Kyle Busch wins his way to Sprint Cup title at Homestead

Kyle Busch wins his way to Sprint Cup title at Homestead

Kyle Busch claimed the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup title with victory in the Homestead decider, despite missing the season's first 11 rounds with leg injuries.

Monday, November 23, 2015 (5:13 am)
The dream of a farewell title for retiring series legend Jeff Gordon ended with a sixth-place finish, while reigning champion Kevin Harvick had to settle for second and Martin Truex Jr. was never a factor.

The race was delayed nearly two hours by rain showers but ran uninterrupted once it began.

It soon became clear that the title fight was between Harvick's Stewart-Haas Chevrolet and Busch's Joe Gibbs Toyota, with the Penske Fords of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski also potential race winners.

Harvick began to slip ever further away from the lead pace during the second half of the race, sitting 10 seconds off the front in fourth place as Busch chased long-time leader Keselowski.

A late caution for debris sat up a seven-lap shootout, with everyone on fresh tires. On paper this was a blow for Busch, who seemed to have the title in his pocket before the field was closed up, but he turned it to his advantage by surging past Keselowski at the restart to take the lead.

While Harvick blasted through to second, by the time he got there Busch was already out of reach.

"I don’t know if I understand life yet, but there’s something to be said about this year," a jubilant Busch said after crossing the finish line. "It’s pretty unbelievable!" Busch said. "A dream of a lifetime, a dream come true… I just can’t believe it, with everything that happened this year and all the turmoil, all the things that I went through, that my wife (Samantha) went through and the people that are around me went through.

"This championship is all for these guys, my wife, my family, everyone who has had to sacrifice so much to get me here to this place today, whether it was on my team right now, or on my teams in the past. It’s really awesome, awesome, awesome!"

Busch required special dispensation to be eligble for the title, as NASCAR rules originally stated only drivers contesting the full season could feature in the Chase. A compromise was agreed whereby Busch would be Chase eligible provided he won a race and was in the top 30 in the championship, and he emphatically achieved this with a run of four wins in five races in the summer.

He got through each Chase elimination stage via his points tally, before finally winning again when it really mattered in the finale, crossing the line 1.5 seconds clear of Harvick. It made Busch the first driver to win the Cup title in a Toyota.

"I thought there at the end at the restart, we might do a little better than that," Harvick said. "But, obviously, either the splitter was on the ground or the car was just tighter than it probably needed to be, and I just couldn't hustle it and got it tight and got it up the racetrack and got behind.

"The 18 car (Busch), he just had the speed all night, for the most part. As the night went, I just couldn't find anywhere that would make the car run better. The higher I would run, the looser it would get. I'd get on the seams, and then it would push the front and slide the back. Just never could find anything."

Gordon briefly led with an excellent early restart that took him from third to first, but his pace soon faded and he looked set to finish his career on the fringe of the top 10 before another restart surge at the end salvaged sixth.

Underdog Truex and his Furniture Row team tried several bold strategy gambles to get into the mix, and though the tactics kept vaulting him towards the front, he ultimately lacked the speed and fell away to a distant 12th.

Keselowski and Logano had to settle for third and fourth, with Kyle Larson fifth but a potential winner had the final yellow not come out when he had passed Busch for second and started closing on Keselowski.

Matt Kenseth marked his return from suspension with seventh place ahead of Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson, who was penalized for an attempt by a crew member to deform his car's bodywork for aerodynamic benefit during a pit stop.

Polesitter Denny Hamlin lost three laps in the garage having a transmission leak attended to early in the race, yet recovered to run as high as fifth before finishing 10th.

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