Kyle Busch scored not only a dramatic win Sunday night in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway but his first NASCAR Sprint Cup title. After missing the first 11 races of the season, Busch grabbed the lead with 10 laps to go and held of Kevin Harvick for the 34th win of his career and the fifth of the season. Here’s how it all went down Sunday.
After a delay of just over an hour and 20 minutes thanks to rain, the sun returned, and after some extended pace laps to complete track drying, Denny Hamlin led the field to the green for the third time this season and for the first time at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Joey Logano was able to get the lead under Hamlin on the first lap as Kyle Busch grabbed third, Ryan Newman fourth. Gordon took over forth on the second lap, Newman settled into fifth.
Hamlin was looking for the lead by lap 5. By lap 6 the top two had broken away from the rest of the field. But his car started smoking on lap 10 and on lap 13 NASCAR was forced to call a caution as there were reports of fluid on the track as several cars including Newman and Sam Hornish Jr. scrapped the wall.
The field came in for their first stops of the day on lap 15. Kyle Busch won the race off pit road, Truex was second, Carl Edwards third, Jeff Gordon fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fifth. Truex gained his spots after taking only two tires while the others took four. Logano stayed out along with Ryan Blaney, Aric Almirola and Kyle Larson and held the top four spots as Hamlin went to the garage. Brad Keselowski was penalized for too many men over the wall and was sent to the rear of the field.
Green came out on lap 19. Logano had a clear lead as Larson, Kyle Busch and Larson contested for second. On the next lap Kyle Busch was able to sang the lead from Logano; Carl Edwards was soon past Logano for second. Gordon and Truex dueled for third for a lap until Gordon took over the sport and soon got by Logano; Harvick followed for fourth, Truex settled into fifth. Harvick was fighting Gordon for third on lap 24. Harvick got the spot on lap 25. Truex having got only two tires, was falling back and was 8th by lap 31. NASCAR had called for a competition caution due to the previous evening’s rain and that came out on lap 31. The leaders all came in for the second stops of the day. Kyle Busch was first off pit road, Edwards was second followed by Gordon, Harvick and Jimmie Johnson.
The green came back out on lap 36. Gordon dove to the inside and took the lead ahead of Busch as Johnson followed to take over third; Edwards was fourth with Harvick stalking. Busch kept in touch with the leader as Johnson slipped by him for second on lap 39 as Harvick came with him. Harvick took the second spot from Johnson on lap 40 just as Kasey Kahne slowed with a flat right rear tire and caution three flew.
With only five laps since the last stops the top 10 stayed out and the green flew on lap 45. Gordon had the lead but Harvick on the outside and powered by for the lead. Busch was soon fighting Gordon for second and had the sport on lap 46 just as caution four came out when a crash erupted that included Earnhardt, Casey Mears, Clint Bowyer and Almirola. The crash started with Bowyer came up and got into Austin Dillon exiting turn 2. Also involved Rickey Stenhouse Jr. all were able to continue with varying degrees of damage; Hamlin was able to get his lap back and was on the lead lap. Johnson was forced to pit to repair his right rear fender after contact from a crewmember. NASCAR ruled that the manipulation was deliberate and also hit Johnson with a pass through penalty. Bowyer had to park his car for the last time with Michael Waltrip Racing as the damage from the crash was too great.
Green came back out on lap 54;Harvick went to first, Busch was second, Logano third; Truex and Edwards contested for fourth until Truex was able to grab the spot. Gordon who restarted third fell to eighth, he was ninth by lap 56. By lap 66 Harvick’s lead over Busch was nearing a second. By lap 74, Gordon had fallen to 11th and was struggling complaining of no rear grip.
Matt Kenseth in his first race back after a two-race suspension was fifth by lap 77. By lap 82 Harvick’s lead was 1.1 seconds as green flag stops loomed. Hamlin who was in the garage and three laps down at one point was 14th; Gordon had slipped to 12th.
Logano got by Busch for second on lap 89. Truex began the round of green flag stops on lap 90. Logano and Busch followed. Harvick came in on lap 92, followed by Gordon. When the stops cycled though, Logano led, Kyle Busch was second, Harvick was third followed by Edwards and Keselowski. Truex was ninth, Gordon 14th. Logano’s lead was 1.4 seconds.
By lap 120 there 20 cars on the lead lap. Logano’s lead was 1.5 seconds over Kyle Busch, Harvick was third followed by Edwards and Larson.
Larson made a three wide pass on the frontstretch on lap 128 to take over third as teams again prepared for green flag stops. Keselowski started the round of green flag stops on lap 137; Truex, Harvick, Gordon, Logano and others followed on lap 139. Kyle Busch came in from the lead on lap 140. During his stop, Truex’s car caught on fire at the rear, but the team wasn’t able to get all the fuel in he needed.
When the stops cycled though, Logano was back in the lead, Busch was second followed by Keselowski, Larson and Harvick.
Caution five came out for debris on lap 149. The leaders all came in for stops. Logano was out first, Kyle Busch second, Keselowski third followed by Harvick and Larson. The timing of the stops proved fortuitous for Truex who needed to top off with fuel. There were 14 cars on the lead lap. Edwards stayed out and had the lead.
Green came out on lap 155. Kyle Busch in third shot through Logano and Edwards to grab the lead. Keselowski and Harvick followed and fell into second and third. Harvick took second on lap 157. Logano was third, Kenseth fifth. Gordon was 10th, Truex was 11th; Truex and Gordon were fighting for the spot on lap 160. Kurt Busch moved into top five for the first time in the race on lap 164 getting by Kenseth.
Caution six came out on lap 166 for Josh Wise who got into the wall in turn 3, erasing Busch’s lead of nearly two seconds. The leaders all came in for stops. Truex took only two tires and was off pit road first followed by Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Harvick and Logano who had all taken four. The green came back out on lap 172; Keselowski on the inside was able to grab the lead, Truex fell into second. Kyle Busch was soon looking for second and had the spot on lap 174; Harvick took third from Truex on lap 175. On lap 177, Truex was trying to hold off Kurt Busch and Logano; they both got by followed by Larson a lap later.
Harvick was working on Busch for second on lap 183. Larson took over fifth on lap 189 as Keselowski’s lead was nearing a second over Busch. Harvick was third, Gordon ninth, Truex 12th. Busch had stretched his lead over Harvick to 1.2 seconds. Larson went to third on lap 212. Gordon reported that he might have a tire going down on lap 213. Truex pitted under green on lap 214; Harvick pitted on lap 215, Gordon followed, as did Kyle Busch.
Busch was able to get out ahead of Harvick with a five-second gap; Keselowski had the lead, Busch was second, Larson third, Harvick fourth and Hamlin fifth. Gordon was 10th, Truex 13th. With 31 laps to go Busch’s gap over Harvick was six seconds, Keselowski’s lead over Busch was 2.4 seconds. Larson was making a charge from third towards Busch with 28 laps to go. The gap for Busch was seven seconds with 22 to go. Keselowski however was seeing his lead shrink. Larson running a high line tagged the wall on lap 247. Larson was able to gather his car back up and made another run on Busch and took second on lap 253. Larson was a second faster than any others were and was looking for the lead.
Caution eight came out for debris with 11 laps to go. The leaders all came in for stops. Keselowski was out first, Busch was out second just ahead of Larson, Harvick was fourth, Logano fifth. All took four tires. Gordon was 10th, Truex 13th.
Keselowski chose to restart on the inside, Busch on the outside with Harvick just behind. The restart came on lap 260, seven laps to go. Busch held station on the outside and was able to take the lead with Harvick and Keselowski fighting for second, Harvick took second with 6 laps to go. Busch however began to stretch his lead out as the laps wound down. With four laps to go, the lead was 1.1 seconds. On the final lap the lead was 1.7 seconds. When the checkered flag fell, Kyle Busch had won the race and the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Harvick was second, Keselowski third, Logano fourth and Larson fifth.
Gordon finished sixth in his final race; Kenseth was seventh, Kurt Busch eighth, followed by Johnson and Hamlin. The full race results can be found here. The championship was the first Sprint Cup title for Toyota and the fourth for Joe Gibbs Racing.