Kyle Busch was at the right place and at the right time when he won Saturday’s Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
He won $1 million, earned his first All-Star Race victory and his first in the Cup Series at Charlotte, and it was also the first win of the season for Joe Gibson Racing.
“Finally,” Busch conceded. “I’ve just been trying for here for so long and the right circumstances came our way tonight.”
Unfortunately, though, it was all for naught – or at least for very little. Sure, it heightened Busch’s confidence after several struggles during the first 11 regular season, points paying races.
“Hopefully this is a little bit of momentum, a little bit of wind in our sails, something we can build on for next week,” Adam Stevens, Busch’s crew chief, said after the race.
And it also proved JGR could win a race. But it was also unlike any race in NASCAR Cup this season, just 70 laps in total.
“We’ve had such a time this year,” team owner Joe Gibbs said, adding with a laugh, “I told everybody I forgot where winner’s circle was here, it’s been so long since we won a race. It’s a huge deal.
“I would say on this race, this has probably been the hardest race that we’ve run. In 25 years we’ve won twice. That’s it.”
But as such, the All-Star win meant very little in terms of competition potential because Busch and JGR are still both winless this season in points paying races.
And it also means very little in that the next race, Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, also at Charlotte Motor Speedway, is the longest race of the regular season.
Ergo, what worked for Busch and JGR Saturday in the All-Star Race, likely won’t even come close to working in the 600.
It’s apples to oranges. Busch knows that as well as anyone.
“What would it mean to win a points race (at Charlotte)?” he said. “It would mean a lot still. It would certainly kind of I guess close the next chapter, as I said a little earlier, about getting that next victory here. Hopefully we can sweep it. It would be nice to be added to that list of drivers that have been able to do that.
“We’ve got a little bit of work to do in order to get ourselves in position to be able to do that. 600 miles is a long race. Starts in the day, ends at night. There are a lot of things that can happen in that race.
“Certainly it’s probably a heck of a lot more fun to do it the way Martin Truex did last year. If we have another one of those, it would be a bad thing. Hopefully we can lead the last lap, the one that matters most, and score that points win here.”
Busch’s All-Star Race win was a rarity. It not only was Busch’s first in the annual May exhibition, it also was his first Cup-level win at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
To say he was expecting to win would be a misnomer, Busch agreed.
“I think my move here a few years ago was probably a little bit more crazy when I restarted fourth, got through the middle of the front row,” he said. “I don’t remember what happened after that. I probably wrecked. That’s most times what I do in this race.”
And while Busch wasn’t exactly expecting a win Saturday due to his past history, Gibbs was a bit ahead of himself.
“To tell you the truth, I thought he had won here (in Cup),” Gibbs said of Busch. I’m so used to him winning races. I know this is a huge deal for him.
“I’m telling you, we feel like Kyle can win anywhere. Certainly this year he’s really been in position a bunch, the top five at the end of the races, not been able to win one.”
Now it’s time to put the All-Star Race in the rearview mirror and go from the shortest race in the circuit to the longest: 400 laps for 600 miles around the 1.5-mile track.
“Finally, we’re able to kind of close the chapter on that one,” Busch said of his lack of success in the All-Star Race. “Now it’s time to go get a points win here.”