For Kurt Busch, there is no greater feeling than winning at home. Taking the lead with over 30 laps remaining, the former Cup Series & Daytona 500 champion outlasted the field through two late restarts and persevered in a two-lap shootout to win the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, September 27, and achieve his first victory at his home track in his 22nd attempt. The win marked Busch’s 32nd of his NASCAR Cup Series career as it also snapped his 46-race winless drought dating back to July 2019 at Kentucky Speedway.
The starting lineup was based on four statistical categories: current owner standings, the driver’s result from a previous Cup race, the team owner’s result from a previous Cup race and the fastest lap recorded from a previous Cup race. With that, Kevin Harvick started on pole position and was joined on the front row with Kyle Busch.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Chase Elliott, who started in third place, jumped on the gas and overtook Harvick and Kyle Busch entering Turn 2 to lead the first lap. Behind, Joey Logano also moved up to second place while Austin Dillon battled Harvick and Kyle Busch for third place.
By the fifth lap, Elliott was ahead by less than two-tenths of a second over Logano while Kyle Busch settled in third place. Harvick continued to run in fourth place followed by Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. while Austin Dillon joined the party. Behind, teammates Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer along with Alex Bowman and Ryan Blaney battled for spots inside the top 10. By then, the remaining 12 Playoff contenders were scored inside the top 15.
Following the first 10 laps of the race, Elliott continued to lead by more than a second over Logano followed by Kyle Busch, Harvick and Kurt Busch. Meanwhile, Bowman, Blaney and Truex battled for sixth place while Austin Dillon and Bowyer were running inside the top 10. Almirola fell back to 12th in front of Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Matt DiBenedetto.
With the early portions of the race continuing to progress, Elliott continued to stabilize and extend his advantage to more than three seconds over Kyle Busch, who overtook Logano earlier for the runner-up spot. During the early green flag run, Harvick overtook Logano for third place while Blaney moved into the top five ahead of Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Bowman, Truex and Kurt Busch.
When the competition caution flew on Lap 25, Elliott was still scored ahead of the field and by more than three seconds over Kyle Busch with Harvick, Logano and Blaney in the top five. By then, Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Bowman, Truex and Bower were running in the top 10 while Keselowski, Almirola and Kurt Busch were in 13th, 14th and 17th.
Under caution, the leaders pitted and Kyle Busch emerged with the lead after exiting pit road in first place. Harvick exited in second place followed by Hamlin, Logano and Elliott. Following the pit stops, Christopher Bell and William Byron were sent to the rear of the field due to speeding on pit road.
When the race restarted under green on Lap 30, teammates Kyle Busch and Hamlin restarted on the front row followed by Hamlin, Logano, Elliott and Truex. At the start, Truex attempted to make a move beneath Logano, but Logano blocked him and was nearly turned in the process. At the front, Hamlin emerged with the lead followed by Kyle Busch, Logano, Harvick, Elliott and Truex.
The following lap, Elliott attempted to pull beneath Logano for position, but Logano pulled an aggressive block on Elliott and the two made contact. Both, nonetheless, continued to run towards the front despite the on-track altercation.
Shortly after, Logano moved into second place after passing Kyle Busch while Harvick, Truex and Elliott closing in behind. In addition, Bowyer and Bowman started to join the battle towards the front while Hamlin continued to lead by less than three-tenths of a second over Logano.
By Lap 40 and with the competitors towards the front continuing to battle, Hamlin continued to lead by half a second over Logano while Kyle Busch trailed by less than a second. Elliott and Truex were in the top five followed by Harvick, Bowman, Austin Dillon and Bowyer. Kurt Busch and Almirola were in 15th and 19th while Keselowski was mired back in 22nd. By then, Ryan Blaney was the highest-running non-title contender in 10th place while DiBenedetto, Erik Jones, Johnson and Bubba Wallace were running inside the top 15. Earlier, Tyler Reddick made an unscheduled pit stop due to a loose right-rear wheel.
Ten laps later, on Lap 50, Hamlin started to extend his advantage to nearly a second over Logano followed by Kyle Busch, Elliott and Harvick, who overtook Truex for position and was followed by Bowman. Meanwhile, Keselowski was still mired back in 21st while Byron moved up to 19th. By then, eight of the 12 Playoff contenders were running in the top 10. Bowyer was in 11th, Kurt Busch was in 14th and Almirola was in 16th.
Another ten laps later, on Lap 60, Hamlin stabilized his advantage to more than a second over Logano followed by Kyle Busch, Elliott and Harvick while Bowman, Austin Dillon, Blaney, Truex and Matt DiBenedetto were scored in the top 10. Bowyer was in 11th place ahead of Jimmie Johnson and Erik Jones while Almirola and Kurt Busch were in 14th and 15th. Keselowski was back in 20th place behind Cole Custer, William Byron, Bubba Wallace and Michael McDowell.
With 70 laps complete, Hamlin extended his advantage to three seconds over Logano. By then, eight of 12 Playoff competitors led by Hamlin were running inside the top 10. Bowyer was in 11th place, teammate Almirola and Kurt Busch were in 14th and 15th and Keselowski gained a spot to 19th place. Meanwhile, Blaney and DiBenedetto were the two highest-running non-title contenders in eighth and 10th.
When the first stage concluded on Lap 80, Hamlin retained the lead by two seconds over Logano as he claimed his ninth stage win of the season. Logano settled in second place followed by Kyle Busch, Elliott and Harvick while Austin Dillon, Blaney, Bowman, Truex and Bowyer were scored in the top 10. By then, Keselowski dropped back to 21st place.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Kyle Busch reassumed the lead following a stellar stop from his pit crew. Logano exited in second place followed by Hamlin, Elliott, Austin Dillon and Bowyer.
The second stage started on Lap 86 with Kyle Busch and Logano on the front row. At the start, Busch and Logano battled dead even for the lead as the field behind battled in a three-wide situation. Back at the line Logano led Lap 87, but in Turn 2, Hamlin made a bold three-wide move on teammate Kyle Busch and Logano to reassume the lead.
By the time the field returned to Turn 4, Logano started to slide out of the top 10 after he sustained a left-rear tire run on his No. 22 Pennzoil Ford Mustang as a result from contact with Kyle Busch. Two laps later, he pitted under green and he lost a lap to the leaders.
At the front, on Lap 90, Hamlin was ahead while Elliott started to close in on Hamlin for the lead. On Lap 91, Elliott passed Hamlin on the inside line through Turns 2 and 3 to return to the lead. Bowman was in third place followed by Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon while Truex, Harvick, Bowyer, Johnson and DiBenedetto were scored in the top 10.
On Lap 100, Elliott stabilized his advantage to more than half a second over Hamlin while Bowman, Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon continued to run inside the top five. Truex, Harvick and Bowyer were in the top 10 while Kurt Busch was in 12th place ahead of Keselowski and Almirola. Logano was mired back in 30th place.
Ten laps later, on Lap 110, Elliott continued to lead by less than a second over Hamlin followed by Bowman, Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon. While Truex and Harvick continued to run in sixth and seventh, Keselowski made his way up to 13th place behind Kurt Busch and Bowyer. Almirola was in 14th while Logano was still mired in 30th place. Johnson was in eighth place followed by Blaney and DiBenedetto while Byron made his way back up to 15th place ahead of Jones, Cole Custer, Bell, John Hunter Nemechek and McDowell. Matt Kenseth was in 21st ahead of Chris Buescher while Ryan Newman was in 25th behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
With approximately 150 laps remaining in the overall race, green flag pit stops started to occur as Truex pitted followed by Harvick, Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, Elliott and Bowman. During the cycle of green flag pit stops, Kyle Busch had a slow stop due to a broken pit gun to change the tires. In addition, Johnson was assessed a speeding penalty on pit road while Kurt Busch slid slightly over his pit box.
Nearly six laps later and with most of the lead lap competitors pitting under green, Byron was scored as the leader followed by Buescher, Newman and Corey LaJoie, all of whom needed to pit. Elliott and Hamlin were back in fifth and sixth.
At the halfway mark on Lap 134, Byron continued to lead over Buescher, Newman, LaJoie, Elliott and Hamlin.
By Lap 140, teammates Buescher and Newman were running first and second on the track followed by Elliott, Hamlin, LaJoie and Truex. A few laps earlier, Byron pitted under green after leading 12 laps.
Five laps later, on Lap 145, Elliott reassumed the lead after Buescher pitted. Hamlin returned to second place followed by Bowman, Truex and Austin Dillon while Blaney was in sixth place. Prior to this, Newman also pitted under green.
With five laps remaining in the second stage and the leaders encountering lapped traffic, Elliott was scored as the leader by half a second over Hamlin followed by Bowman, Truex and Austin Dillon. Blaney, Harvick, DiBenedetto, Kyle Busch and Bowyer were in the top 10 followed by Byron, Almirola, Keselowski, Custer and Bell. Kurt Busch was in 17th while Logano was mired back in 27th.
With the laps in the second stage dwindling, Hamlin started to close in and challenge Elliott for the stage win. Though Hamlin continued to pounce behind him, Elliott was able to navigate his way through lapped traffic and win the second stage on Lap 160 for his eighth stage victory of the season. Hamlin emerged in second place followed by Bowman, Truex and Blaney while Austin Dillon, Harvick, Bowyer, DiBenedetto and Byron were scored in the top 10. Kyle Busch, Almirola and Keselowski were in 11th, 12th and 13th while Kurt Busch was in 17th and Logano was in 27th. Prior to the stage’s conclusion, Reddick scrubbed the Turn 1 outside wall after sustaining a flat right-front tire and he limped back to pit road with right-side damage on his No. 8 Caterpillar Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Hamlin emerged with the lead after exiting pit road in first place followed by Bowman, Elliott, Truex, Blaney and Austin Dillon. Harvick fell back to 10th place behind Bowyer, DiBenedetto and Byron.
The final stage commenced with 102 laps remaining and with the sun starting to set. At the start, Bowman shoved Hamlin clear of Elliott and into the lead through Turns 1 and 2. Then, Bowman overtook Hamlin to assume the lead for the first time with 100 laps remaining.
With Bowman leading and Hamlin pursuing him, Elliott and Truex battled for third place while Blaney was in fifth place ahead of Bowyer, Austin Dillon, DiBenedetto, Byron and Custer.
Nearly five laps later, Hamlin reassumed the lead after overtaking Bowman. He then started to extend his advantage to nearly half a second while Elliott battled and overtook teammate Bowman for the runner-up spot. Truex and Blaney were in the top five followed by Bowyer, DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon, Byron and Harvick. Meanwhile, Keselowski moved up to 11th place while the Busch brothers were in 13th and 14th. Almirola was in 15th while Logano was mired back in 26th, a lap down.
With 80 laps remaining, Hamlin maintained a three-tenths of a second lead over Elliott while Bowman, Truex and Blaney were scored in the top five. Bowyer was in sixth place followed by DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon, Keselowski and Byron. Harvick and Kurt Busch were in 11th and 12th while Kyle Busch and Almirola were in 14th and 15th. Logano was still mired in 26th place behind Jimmie Johnson. Meanwhile, Nemechek, Custer and Bell were in 13th, 16th and 18th while Kenseth and Newman were in 20th and 23rd.
Two laps later, the caution flew due to debris spotted in Turn 2. Under caution, the leaders pitted and Hamlin retained the lead after exiting pit road in first place followed by Truex, Bowman, Elliott and Blaney. Following the pit stops, Austin Dillon was sent to the rear of the field due to a safety violation.
The race restarted under green with 71 laps remaining and with teammates Hamlin and Truex on the front row ahead of teammates Bowman and Elliott. At the start, Hamlin retained the lead in Turn 2 while DiBenedetto made a bold four-wide move on Bowman, Truex, Elliott and Blaney to move into second place.
While DiBenedetto went to work on Hamlin for the lead, Bowman retained third place followed by Truex, Blaney and Bowyer while Elliott fell back to seventh place ahead of teammate Byron. Not long after, Bowman moved into second place after passing DiBenedetto while Truex and Blaney joined the party. Behind, teammates Elliott and Byron battled for sixth place while Keselowski moved into ninth place over Bowyer, Harvick and Kyle Busch.
With 60 laps remaining and the track falling into night conditions under the track’s lights, Hamlin continued to lead by half a second over Bowman while DiBenedetto continued to hold strong in third place ahead of Truex, Blaney, Elliott and Byron. Keselowski moved up to eighth place followed by Erik Jones, Bowyer, Harvick and Kyle Busch. Almirola and Kurt Busch were in 14th and 15th while Austin Dillon, following his late pit road penalty, moved back up to 20th place. Logano, however, was mired in 28th place and was still a lap down.
Ten laps later, with 50 laps remaining, Hamlin extended his advantage to over Bowman. DiBenedetto retained third place while Elliott started to challenge Truex for fourth place and with Blaney lurking behind. Erik Jones moved up to seventh place in front of Byron, Keselowski, Harvick, Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Almirola.
By then, Austin Dillon, who was trying to work his way back to the front following his pit road penalty, pitted under green due to power steering and overheating issues, and to have broken belts replaced. Though he continued following the repairs, the late mechanical issues were enough to evaporate Dillon’s recent strings of strong results and to start the Round of 12 in the Playoffs.
Down to the final 40 laps of the race, Hamlin stabilized his advantage to less than a second over Bowman while Truex, one of the fastest cars on the track, moved into third place. DiBenedetto settled in fourth place while Blaney and Elliott battled for fifth place. Jones, Keselowski, Byron and Harvick were scored in the top 10 ahead of Bowyer, the Busch brothers, Almirola and Christopher Bell. Johnson was in 17th place behind Custer while Logano and Austin Dillon were in 27th and 33rd. Meanwhile, Kenseth and Newman were in 22nd and 23rd, Bubba Wallace was in 28th behind Logano and Buescher was in 18th ahead of Nemechek, McDowell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Under the final 40 laps, green flag pit stops occurred as Kyle Busch pitted along with Harvick, Bowman, Blaney, Truex, Byron, Hamlin, Elliott, Bowyer and Keselowski.
Shortly after, the caution flew with 32 laps remaining due to debris coming off of Johnson’s No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE with Johnson sustaining a flat right-rear tire. By then, some that included DiBenedetto had yet to pit while Bowman passed Hamlin to emerge as the first car a lap down. Under caution, some that included Kurt Busch, Buescher, Nemechek, Bell, Kenseth and McDowell pitted. Ultimately, DiBenedetto cycled back as the leader of the race followed by Kurt Busch while Bowman was back in 10th place. Others that included Hamlin, Truex, Blaney, Elliott, Keselowski, Jones, Kyle Busch, Byron and Harvick would take the wave around to cycle back on the lead lap.
Following a cleanup session and when the field cycled through, the race restarted under green with 25 laps remaining and with DiBenedetto and Kurt Busch on the front row. At the start, the field expanded to three- and four-wide racing through the turns while Kurt Busch and DiBenedetto battled dead even for the lead.
With 23 laps remaining, Kurt Busch emerged with the lead over DiBenedetto while Bell, Nemechek and Newman moved into the top five over Kenseth and Buescher. Blaney carved his way to eighth place followed by Johnson and McDowell. Meanwhile, Playoff contenders Bowman, Hamlin, Elliott, Harvick, Truex and Keselowski were mired back in 11th through 16th.
Three laps later, with 20 laps remaining, Kurt Busch continued to lead by a narrow margin over DiBenedetto. Bell continued to settle in third place followed by Nemechek and Newman. Behind, Blaney and Bowman overtook Kenseth for sixth and seventh as both continued to march to the front with fast cars.
A few laps later, the caution flew when Nemechek spun below the apron in Turn 3 before he came up across the track, where he was avoided by the field, though Jones and Stenhouse made contact with one another and against the Turn 3 outside wall to avoid hitting Nemechek.
Under caution, some that included Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Truex, Harvick, Keselowski, Jones, Almirola and Byron pitted while the rest led by Kurt Busch and DiBenedetto remained on the track. In addition, Logano, the first car pinned a lap behind, received the free pass to return on the lead lap.
With 13 laps remaining, the race restarted under green with Kurt Busch jumping in front of DiBenedetto and retaining the lead. Behind, Blaney was the first competitor to peak out in a three-wide battle for positions while Bowman started to battle Newman, Bell and others for third place.
Down to the final 10 laps of the race, Bowman and Blaney, both of whom were the fastest cars on the track, started to gain ground on Kurt Busch and DiBenedetto for the lead while Hamlin also started to move back into the top five.
With eight laps remaining, Kurt Busch was still ahead by less than two-tenths of a second over DiBenedetto and Bowman was in third while Hamlin started to battle Blaney for fourth place and the field behind continued to dice for positions. During this time, Bell fell off the pace after making contact with the wall on the backstretch.
Shortly after, the caution returned when Byron spun across the frontstretch after bumping into Bell as LaJoie also sustained damage, which evaporated a slim lead for Kurt Busch and created an opportunity for Bowman, Hamlin and Blaney to pounce again.
The racing under green resumed with two laps remaining and with Kurt Busch and DiBenedetto on the front row followed by Bowman, Blaney, Hamlin and Newman. At the start, Kurt Busch jumped ahead with a strong start. In Turn 2 and with the field fanning out, Hamlin passed Bowman and DiBenedetto to move into second place through Turns 3 and 4 as Kurt Busch started the final lap of the race.
On the final lap, Hamlin was stuck in a battle with DiBenedetto for second place. By then, Bowman, Truex and Blaney battled for fourth through sixth on the track while Kyle Busch made his way up to seventh place. Though DiBenedetto cleared Hamlin for second place in Turn 2, Kurt Busch was starting to stabilize his narrow advantage entering Turn 3. In Turn 4, Kurt Busch was able to pull ahead and win by a tenth of a second over DiBenedetto.
With the win, Busch punched his ticket into the Round of 8 in the Playoffs as he became the 12th winner of this year’s Cup season while recording the first victory of the season for Chip Ganassi Racing. In addition to achieving its sixth victory of the season, Chevrolet achieved its 1,500th win across NASCAR’s three major division series (Cup, Xfinity and Truck).
“This is what kids dream of when they grow up racing,” Busch said in Victory Lane on NBCSN. “You dream of winning at your hometown track and for two decades, it’s kicked my butt. Tonight, with this Monster Energy Chevy, I’m in awe. I knew the race would come to us we needed it to get to nightfall. One of those quirky [crew chief] Matt McCall pit sequences finally unfolded. We got lucky. You got to be lucky and you have to be lucky in any race, but we did it tonight with teamwork and pulling through and just not giving up. This is Vegas.”
“[Hamlin] had ton of speed,” Busch added. “I was wide open and you just have to manipulate the draft. I pulled out some old drag racing skills on the restarts. I knew that that was our strong suit, I knew that that was the Ford’s weak suit. We just put ourselves in position and we held them off. [Team owner] Chip Ganassi was up in the suites somewhere and I could feel him breathing over my neck, ‘I wanna win,’ and we did it.”
DiBenedetto tied his career-best Cup result by finishing in second place as he came up one position shy of recording the 100th win for the Wood Brothers Racing team while Playoff contenders Hamlin, Truex and Bowman rounded out the top five.
“Two seconds at Vegas,” DiBenedetto said. “It’s tough to come that close, just wanted it so bad for this team. I love driving for the Wood Brothers. I want that number 100 [win] for them so bad and for Menards, the whole family and everything they do for us and the team, and having Duracell on the car this week, we’re keeping her charged up good. Our car was the best it had been at the end, just couldn’t get control on those restarts. [Kurt Busch] did a great job. We had completely different ratios for the restarts and once he gained control of the race, he played the right games on the restarts, knew what we had on our weakness there. Man, it’s tough to come that close. I just want it so bad, but I’m proud of the team. They did a great job. My pit crew did a great job tonight and really earned that one for us.”
“We had a dominant car today and I’m proud of the whole FedEx team for giving me such a great car,” Hamlin said. “By far the best car I’ve had in Las Vegas in a long time. It was really, really good. Happy with it and this new tire here. We’ll run that a few more times this year. Really encouraged by the way we ran, but very disappointed that we didn’t get a win. It’s just been the way that the playoffs have gone. Whoever stays out the longest puts themselves in a great spot to win. I feel good about it. I certainly had a great day. It’s something I’m happy about, it’s about how we ran and how fast we were. We restarted 13th there with just a few laps and then the top got shuffled and we were able to make some ground on the bottom. If either one of the cautions don’t happen, we’re still in great shape, but it took them like seven laps to get a piece of debris off and then we had debris right in the fuel window.”
“I guess it is good to be disappointed in a fifth-place finish,” Bowman said. “We did not need that caution to come out in the middle of the pit cycle like that. I thought it was going to be ok for us, but we just couldn’t get through traffic as well as we needed to. Our program is continuing to improve and I just feel like this is another Vegas race that go away from us. At least it was a good points day, which is what we need.”
Kyle Busch, who won at his home track in the Cup circuit in 2009, settled in sixth place while Blaney, Erik Jones, Buescher and Harvick rounded out the top 10.
“We weren’t great early on and didn’t quite have the long run speed,” Kyle Busch said. “We worked on it and I thought we were making some gains on it and then we got that damage and got way back in traffic. Then there towards the end, was just able to get lucky on a couple of the last restarts in order to pick off a few spots with the M&M’s Camry and get ourselves in a better position for the finish. It was a pretty dismal day I guess. I looked like it was going to be about 12th or 14th if we didn’t have some good moves on that last restart there to get us a sixth-place finish.”
Keselowski finished in 13th followed by teammate Logano while Almirola and Elliott finished 17th and 22nd. Austin Dillon ended his night in 32nd place. Jimmie Johnson finished in 11th place in his 22nd and final run at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
There were 20 lead changes for 11 different leaders. The race featured seven cautions for 36 laps.
1. Kurt Busch, 29 laps led
2. Matt DiBenedetto, eight laps led
3. Denny Hamlin, 121 laps led, Stage 1 winner
4. Martin Truex Jr.
5. Alex Bowman, five laps led
6. Kyle Busch, six laps led
7. Ryan Blaney, one lap led
8. Erik Jones
9. Chris Buescher, 10 laps led
10. Kevin Harvick
11. Jimmie Johnson
12. Clint Bowyer
13. Brad Keselowski, two laps led
14. Joey Logano, one lap led
15. Ryan Newman
16. Cole Custer
17. Aric Almirola
18. Matt Kenseth
19. Ryan Preece
20. John Hunter Nemechek
21. Michael McDowell
22. Chase Elliott, 73 laps led, Stage 2 winner
23. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
24. Christopher Bell
25. William Byron, 12 laps led
26. Ty Dillon, one lap down
27. Corey LaJoie, one lap down
28. Bubba Wallace, two laps down
29. Daniel Suarez, three laps down
30. Brennan Poole, three laps down
31. Gray Gaulding, six laps down
32. Austin Dillon, seven laps down
33. J.J. Yeley, seven laps down
34. Quin Houff, nine laps down
35. Joey Gase, 12 laps down
36. Josh Bilicki – OUT, Suspension
37. Timmy Hill – OUT, Rear end
38. Tyler Reddick – OUT, Accident
39. Chad Finchum – OUT, Engine
Bold indicates Playoff contender
1. Kurt Busch – Advanced
2. Kevin Harvick +61
3. Denny Hamlin +58
4. Brad Keselowski +16
5. Martin Truex Jr. +15
6. Joey Logano +11
7. Chase Elliott +10
8. Alex Bowman +9
9. Kyle Busch -9
10. Clint Bowyer -20
11. Aric Almirola -27
12. Austin Dillon -32
The Round of 12 in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs will continue next Sunday, October 4, at Talladega Superspeedway for the YellaWood 500. The race will occur at 2 p.m. ET on NBC.