HAMPTON, GA — The last time Kurt Busch beat his brother Kyle Busch in a late race shootout, Kyle left his older brother at the race track. Coincidentally enough, it was also the Quaker State 400 too. That time though it occurred in 2019 at the Kentucky Speedway.
With post race media obligations and that being a night race, Kyle didn’t want to wait around too long for Kurt to be done so he headed to his jet and went back home to North Carolina without his brother. Kurt had to find another way home.
It wasn’t any hard feelings though. Kurt expected it and didn’t blame Kyle for jetting off early without him. This time around, Kurt expected to find a ride home with his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate of Ross Chastain and not with his brother again.
Kurt, bested Kyle in Sunday’s Quaker State 400 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was his first win of the season and 33rd of his NASCAR Cup Series career. He bested his little brother by just 1.237 seconds for their fourth 1-2 finish all-time.
While Kyle admitted that Kurt had a better car, he was still very frustrated with how Sunday’s race ending transpired.
Kurt led a race high 144 of the 267 laps — the most he’s led in a single race since 2015 (291 laps at Richmond) and the two each won a stage. But, Kurt came out behind his brother on track when the final round of pit stops cycled out.
Kyle did the under cut move when he pit his No. 18 Toyota for the final time on Lap 210. Kurt pit his No. 1 Chevrolet one lap later on Lap 211 but was 1.1 seconds back when he exited pit lane and got up to speed on the 1.54-mile race track.
It was now his little brother in control of the race. The thing was, Busch’s teammate in Chastain helped Kurt get passed his little brother.
Chastain was asked by Busch’s team to give up the bottom lane ahead. He went up high to block Kyle’s run which was enough to allow Kurt to close up and pass his younger brother for the lead.
He’d do so on Lap 235 and never look back en route to the victory in the end.
“I gave everything I had there early and then just smoked it behind the 42 (Chastain) obviously, shows you what kind of driver he is,” Kyle Busch said. “Just trying to fight hard after that when I got passed.
“Great effort, the guys gave me a great piece,’’ Kyle continued. “The 1 (Kurt Busch) was definitely better than us today, I just thought I had him.”
Chastain, shrugged off Kyle’s comments and defended his move by impeding his progress to help his teammate win.
“Kurt asked for the bottom so I gave him that lane,” Chastain said. “I was racing to stay on the lead lap. I’m very aware of what’s going on on the track around me. Kurt asked me for the bottom and I gave it to him. To see a Chip Ganassi car in Victory Lane with all that’s happened the last couple of weeks and all this year, there is nothing I want more. One team, one goal and that’s to win. I hate that Chip wasn’t here to enjoy this. But for our Clover Chevrolet to be so far off as we were and have a teammate go win, that’s a best-case scenario for us. We’ll learn from what they did and look through their notebook.”
Kurt’s crew chief Matt McCall admitted that it would have been tough to win this race without Chastain’s help.
“Our car was really good on the bottom, and we radioed to our spotter to tell (Chastain), ‘Hey, give us the bottom quicker than you think,’ ” Kurt Busch said. “When we asked for that, as fast as we did, Kyle’s car was good up top, so it worked in our favor both ways.
“What happened on track was the perfect scenario for a teammate to do the work that he needed to do. Ross did that in a way that gave me a sense of pride on the education and the mentorship that I have helped Ross with this year. It was a perfect give-back. Can we do that in the playoffs? No. Can you do that in a regular season where one guy has won and one guy is trying to run hard? Today was a perfect scenario for that to unfold, and Kyle will get over it pretty quick.”
In wake of this, Kurt joked that he expected to get a new ride home Sunday night back home.
“Oh, I already knew to find another ride, especially with Ross Chastain coming in off the top ropes and throwing down a good block. That helped us get back by Kyle.
“And yes, me and my little brother were supposed to share a ride home. It’s only about four hours back to Charlotte, so it’s not too big of a deal tonight. But I’m pretty sure Kyle has already taken off.
“But we’ve got the trophy; I ain’t worried about it. He did stop by Victory Lane and do the Kyle Busch grumpy. That’s what I expected.”
Busch says what happened on track was the perfect scenario for a teammate to do the work that he needed to do.
“If I’m running third, Ross isn’t part of the equation,” Busch continued. “That was exactly what a teammate needs to do, and Ross did that in a way that gave me a sense of pride on the education and the mentorship that I have helped Ross with this year. It was a perfect give-back.
“Can we do that in the playoffs? No. Can you do that in a regular season where one guy has won and one guy is trying to run hard? Today was a perfect scenario for that to unfold, and Kyle will get over it pretty quick.”