Capping an incredible comeback after missing the first 11 races of the season due to devastating injuries (broken right leg, fractured left foot) in a February wreck at Daytona, Kyle Busch is the 2015 Sprint Cup champion.
“It’s pretty unbelievable,” an obviously emotional Busch said in Victory Lane. “It’s a dream of a lifetime, a dream come true, it’s something that happens only every so often. I just can’t believe it with everything that happened this year, all the turmoil that I went through, my wife went through, my family went through and people around me went through. This championship is for these guys, my wife, my family and everyone who sacrificed to get me here.”
In earning his first Sprint Cup crown, Busch also won Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in dominating fashion, taking the checkered flag holding off runner-up Kevin Harvick by roughly a 20-car margin.
The 30-year old Busch will officially accept his championship trophy and check at the Sprint Cup Awards Banquet in less than two weeks in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada.
It was the fourth Sprint Cup championship for Joe Gibbs Racing and the first for Toyota. It was also the first championship — in his first season as a Sprint Cup crew chief — for Adam Stevens.
Harvick finished with his 13th runner-up finish of the season, most since NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison recorded 15 in 1970.
“We were just struggling all night, to be honest with you,” Harvick said. “You always want to win, but I’ve learned not to get greedy. After last year, I felt like we had everything go our way and tonight it didn’t go our way. Congratulations to the 18 team and everything they did.”
“It’s been a most amazing experience,” Gordon said. “Gosh, I’m a little bit disappointed. I thought going into the race we had something for ’em, but when the sun went down, we’re missing a little something and just didn’t quite have it when the track cooled down. … It’s a happy, happy good day. I wanted that win, but we’re still going to celebrate.”
HOW BUSCH WON: Busch blew past Brad Keselowski on the final restart on Lap 261 and sailed away. Kevin Harvick tried to make a race of it, but Busch had a car that was untouchable, finishing by a roughly 20-car lead. An interesting stat: Sunday’s win was Busch’s first-ever race victory in the 12-year history of the Chase.
WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski had strong runs to finish third and fourth for race and team sponsor Ford. … Kyle Larson was in contention for the win until the last few laps, but still finished a very strong fifth. … Matt Kenseth, in his first race back after serving a two-race suspension, rallied to finish seventh.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: There was a big multi-car wreck on Lap 46 that involved several cars including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Aric Almirola, Ty Dillon, David Ragan, Casey Mears and Clint Bowyer. All cars suffered heavy damage. It appeared Bowyer clipped the rear of Dillon’s car and then abruptly turned right into Earnhardt’s car. “I don’t know what the hell happened,” said Bowyer, who finished 43rd. “My car got loose and I just couldn’t catch it. Unfortunately, you hate to end it this way. I wanted to end on a strong note for everyone at MWR (this was the final race for Michael Waltrip Racing, which will cease operations in the off-season).” … Kasey Kahne lost a right side tire and hit the wall on Lap 39, putting him one lap down, but was able to rally back to finish 19th. … Sunday was the last race for Sam Hornish Jr. in the No. 9 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports. Hornish, who spent just one season with RPM, will not return to the team in 2016. No replacement has been named yet. Hornish had early problems when he got caught up in some of the oil that spilled from Denny Logano’s car, sending Hornish into the wall. Hornish finished 25th.
NOTABLE: Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin suffered a gear oil issue early in the race and took his Toyota to the garage for repairs. His team had his car back on-track in three laps, and he was eventually able to get back on the lead lap and ultimately finished 10th. … The start of the race was delayed by nearly an hour and a half due to heavy pre-race rains, but weather was not an issue once the green flag dropped. … There were 18 lead changes among eight drivers. Also, there were seven cautions for 30 laps. … Brett Moffitt was named Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year after the race. … Here’s an irony: Michael Waltrip Racing became the first Toyota team in 2007. In the final race of MWR’s existence, Toyota wound up winning its first Cup championship. … This is the first time since 2004 (Kurt Busch, Sprint Cup; Martin Truex Jr., Xfinity; Bobby Hamilton, Trucks) that NASCAR has had first-time champions in their respective racing classes in the same season: Kyle Busch (Sprint Cup), Chris Buescher (Xfinity) and Erik Jones (Trucks). Granted, the younger Busch brother won the 2009 Xfinity championship, but this is his first Sprint Cup championship.
QUOTE OF THE DAY, No. 1: “I hear you, man. This is so cool. Whoo!” – Kyle Busch after being congratulated upon his win on NBCSN.
QUOTE OF THE DAY, No. 2: “I don’t know if you could have ever scripted it any better. … To have a shot with these four final drivers – Martin Truex, one of the best at Homestead; Kevin Harvick, one of the best these last two years; and Jeff Gordon, one of the best of all-time — to go up against those guys here tonight and score the victory in this 18 Toyota Camry, was phenomenal.” – Kyle Busch in Victory Lane.
QUOTE OF THE DAY, No. 3: “I want this day to go on forever. … It is absolutely incredible to be in my shoes right now.” – Jeff Gordon prior to Sunday’s race.
WHAT’S NEXT: The 2016 season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 21 at Daytona International Speedway.