JOLIET, Illinois – Kyle Busch earned the first stage win of the NASCAR Cup playoffs Sunday, leading 78 of the 80 laps in the Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
It was Busch’s 12th stage win of the season.
Busch, who started from the pole, went for the jugular right from the green flag, jumping out to a 2-plus second lead in the first 15 laps.
As the race began, Brad Keselowski suffered damage to the right side fender skirt, where it was bent outward. He started fifth and fell to seventh and decided along with crew chief Paul Wolfe that he’d stay on-track until the first pit stop, at which time they’d fix the damage.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. pitted on Lap 29, having suffered right side damage after scraping the wall on Lap 25.
Stenhouse was then assessed a commitment line violation for having two tires outside the edge of the commitment line, which dropped him to 40th (last) position and leaving him two laps behind. By the end of the stage, Stenhouse had climbed back to 30th, still two laps down.
On the first series of pit stops that began after Lap 40, Landon Cassill stayed out to take the lead for two laps before Kyle Busch cycled back through to regain the lead on Lap 47.
Two other drivers were penalized for being too fast on pit road: No. 1 playoff seed Martin Truex Jr. and Austin Dillon.
Busch continued to stretch his lead. By Lap 63, he had lapped 25 of the 40 cars in the field, leaving just 15 cars on the lead lap.
By the time Stage 1 ended, Busch led Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez and Truex.
Also at the end of the stage, in addition to Busch, there were only 13 drivers on the lead lap.