It was never anything but a race for second.
Kyle Busch started on the pole for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and save for a handful of laps to pit, he led nearly every single lap. And that's no exaggeration — the man started in the lead, pulled away as soon as the race got going and cruised around the track 400 times en route to his certain coronation.
Busch had a litany of reasons to drive as hard as he did Sunday, as if his life depended on it. First, there's all the buzz and hoopla surrounding Kevin Harvick this season. Sure Harvick has five points victories ... but did everyone forget about Busch's three?
Then there's the history at stake: Busch had won at the Cup level at every track on NASCAR's premier circuit ... except Charlotte. Twenty-eight tries, zero wins. An All-Star Race victory technically counts, but do you think it does to Busch?
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As far as competitors go, Busch had Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski on his tail feathers for the back half of the race, but again, emphasis there is on tail. Truex was penalized for speeding on pit road, and Keselowski battled tire issues early on — they were good, but not perfect.
Even perfect might not have beaten Busch this go around.
As the last 10 laps or so slowly dripped away, the finality of Busch's accomplishment began to set in. Not just that he became the first NASCAR driver to win at each and every Cup Series track; not even just that he recorded his fourth win in the first 13 races of the season.
What set in was Busch's historic legacy, how the combination of his passion and talent has bubbled over in one volatile, historic driver. And Sunday, for perhaps his most daunting accomplishment yet, he ensured there was no doubting that greatness.