Busch captures second career championship at Homestead

Kyle Busch picked the perfect time to end his much-discussed 2019 losing streak Sunday at the championship-deciding Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The victory, his first victory after 21-straight failed attempts, earned Busch his second career Cup championship.

Busch’s win was his fifth of the season but his first since June 2 at Pocono Raceway.

It came thanks to a dominating run in the final stage of the 267-lap Ford EcoBoost 400. He led 120 of those laps.

Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and Championship 4 member Martin Truex Jr. finished second. The margin of victory was 4.578 seconds.

Contender Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing finished fourth, while Denny Hamlin, a third contender for the Gibbs team, finished 10th.

Busch’s first came in 2015 when he also won at Homestead in the season finale. But that championship, according to differing opinions, came with an asterisk attach since he did not compete in the full season. The Las Vegas native was injured that season and had to sit out the first 11 races. NASCAR, however, waived its rule that drivers must start all races to be eligible for the championship.

This championship will have no asterisk.

Busch’s scary moment came just after the restart from the caution between Stages 2 and 3. He was challenged by Hamlin and the two traded the lead a couple times. On the final trade of the lead, the two JGR drivers banged doors. Busch emerged in front, and from there he sprinted out to a big lead.

The victory was the 19th of the season for a Gibbs car. That is the most ever by one organization.

For the other three contenders in the Championship 4:

Truex became the first of the foursome to run into trouble. After leading 98 laps, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver lost the lead to Busch just after green-flag pit stops in Stage 2. Worse for Truex, during his stop his crew put wrong-side tires on the front of his car. He had to pit to fix the problem and in doing so, fell a lap off the pace.

Truex got a great break, however, when NASCAR opted to wave a yellow flag when John Hunter Nemechek got loose but kept going on Lap 137. Truex was the first car a lap down when the caution was called and, hence, was put back on the lead lap. By the early laps of the final stage, Truex was back running in the top three.

Hamlin’s reputation of being the best current driver not to have won a championship remained intact. The 38-year-old driver started from the pole but was able to lead only two laps. He ran near the front until the final 50 laps. With 45 laps to go, his engine began to overheat and he had to pit to have tar removed from his grill, knocking him off the lead lap.

Hamlin’s best points finish in his 15 career seasons is his runner-up showing in 2010.

Harvick ran a strong race placing fourth in Stage 1 and second in Stage 2. In the final stage, his team opted to keep him on the track when the other three contenders pitted with about 50 laps remaining. Harvick never got the hoped-for caution and by the time he did pit, he found himself 30 seconds behind leader Busch.