch. Championship contender Truex had to fall to the back of the field due to failing pre-race inspection multiple times.
Harvick jumped to the early lead but racing was slowed twice in the early laps for cautions after Chris Buescher and JJ Yeley hit the wall in separate incidents in the first 22 laps.
Hamlin and Harvick each tagged the Turn 2 wall, on Laps 26 and 28, respectively, not enough bring out the caution but causing damage to the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and No. 4 Stewart-Haas Ford. Harvick was leading at the time he made contact.
Despite a positive weather forecast for the area around Texas Motor Speedway, fog and mist began to envelop the Great American Speedway and, by Lap 52, NASCAR made the decision to throw the caution flag and then the red flag to halt the competition. The top 10 at the time consisted of Clint Bowyer, Johnson, Erik Jones, Truex, Logano, Elliott, Blaney, Keselowski and Kyle Busch.
Bowyer picked up Wednesday afternoon where he left off Sunday when green-flag racing finally resumed on Lap 57. Despite two cautions over the next 48 laps, one for a crash involving Matt Kenseth and Bubba Wallace on Lap 60 and another for debris on Lap 77, Bowyer was able to maintain the top spot to earn his fourth stage win of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season.
The balance of the top-10 finishers at the conclusion of Stage 1 were: Truex, Jones, Blaney, Johnson, William Byron, Elliott, Logano, Austin Dillon, and DiBenedetto.
After the majority of the field came down pit road for service during the break, Bowman was out front to start Stage 2 on Lap 112 with Bowyer right next door. He, Blaney, and Truex swapped the lead through the first part of the stage, with Truex leading at the halfway point, finally making the race official.
Late-stage green-flag pit stops jumbled the leaderboard before Kyle Busch made his way to the top of the pylon with just four laps remaining in the stage.
The balance of the Stage 2 top-10 finishers were: Bowman, Keselowski, Blaney, Christopher Bell, Austin Dillon, Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Harvick.
The race’s final stage began with 119 laps remaining on Lap 215. Busch maintained the lead with Bowyer and Blaney in tow. By Lap 230, Busch and Bowyer had built a 1.5-second lead on Truex and the rest of the top 10.
On lap 244, with 90 laps remaining, Busch was 0.75-of-a-second ahead of Bowyer, who was then 4.5 seconds ahead of Truex.
Bowyer dropped from challenge on Lap 259, while running second, when he was the first of the leaders to pit under green for the final scheduled stop. Leader Kyle Busch followed on Lap 268 and the rest of the leaders followed over the ensuing 10 laps.
After those stops cycled through the field, Bowyer was back to the point with 50 laps remaining on Lap 284. He was 3.5 seconds ahead of second-place Kyle Busch with 30 laps remaining while Truex remained in third and Bell in fourth.
Bowyer gave up the lead to Busch when he came down pit road for a needed splash of fuel to get to the checkered flag. Busch maintained a 0.8-of-a-second lead over Truex at the time.
Truex was able to cut the lead in half but Busch was not to be challenged over the final 24 of the race. He led five times for 90 laps.
There were 23 lead changes among 11 drivers and eight cautions for 47 laps.
Joey Logano clinched his spot in the Championship 4 with his Oct. 18 victory at Kansas Speedway. The balance of the NASCAR Playoffs Round of 8 standings, with one race remaining before The Championship 4 in Phoenix are Kevin Harvick (+42), Denny Hamlin (+27), Brad Keselowski (+25), Chase Elliott (-25), Alex Bowman (-25), Martin Truex Jr. (-36), and Kurt Busch (-81). The final race to qualify for the Championship 4 is Nov. 1 at Martinsville Speedway.
Adult season tickets for the 2021 season start at just $169 with season tickets for kids ages 12 and under starting at just $30. Tickets are also on sale for this Sunday’s Autotrader EchoPark 500/SpeedyCash.com 400 NASCAR playoff doubleheader and can be obtained at www.texasmotorspeedway.com/nascar-indycar-tickets/individual-tickets
or by calling (817) 215-8500.
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