Kyle Busch adds another accomplishment to his illustrious Cup career by winning the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Saturday.
Charlotte Motor Speedway hasn’t been kind for Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch, particularly the track’s annual Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race. The race has eluded Kyle from being involved in a two-car accident with his brother Kurt in 2007 to teammate Denny Hamlin putting Kyle into the wall in 2010.
In his 12th attempt, everything went great for Kyle and won his first All-Star Race at Concord, North Carolina Saturday.
It was also Kyle’s first ever Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of any kind at Charlotte and a clean sweep as he won the Camping World Truck Series race Friday.
On the final segment restart, Kyle muscled his way past leader Brad Keselowski and segment three winner Jimmie Johnson down the bottom of the track to take the lead and never looked back.
In an interview, Kyle said the win meant so much not only because it’s the All-Star Race but also winning a Cup sanctioned race at Charlotte.
“We finally achieved that goal Saturday night,” Kyle said. “We won the All-Star Race and a million dollars so there’s a reason to celebrate big. I can’t say enough about the No. 18 team.”
Kyle said his pit crew got the job done when it counted most after not having the fastest car.
“When you have (crew chief) Adam Stevens and my guys in the pit box, you can rely on them all day long,” Kyle said. “We weren’t quite the fastest car but we made the right changes when it mattered most, we made right moves when it mattered most and got the most out of our night and got here to victory lane. I’m so relieved, deluded, proud and excited all at the same time.”
After Kyle took the lead, Keselowski—who didn’t pit after running out of fresh tires—lost momentum entering turn one and was tapped by segment one and two winner Kyle Larson, nearly losing control of his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford.
Keselowski’s save came at the expense for Hamlin, who hit Keselowski and had a tire rub, resulting Hamlin to pit three laps later.
Johnson and Larson were unable to catch Kyle as the two battled for second on the last lap. Larson passed Johnson for second entering turn three on the bottom and slid in front of him to hold off the four-time All-Star winner.
A disappointed Larson—who came up short of winning the race for the second straight year—said the last pit stop held him back.
“We came down pit road as the leader and three other drivers passed us and that was the difference,” Larson said. “Track position was huge the last 10 laps and we didn’t have it at the end. We had the best car out there, even in traffic I thought I was good there. I was able to get the top rolling and would’ve needed a 20-lap run instead of 10. I thought we had it most of the race but that’s how racing goes. Sometimes it works out for you, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Johnson said he hoped Keselowski would spin his tires on the restart, preventing Kyle of having a great restart after the second row has been the preferred lane for making daring moves on restarts.
“I was really hopeful with Brad being on old tires and being on the bottom, he would’ve been able to hold that lane back especially Kyle with how good he is on the restarts. It just didn’t happen and got in there,” Johnson said. “I had a decent start and Denny wasn’t able to push me. I had a couple shots at Kyle because he wasn’t handling well to start the run but I just drove too hard. I could see a million dollars out the windshield and drove my car too hard in the corner a couple of times and gave up some ground. Strong performance to sit run the top-4 was a great sign for this Lowe’s Chevrolet.”
The Cup drivers will resume points racing at Charlotte Sunday with its longest race of the season, the Coca-Cola 600. Martin Truex, Jr. is the defending winner.