The thrilling end of the Overton’s 400 at Chicagoland Speedway was made all the more exhilarating because of heavy traffic in the closing laps.
When Kyle Busch ran into a three-way scrum for 15th between Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kurt Busch, he had a decision to make. Should he allow those drivers to sort it out before going around them – a move that would allow second place Kyle Larson to get to his back bumper – or should he thread the needle and become part of their battle.
Busch chose the latter.
Newman fought hard to stay on the lead lap – a trait for which Newman is famously known – and that slowed Kyle Busch enough to force him to race in close proximity to Stenhouse and Kurt Busch. Stenhouse bumped the No. 18 in the right rear and slowed him enough to allow the No. 42 of Larson to close – and create the last-lap fireworks that have been part the highlight reel ever since.
“Towards the end of the race, when it really makes a difference, that’s when you’re supposed to be hard to pass,” Newman told NASCAR America last year.
Newman’s attitude was infectious.
“In Stenhouse’s position especially, he had every right to race Newman as hard as he could and Kurt Busch was in that group there. And he actually beat Kurt Busch, so that was one point – more valuable to him in making the playoffs,” Parker Kligerman said.
Stenhouse is currently 23 points below the cutline for making the playoffs.
“I’m conflicted on this,” Jeff Burton said. “I think the leaders deserve a chance to get – this late in the race – a chance to get themselves a little bit of a free pathway, but at the same time these guys are racing for position. The thing that gets me is … Stenhouse gets into the quarterpanel of the leader of the race.”
Stenhouse also held up Larson as he tried to navigate traffic, but they did not make contact.
“I’ve been in Kyle’s position too and when you’re in his position,” Kligerman said, “you are screaming, do whatever you can to get those guys out of your way because whatever they are racing for is not nearly worth as much as what you’re racing for.”
In the end, Burton summed up the experience best. “Selfishly, as a race fan? It was awesome.”
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