On the heels of last week’s victory in the All-Star Race, his first Charlotte victory in a NASCAR Cup series car, Kyle Busch entered Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 looking for his first points-paying win at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Instead, he left with the same frustration and disappointment that has often plagued him at the the 1.5-mile track.
Busch won Stage 1 of Sunday’s race and ultimately led 63 laps, the second-most in the field behind Martin Truex Jr. But following his pit stop with 32 laps left, during the race’s final green-flag pit stops, Busch couldn’t make up enough ground to catch eventual champion Austin Dillon and finished second.
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The result marked Busch’s 16th top-10 finish in in 27 races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, one of only two tracks – the other being Pocono Raceway – where he hasn’t won a points race.
Momentum seemed to be on Busch’s side in the early going, as he collected 10 points toward his race total and one playoff point when he passed Truex Jr. with 10 laps remaining to win Stage 1. He then finished fourth and second in Stages 2 and 3, respectively.
Truex Jr. maintained a stranglehold on the lead for a majority of that span. But on Lap 306, Busch passed Denny Hamlin on a green flag to regain it.
That lead, however, was short-lived.
Truex Jr. passed Busch on the Lap 333 restart, and Busch spent the next 55 laps tailing him. Then on Lap 368 of the 400-lap event, both drivers composed the field of all but eight drivers who pitted for fuel and tires.
As the drivers who didn’t pit started losing steam, Busch kept gaining ground. But Dillon’s fuel gamble ultimately prevented Busch from making the final pass he needed to overcome his Charlotte demons.
After the race, Busch walked into the media room for his post-race presser and rubbed his hands against his face as he fielded his opening question about whether or not Dillon’s strategic decision surprised him.
“I’m not surprised about anything,” Busch said. “Congratulations.”
He then dropped the microphone. The comment was Busch’s only one in a press conference that lasted less than a minute.
He then walked off and exited the room. Still frustrated. Still winless.
Pat James: @patjames24