Kurt Busch described the events of Sunday night as the kind of thing that kids dream of when they grow up racing. His brother Kyle Busch called the evening “dismal.”
The Busch brothers had different experiences at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, their hometown track, Sunday at NASCAR’s South Point 400. While the elder Busch led the final 29 laps of the race to claim his first victory at the track and secure a spot in the Round of 8 in the playoffs, the younger Busch finished in sixth and sits nine points below the points cutoff heading into races at Talladega Superspeedway followed by the Charlotte Roval.
“I looked like it was going to be about 12th or 14th if we didn’t have some good moves on that last restart there to get us a sixth-place finish,” Kyle Busch said after the race.
After his second-place finish last the weekend prior at Bristol, the defending Cup champion said he didn’t think his team would make it through this round of the playoffs, given the unpredictability of the upcoming courses and the speed his car has lacked throughout the season. The No. 18 driver remains winless in 2020 and is facing the same reality as other drivers on the points bubble: Trying to lock in a win, or at least enough points, at two tough tracks to remain in title contention through the Round of 12.
Meanwhile, the pressure is off the No. 1 team. Kurt Busch said he’s focusing on securing enough points at Talladega and Charlotte to make it the Championship 4 race.
“There’s not going to be any consequences the next two weeks,” Kurt Busch said. “But still, we want to gain points. We want to put some points in our pocket from the stages and the finish at Talladega and the Roval just to build up towards the season end.”
No. 88 Hendrick driver Alex Bowman said his team will focus on doing the same. He’s not quite able to savor a Vegas victory, but Bowman had a strong run on Sunday, finishing in fifth place after racing in the top-five throughout the evening. He is nine points above the cutoff as the final driver to make it in on points.
“I feel like in the past I have kind of tried to throw haymakers in the Round of 12,” Bowman said. “Where I think this year we just need to execute each and every week. Not do anything dumb. Finish where we’re supposed to finish.”
Clint Bowyer (-20), Aric Almirola (-27) and Austin Dillon (-32) also sit below the cutoff after Sunday. Rather than fear the unknowns of the superspeedway and Charlotte’s road course, Bowyer said he “likes” the next two races.
“It ain’t Hail Mary time,” Bower said.” These 20 points can fall on your lap pretty easy at a track like Talladega and the Roval. You just gotta go out there and be smart and we’ll do that. Do the best we can.”
Dillon, whose postseason started with promise after two top-fives in the first round, had a bottom-10 finish at Las Vegas after a late mechanical issue forced him to pit road under green flag conditions. Dillon re-entered the race nine laps down, essentially undoing the early points gain the No. 3 team made in the races at Darlington and Richmond. But Dillon tweeted out a saying that has become his rallying cry for racing: “FIDO.”
“Forget it and Drive On.”
It’ll likely be easier for Dillon to “forget it” than Kyle Busch since his brother’s win is now part of the family history.
“What a great feeling, to have (Kyle) give me the celebratory mandatory door donut down the back straightaway,” Kurt said after the race. “It was a flashback of legend car racing when we raced against each other as kids.”
The seven-year age difference gave the older Busch the advantage back then, he said.
“It took us right back to memory lane in 20 years,” Kurt Busch said.
Kyle Busch might have more career wins than his brother and one more Cup championship, but he said it was cool to see Kurt finally get to Victory Lane in Las Vegas, even if the No. 18 driver needed a W himself.
“That’s kind of like a Daytona 500 win, but he’s got one of those so he still one-upped me again,” Kyle Busch said. “We’ll have to figure out if we can get a win this year.”
NASCAR playoff points standings after Las Vegas
Martin Truex Jr.
NASCAR South Point 400 at Las Vegas race results
Martin Truex Jr.
John Hunter Nemechek
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.