Two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champions held their own showdown Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Bush were in a duel for the win in the closing laps at the mile-and-a-half in the Lone Star State. Bush got the upper-hand at the end of this battle, beating Harvick to the checkered flag by .300 seconds in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, for his first win of 2018. The win was big for Bush, who had three runner-up finishes in the first six races of 2018. The numbers after Sunday put Bush in a tie for the 16th position on the all-time wins list with NASCAR Hall of Famer, Bill Elliott, at 44 victories in the Cup series. Bush shared his thoughts on the impact of the outcome, post race.
“It feels awesome,” Busch said. “Any time you can win at a track that kind of isn’t maybe one of your favorites or isn’t one of your best, then it definitely means even more because it just – you try to focus on those tracks and make it a little bit more meaningful and a little bit more special to get it done.”
“So cool though to be in Victory Lane here- finally this year and punch our ticket into the Playoffs and of course, you know also just continue our hot streak of being the points leader right now and keeping these guys focused on what we need to do all year long.”
Bush was chased by Harvick over the final 22 laps. Smooth laps made keeping the lead easier during the run to the finish.
“Harvick was probably just a tick faster overall, but I just had to make sure to do everything I could to hit all my marks and everything to focus on making sure that I did the right things to block his air a little bit,” Busch said.
Harvick noted the job Bush did in the latter stages of the race to run clean and keep his Toyota pinned on the bottom.
“Kyle’s car was good enough to where he could get out there and run pretty good in clean air,” Harvick said. “It took us the whole run to be able to get everything back together and do everything we needed to do to make up a position.”
“We weren’t as good behind him as we were in front of him. His car would run fast enough. There is only so much you can make up,” he said.
Harvick earned his chance to contend with Bush at the end of the race, coming back from problems after earning the Stage 1 win. On a pit stop on Lap 129, a lug nut flew off his tire as it was being changed, flying into the jack, which kept it from lowering. That dropped Harvick from the lead to ninth, with Bush back in command. Seven laps later, the 2014 champion brought his Ford back to pit road to remedy a loose wheel. Harvick would lose a lap, but he regained it by remaining on track during a cycle of pit stops under green. Harvick was hit with a penalty on lap 237 under caution. A crew member for the 4 team fell over the wall and into Harvick’s pit box, as he tried to catch a tire. His slip led to a penalty of two-many-men-over-the-wall.
Harvick put on a charge after the miscue, regaining second place by passing Erik Jones on Lap 287. A caution on Lap 303, when Ryan Newman blew a right-front tire and hit the wall in Turn 1, gave Harvick another shot at Bush. That charge was all Harvick had. Bush pulled away on the restart, holding P1 to the end. Jamie McMurray ran third, Jones finished fourth, while Ryan Blaney claimed fifth. Joey Logano, pole winner Kurt Bush, Darrell Wallace Jr., Clint Bowyer and William Byron finished sixth-tenth, respectively. The finish of tenth was a career-best for Byron, who is a contender for Rookie of the Year.
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