Story courtesy: Hunter Thomas/TheFourthTurn.com
CONCORD, N.C. – Kyle Busch made a bold move in the final stage of the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race to bag $1 million and his first-ever victory in the non-points event at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night.
On the final restart of the night to kick-off the 10-lap dash to the finish, Kyle Busch who restarted third in his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 M&M's Caramel Toyota, pulled off a risky move as he dove underneath Brad Keselowski for the lead once the green flag flew. As the field continued through the tri-oval, Busch just barely avoided the grass as he completed the pass and took over the lead once into Turn 1.
"I thought Jimmie (Johnson) was in the catbird seat," Busch said. "I got just a good enough launch and a good restart there to get some traction going on the 2 (Brad Keselowski) car and when I got to start-finish I had to pull out and move to the bottom in order to get below them and that all worked. He left me enough room at the second kink and we just checked out from there. It wasn't the fastest car that won tonight, but it was certainly the best crew, pit crew, Adam Stevens - crew chief, everybody that works on this car to give me a good piece each and every week."
After Busch took over the top spot, he never looked back as he visited Victory Lane at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the first time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
"You have Adam Stevens and these guys in the pit box and you can rely on them all day long. I had to do that tonight. You know we weren't quite the fastest car, but we made the right changes when it mattered most. We made the right moves when it mattered most and we got the most out of our night tonight and got here to victory lane. Feel so relieved, alluded, proud and excited all in the same time."
Kyle Larson finished second in his Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Target Chevrolet. Larson restarted the final stage in fifth, but he was able to battle his way to a runner-up finish. Larson won Stage 1 and 2 during the non-points event.
"My pit crew has been awesome all year and I don't want to take anything away from them," Larson said. "We came down pit road the leader and three people passed us, that was pretty much the difference there. But, in ten laps, track position is huge. We just didn't have it there at the end. We had the best car out there, for sure. In traffic I thought it was really good. I thought we had it most of the race but that's how racing goes. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. But I think we had a really fast car today. We'll go onto the 600, that's a long race, and try it again."
Jimmie Johnson, winner of Stage 3 finished in the third position. Johnson restarted the fourth and final stage of the Monster Energy All-Star Race on the front row beside Keselowski, but the driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet was unable to catch Busch in the closing laps.
"When you're the second place car, you can't jump the leader. But everybody in the second, third, and fourth row is going to jump and do what they can to roll-up on the situation," Johnson said. "So, I was really hopeful of old tires and being on the bottom. They'd be able to hold that lane back, especially Kyle (Busch) and how good he is on race starts. And it just didn't happen. He got in there. I had a decent start. They weren't able to push me and get me going. And I had a couple of shots at him. He wasn't handling too well at the start of the run, but I just drove too hard. I could see a million dollars out the windshield and I just drove this Lowe's Chevy way too hard in the corner a couple of times and gave up some ground. We learned a little bit tonight and we'll come back next week and have some more fun."
Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray finished fourth and fifth. Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin completed the top-10.
Throughout the 70-lap race, there were no cautions, but there were three lead changes among four drivers. Larson led the most laps during the race.