Busch makes Monster move to win Dover NASCAR Cup race

DOVER — Kyle Busch tried the top lane, it didn’t work so he tried the bottom.

When the bottom didn’t work, Busch decided to give the top one last try.

Busch made his car stick for a dramatic pass of Chase Elliott in the closing laps of the Apache Warrior 400 at Dover International Speedway on Sunday afternoon. It is Busch’s fourth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of the year and his third-career Cup win at Dover.

On the final green flag run after pit stops, Busch had to make up five seconds on Elliott. He chipped away at the margin before finally getting by on Lap No. 398 of 400.

“I gave it everything I had there in those last 60 laps,” Busch said. “I was sore, my tongue was hanging out, the car’s tongue was hanging out, the right rear tire was shot. … All in all, a fun race and a fun race to be able to put on a show like that. Trust me, from my standpoint it was pretty exciting.”

Elliott’s car wiggled going down the backstretch which allowed Busch to pull up along side. He completed the pass by going around on the high side of turns three and four as the cars came to the white flag.

After one more time around the track, Busch held off Elliott to take the checkered flag. Busch celebrated with his trademark bow in front of the fans on the frontstretch after a burnout.

Elliott could not hide the frustration of being so close to his first Cup Series win. The 21-year-old in his second season as a full-time Cup driver, hid his face in his hands after exiting his car on pit road as he was comforted by teammate Jimmie Johnson.

“Such a bummer, such a disappointment for my team,” Elliott said. “I don’t really have much to add.”

Busch caught Elliott by experimenting by running a higher line. But as he pulled to Elliott’s bumper the top line stopped working as well as it did before and Elliott gained a couple tenths of a second on Busch.

Busch then moved to the bottom where Elliott was running. There was no way around Elliott there either but when Elliott caught some lapped traffic, Busch moved to the top in the last two laps.

“I was on the top side (at first) and I wasn’t making up any ground on him,” Busch said. “I went back to the bottom and I wasn’t necessarily making up any ground there. I got within a half a second and it kind of stalled out. It seemed like he caught [Ryan Newman] and some of the other lapped cars in front of him and it slowed his lap times down. I went back to the top to get the clean air and get the momentum rolling and it gave me the speed I needed.”

Busch’s crew chief Adam Stevens said Busch was trying out different lines throughout the race which prepared him for the showdown with Elliott in the final laps.

“The best guys at these types of tracks aren’t scared to move around,” Stevens said. “You’re not going to pass a guy if you’re running in his tire tracks. You have to be able to move and try something different. He was able to do that all day today.”

Busch, who started second, ran in the top-10 for most of the day but never seemed like a contender for the race victory until after the last pit stop. He led four times but for only 30 laps.

“K.B. was able to put the team on his back there and close that gap,” Stevens said. “That gave me a lot of confidence to see the effort he put in and the determination he had to really grind it out.”

Elliott led three different times and led the most laps with 138. Kyle Larson led 137 laps but could not maintain speed under a caution and never got back to the front.

Larson had to settle for a fifth-place finish. Johnson never led but came in third while pole-sitter Martin Truex Jr. led 51 laps and came in fourth.

 

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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