The curtain has fallen on the 2015 season and Kyle Busch is standing atop the NASCAR world. The driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota scored both his 34th victory and first championship in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He’s the fourth driver in NASCAR history to win a title in both the XFINITY Series and Sprint Cup Series. He and brother Kurt join the Labonte brothers (Terry and Bobby) as the only brothers to have won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title.
While he was certainly a strong choice to win the title going into the 2015 season, nobody would have said that he would win it after sitting out the first 11 races of the season following a crash in the season-opening XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway. I remember thinking that it might have been best if he sat out the rest of the year and return to racing in 2016.
However, Rowdy made an incredible comeback with an 11th-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 back in May. He locked his way into the Chase by winning four of five races in the summer at Sonoma, Kentucky, Loudon and Indianapolis.
“I don’t know if I quite understand life yet, but there’s something to be said about this year,” an emotional Busch said on his team radio.
That comment deserves the understatement of the year award.
Kevin Harvick finished runner-up for the 13th time this season. That breaks a tie with Bobby Allison for the most second-place finishes in a single season.
“We were definitely a little bit off tonight, and we never really found anything that really helped the car,” Harvick said. “I thought at the end, we might do better than that. The 18 car just had us beat all night. I just couldn’t find anywhere that would make the car better.
“To come back from everything’s that he’s come back from, that’s a great comeback story from where he was after Daytona.”
Brad Keselowski led a race high 0f 86 laps on his way to rounding out the podium. Teammate Joey Logano finished fourth and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-five.
Jeff Gordon came home sixth in his 797th and final Sprint Cup Series start. Matt Kenseth finished seventh in his return from a two-race suspension. Kurt Busch finished eighth followed by Jimmie Johnson in ninth while Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-10.
Martin Truex Jr. came home in 12th.
A 31st-place finish gives Brett Moffitt the 2015 Rookie of the Year honors.
Rowdy is the first driver to win a championship without running all the races since Richard Petty in 1972.
The race was slowed by seven caution flag periods for 30 laps. It lasted three hours, two minutes and 23 seconds at an average speed of 131.755 mph. There were 18 lead changes among eight different drivers.
That puts a wrap on the 2015 season. As of the publishing of this piece, we’re just 91 days from the 58th running of the Daytona 500.