NorCal Racing

Busch, Larson bring much-needed excitement

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As they did earlier in the year at Bristol, the two Kyles battled for the win in Sunday’s Overton’s 400 for the Monster Energy Cup Series. Kyle Larson made the first contact on the final lap, sliding his No. 42 Chevrolet up the track and into Busch’s No. 18 Toyota off turn two.

The contact put Busch into the outside wall as Larson took the lead. But, Busch retaliated as the two were heading into turn 3, turning Larson sideways as he raced on for the win.

“Larson tried to pull a slider, didn’t complete it and slid up into me,” Busch said. “I used him as a brake getting into three and was able to come back for the victory.”

His move brought a series of boos from the grandstands and Busch stoked the flames of the fans’ ire by mocking them as they were crying. He turned to them and added in his comments, “If it wasn’t for lapped traffic, it wouldn’t have been a race. I don’t what you guys are whining about.”

Yes, his post-race theatrics were over the top and put Busch solidly back in the fans’ sights as NASCAR’s No. 1 villain. However, it also goes back to the old saying by Dale Earnhardt that it doesn’t matter whether the fans cheer you or boo you, just as long as they’re making noise.

For most of this season, the fans haven’t made much noise as the racing has been subpar — with Busch, along with Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr., dominating the series. The race Sunday on Chicagoland’s 1.5-mile layout was a pleasant surprise after what was expected to be an exciting race the previous week at the Sonoma road course ended up a romp by Truex thanks to pit strategy.

Sunday’s race was different that neither Larson nor Busch had the dominant car most of the race.


Larson was fine in the way he was raced by Busch on the final lap, and said Busch would have expected the same if their roles were reversed.

“I had an opportunity to slid in front of him and I didn’t think I would clear him,” Larson said. “I got to his door, but I left the door for him to retaliate going into 3. I got into him first, but he got me worse than I got him. We put on a heckuva show and it was a blast. I’m on the short end of the stick again, but it was fun.”

Larson was indeed on the short end again.

The two drivers have finished 1-2 in eight races in NASCAR’s top two series, Monster Cup and Xfinity, and Busch has won all eight times.

The finish Sunday surpassed what had been the best finish of the year at the Food City 500 at Bristol, when Busch used the bump-and-run maneuver to get by Larson.


Although they didn’t win, the Stewart-Haas Racing team was again the fastest on the track. Aric Almirola in the No. 10 Ford won the first stage of the race and led a race-high 70 laps. An unscheduled pit stop on lap 221 for a loose wheel put him a lap down and with a 25th-place finish.

Kevin Harvick, whose No. 4 Ford has led the most laps of anyone this season, won the second stage. He appeared on his way to another win, but Busch won the race off pit road on the final restart and Harvick’s car had a tight-handling condition in the closing laps — keeping him from battling for the win.

Clint Bowyer had the fastest car early, but made three consecutive pit-road mistakes that put him laps down. He got back to the lead lap and finished fifth on a day, which speaks to the strength of the cars and the SHR team right now.


The series moves to the restrictor-plate track at Daytona on Saturday in what really could be a wild-card race.

Austin Dillon won the Daytona 500 and it’s a race even more unpredictable this time around as conditions are likely to be hot and slick. It puts a premium on adjusting to those conditions by both the crew and driver.

The odds are a driver outside of the top three this season will win at Daytona, giving the Cup Series more parity and much-needed excitement for a season week in a row.

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