Busch grabs a thrilling win at Charlotte with a last-lap pass

The third time was the lucky charm for Kyle Busch. After having victories slip away from him in his previous two NASCAR Xfinity Series starts this season, Busch rallied from a late pit road speeding penalty and survived a series of late restarts to overtake Austin Cindric on the final lap and win the Alsco 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The victory was Busch’s ninth at Charlotte and his first win of this year’s Xfinity Series season as he also became the first Cup regular to win an Xfinity event in 2020. With 97 career wins in the series, Busch is three victories away from reaching 100.

The lineup for Monday night’s event was based on a random draw, where Kaulig Racing’s Ross Chastain started on pole. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones joined Chastain on the front row.

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When the green flag waved, Chastain rocketed to the lead followed by teammate Justin Haley as the field settled in and raced single file. It did not take long for the first caution to come out on the fourth lap when Kody Vanderwal made contact with the wall.

When the race restarted on the seventh lap, Chastain received another strong launch to pull away with the lead. Behind him, rookie Riley Herbst mounted a challenge on the outside lane for second against Haley. He nearly cleared him before Haley powered through and maintained the runner-up spot in Turn 3 the following lap. By then, Chase Briscoe, coming off his thrilling win at Darlington and who started eighth, was in fourth.

Following the first 10 laps of the race, Busch, who started 18th and was sporting a black and gold scheme on his No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota while honoring the 2020 Appalachian State University graduates, was running seventh. Four laps later, he made his first appearance in the top five after passing teammate Jones and former teammate Noah Gragson.

The competition caution flew on Lap 20. Chastain was able to lead the first 20 laps and hold a two-tenths of a second lead over Haley followed by Briscoe, Busch and Gragson. When pit road opened, a majority of the leaders remained on track while Jones was the first of a handful to pit for adjustments.

The following restart on Lap 26, Chastain used the high lane to maintain his advantage while Busch followed in pursuit. Herbst also moved to third and Haley dropped to fourth the following lap.

The third caution flew two laps later involving Vanderwal again when his motor blew up in a cloud of smoke. Under caution, most of the leaders remained on track while Justin Allgaier, who had reported radio and gauge issues, was among a handful of competitors who pitted for adjustments. Following his lengthy stop, he was assessed with a penalty for having too many of his crew members over his pit wall during the service.

The restart on Lap 32 featured a second round battle for the lead between Busch and Chastain as both drivers remained side-by-side before Busch slipped in Turn 1 the following lap and Chastain maintained the lead. Behind the leaders, competitive racing started to unfold around the track with drivers starting to race aggressively and battle one another for position.

With 10 laps remaining in the first stage, Busch drew himself up to the rear bumper of Chastain’s No. 10 Chevrolet in an effort for the lead. Three laps later Busch was finally able to take the lead from Chastain in Turn 4. From there, he was gone and he cruised to the Stage 1 win by more than a second over Chastain. Haley finished third followed by Gragson while Jones, who pitted on Lap 22, managed to march his way back to fifth. Austin Cindric, Herbst, Briscoe, Daniel Hemric and Harrison Burton finished in the top 10.

Under the stage break, the leaders made pit stops. Busch was the first to exit pit road followed by Chastain. Briscoe was able to gain five spots up to third following a stellar stop by his pit crew. Haley and Gragson exited in the top five. Jeffrey Earnhardt was penalized for dragging the jack out of his pit stall and around the track for one lap. In addition, Ryan Sieg, who had finished no worse than 11th in the first five races of this season, turned his No. 39 Chevrolet into the garage due to a mechanical issue.

The second stage commenced on Lap 51 as Chastain used the inside lane to retake the lead from Busch and lead Busch’s No. 54 Toyota by two-tenths of a second. By Lap 60, both were ahead of third-place Briscoe by two seconds. Meanwhile, Haley started to fall back to ninth while battling loose conditions and Allgaier, who was running inside the top 15, continued to report handling issues to his No. 7 Chevrolet.

Seventy laps through the race, the battle for the lead intensified as Busch locked himself behind Chastain’s rear bumper. He then pulled to the bottom lane and tried to take the lead, but Chastain refused to surrender. A lap later, a three-way fight for the lead ensured as Briscoe made a move in Turn 2 to pass Busch for second and draw himself behind Chastain. While Briscoe and Busch battled hard for second, Chastain slowly pulled away by half a second as Austin Cindric started to creep towards the leaders.

With nine laps remaining in the second stage, Busch, who took second back from Briscoe three laps earlier, used the lapped traffic in Turn 2 to take the lead back from Chastain entering Turns 3 and 4. Chastain remained glued to the rear bumper of Busch but by Turn 2 Busch powered away and was gone again. He remained uncontested in the final laps as he claimed the second stage win. Chastain finished second as he did in the first stage followed by Briscoe, Cindric and Gragson. Jones, Hemric, Herbst, Haley and Burton rounded out the top 10.

Under the pit stops during the stage break, Busch barely exited first over Chastain followed by Cindric, Briscoe and Jones. Briscoe, however, was penalized and sent to the rear of the field for an uncontrolled tire violation.

For the start of the final stage, on Lap 98, Chastain mounted a challenge on the inside lane with Busch remaining close on the outside lane. The next time the field circled back to the start/finish line, Chastain cleared Busch for the lead, but Busch used the bottom lane to lead the following lap by a nose. Chastain took the lead right back and led the next two laps before Busch cleared Chastain and reassumed the lead in Turn 2.

Behind the leaders, Jones moved to third and Haley fought his way back into the top five while battling Cindric. Briscoe, who was penalized under the previous stage break on pit road, had moved back to 15th.

As the laps dwindled, Busch extended his lead as high as four seconds over teammate Jones, who overtook Chastain for second. Chastain was left to battle with Cindric for third while fighting tight conditions on his race car. During this time, Allgaier and Briscoe rallied from their respective misfortunes to run inside the top 10.

With 56 laps remaining, green flag stops began. During the pit stops, Chastain overshot his pit stall, causing him to reverse into his stall and lose valuable time during his stop. Then, Busch, Jones and Briscoe were all assessed pit road speeding penalties.

Once most of the field pitted with 50 laps remaining, Michael Annett assumed the lead as one of a handful of cars that did not pit along with Brett Moffitt and Myatt Snider. The caution came out four laps later when Timmy Hill’s motor blew up in a deep cloud of smoke in Turn 3. Due to the smoke and the spilled oil from Hill’s machine, Briscoe and Chastain slipped and made contact with the outside wall, sustaining cosmetic damage to their respective rides.

When the caution waved, only five cars were scored on the lead lap. It became six as Gragson received the free pass. Under caution, Annett, Moffitt and Snider pitted and seven cars took the wave around to return on the lead lap. Cindric assumed the lead followed by Haley. Annett came out third followed by Snider and Gragson. Kyle Busch, following the caution and when the field cycled through, was back in ninth. Following their damaged repairs, Chastain and Briscoe fell back inside the top 20 and were pinned one lap behind the leaders.

The race restarted with 38 laps remaining and Cindric was able to maintain the lead on the outside lane. Gragson made his way into third a lap later as Snider slipped in Turn 4 and fell to fifth. Eight laps later, Gragson passed Haley and narrowed his deficit to Cindric to a second. Behind the leaders, Busch, who restarted 10th, was back in fifth.

With 29 laps remaining, Chase Briscoe’s good night turned bad after he made contact with the outside wall in Turn 1 and took his No. 98 Ford back to his pit stall with a flat right-side tire and drew a caution.

Under caution, Cindric, Gragson, Haley, Hemric and Snider remained on track while Busch pitted.

When the race restarted with 25 laps remaining, the caution quickly returned when Jeremy Clements, who had received the free pass the previous caution, wrecked in Turn 1 along with Austin Hill. At the time of the caution, Cindric was able to maintain the lead over Gragson. Under caution, Hemric surrendered third to pit, which moved Busch to third followed by Haley and Snider.

Following an extensive clean-up, the race restarted with 17 laps remaining. Cindric received a push from Busch to maintain the lead in Turn 2 but the caution returned again when Justin Allgaier and Snider collided on the backstretch with Snider, making contact with the outside wall and spinning below the apron. He was dodged by the oncoming field, but he limped to pit road with right-front fender damage.

The following restart with 12 to go, Cindric maintained the lead as Busch and Gragson battle for second. Two laps later, Busch returned to the lead. Three laps later, the caution returned for a wreck entering Turn 4 involving Haley, Herbst and Jones.

The night’s biggest chaos ensued on the following restart with three laps remaining. Just as Busch rocketed away from Cindric, Gragson slipped in Turn 1 while battling teammates Burton and Jones and spun in the middle of the field, making contact with Tommy Joe Martins, who spun and was hit by Haley’s No. 11 Chevrolet before making hard contact with the inside wall. The wreck sent the race into overtime. In the midst of the chaos, Hemric moved to third following his late pit stop, and Chastain, who was able to race his way back onto the lead lap with 25 to go, moved up to sixth.

In overtime, Cindric drove his No. 22 Ford to the lead over Busch. On the final lap, Busch made a move on the inside lane to draw himself next to Cindric in Turn 2. On the following corner Busch drove his car as deep as he could and was able to clear Cindric as both leaders slipped into the high lane in Turn 3. With the lead, Busch was able to power through and claim the checkered flag for the win with a last-lap pass.

“It was interesting, and it was crazy,” Busch said on MRN Network. “Earlier in the race, Ross Chastain gave me a hell of a run on a restart, and then right there, Austin gave me a hell of a run on that restart and I thought picking the outside lane would be the sure launch, and those guys would spin their tires down there and not get going. It might have been [Hemric] that helped [Cindric] stay alongside of me, and he was just able to clear me in [Turns] 1 and 2. Crazy how all that turned out.”

Hemric finished second for the sixth time in his Xfinity Series career, his best result in his fifth start of the season, followed by Cindric, who earned his fourth top-five result of this season.

“It just didn’t work out for us,” Cindric said. “I was on older tires, and everyone else on older tires ended up crashing. It’s hard to beat the best in the business on older tires. I got a great push from Daniel [on the final restart]. I’m shocked the restart zone went as well as it did. That was a big struggle for me all night. I knew I was going to have to defend in [Turns] 3 and 4 and took the top in [Turns] 1 and 2. I never lifted driving into [Turn] 3 on the final lap. I just gave up second, but didn’t really care at that point. I just wanted to win the race. Overall, it was a great night and I’m really proud of my team.”

Chastain and Allgaier rallied from their share of misfortunes to finish fourth and fifth. Moffitt, Annett, Brandon Brown, Burton and Snider round out top 10.

The race featured 20 lead changes with five different leaders. There were 11 cautions for 53 laps.

Briscoe continues to lead the Xfinity Series regular-season standings by eight points over Cindric and 12 over Chastain.

Results:

1. Kyle Busch, 94 laps led

2. Daniel Hemric

3. Austin Cindric, 30 laps led

4. Ross Chastain, 68 laps led

5. Justin Allgaier

6. Brett Moffitt

7. Michael Annett, nine laps led

8. Brandon Brown

9. Harrison Burton

10. Myatt Snider

11. Noah Gragson, two laps led

12. Riley Herbst – one lap down

13. Dillon Bassett – two laps down

14. Josh Williams – two laps down

15. Jesse Little – two laps down

16. Alex Labbe – two laps down

17. B.J. McLeod – three laps down

18. Bayley Currey – three laps down

19. Joe Graf Jr. – three laps down

20. Chase Briscoe – three laps down

21. Mason Massey – three laps down

22. Chad Finchum – three laps down

23. Vinnie Miller – four laps down

24. Tommy Joe Martins – OUT

25. Jeffrey Earnhardt – five laps down

26. Joe Nemechek – five laps down

27. Brandon Jones – OUT

28. Ryan Sieg – six laps down

29. Justin Haley – OUT

30. Matt Mills – seven laps down

31. Garrett Smithley – 10 laps down

32. Jeremy Clements – OUT

33. Austin Hill – OUT

34. Timmy Hill – OUT

35. Kody Vanderwal – OUT

36. Jeff Green – OUT

37. Colby Howard – OUT

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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