Kyle Busch scores his fourth win of the season, denying Chase Elliott’s shot of his first career win by 0.357 seconds. Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman had a heated confrontation during post-race after Newman was eliminated from the playoffs.
It was the tale of two 24’s during the final race of the Round of 16. Chase Elliott was two laps short of capturing his first career win after Kyle Busch passed him at the backstretch and crossed the line in first at the Apache Warrior 400 at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware Sunday.
It’s Busch’s fourth win of the season and will start the Round of 12 trailing points leader Martin Truex, Jr. by 18 points.
Busch described his battle with Elliott as a hard-fought effort to clear him during the closing laps at the Monster Mile.
“That was everything I had. I was trying to get there and got stuck there for a few laps. I wasn’t sure that I wasn’t going to make it all the way and then I was like ‘you know what, I got to try the top again,’” Busch said. “The top had been working and it kind of got me there. I got up there and got to the top and I got rim riding. I got the momentum on the straightaways and that carried me by the No. 24.”
Busch acknowledged Elliott’s hunger of getting his elusive win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
“I know Chase is hungry. I know he’s been trying a couple of years to get his first Cup Series win. I’ve raced with him for a long long time in late models and coming up through the ranks in the Xfinity Series and now here in the Cup Series. I saw that carrot hanging out there and I was going to get it. I just gave everything I had and fortunately it was enough,” Busch said. “We had a little bit of fresher tires than he did. That drug us right to him, but great show for the fans. With all the angst of trying to catch him, I wasn’t sure I was going to get there and the finally being able to pull the move off and winning this thing with a couple of laps to go.”
Elliott—who led a race-high 138 of 400 laps—felt he blew his best opportunity of capturing his maiden win in NASCAR’s top level before relinquishing the No. 24 to William Byron as he’ll race in the rebranded No. 9 Chevrolet in 2018.
“I’m just so disappointed at myself. Golly, I couldn’t have had it any easier. We ran green from the stage wreck all the way to the end. I gave it away,” Elliott said. “I appreciate my team and their efforts. Our pit stops were great and they kept us in the ballgame, but I didn’t.”
Drama ensued after the race between Elliott’s predecessor and co-owner of the No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon and driver Ryan Newman.
Newman, along with Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon and Kasey Kahne were eliminated from the playoffs. Gordon sarcastically thanked Newman for getting in the way of Elliott and hurting his chances of winning.
Newman wasn’t pleased with the four-time champion’s comments, claiming his comment came off as a “smartass” remark as the two walked away without physical confrontation.
Their playoff outcomes became the turning point of the season at Phoenix Nov. 9, 2014 as it was Newman who eliminated Gordon from making the Inaugural Championship 4 after Newman divebombed Kyle Larson for 11th.
Before the confrontation, Newman said he didn’t have the car to advance into the next round.
“We weren’t good enough. It’s simple as that,” Newman said. “We just didn’t have enough what it took and you can’t run where we ran the last three races and expect to go out and win the championship. We got some work to do to build on for next year and we’ll do that.”
Among the drivers who advanced into the Round of 12 was Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. who came home in 19th and earned stage points after finishing fourth in stage one.
Stenhouse, Jr. thanked crew chief Brian Pattie for the strategy that got him stage points.
“We feel lucky. We caught the caution there at the right time. Pattie kept us out. Great strategy and it paid off,” Stenhouse, Jr. said. “We were able to get some stage points and really that was the turning point of our day. Really gave us a lot a buffer and made us feel a little bit at ease as we walked ourselves through the race.”
Stenhouse, Jr. will start the next round in eighth, 49 points behind Truex, Jr.
The race saw 15 lead changes among six drivers. Four cautions came out Sunday that slowed the race down for 24 laps including one race stoppage after Jefferey Earnhardt hit the barrels at the entry of pit lane. The red flag marked the 14th stoppage of the season.
From 16 to 12, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff contenders will continue their title quest Oct. 8 for the annual Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. Jimmie Johnson is the defending race winner.