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Kyle Busch makes NASCAR history with long-awaited 600 victory

Kyle Busch wins the Coca-Cola 600

NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch wins the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 27, 2018 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch wins the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 27, 2018 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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?

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.

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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 en route to his first win at the track. Chuck Burton AP Photo

Race breakdown

Stage 1: Kyle Busch jockeyed to keep the top spot for the first five or 10 laps, and then he slowly pulled away from everyone else. While Busch was busy leading the pack, the story of the stage became Kevin Harvick, who crashed out of the race and finished last for the first time in his NASCAR career.

Stage 2: Busch continued his dominance, and if anything, he might have even extended it further. There was nobody who realistically challenged him for the lead, and while Martin Truex Jr. fell into a comfortable second place, Busch's lead was never in question.

Stage 3: More of the same here for Busch, who continued to pull away from the rest of his peers. At this point, Busch was on a run a la that of Truex in 2016, who led a record-392 of 400 laps en route to victory.

Stage 4: Busch led every lap. Of course.

Three who mattered

Kyle Busch: He led more than 300 laps, was far and away the best car on the track, and deserved to win his fourth race of the season.

Martin Truex Jr.: Truex has a strong history at Charlotte Motor Speedway, including winning at the track in the fall of 2017, and while he never really had a shot at catching Busch, he earned his second-place finish.

Kevin Harvick: Easily the best driver of the season with five wins to date, but he crashed and finished last for the first time in his NASCAR career — overall, it wasn't Harvick's weekend at CMS.

Army SSG Nicole Daley plays "Taps" during pre-race festivities at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 27, 2018. The festivities honored each branch of the military and paid tribute to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

Observations

Touching pre-race moments in support of the military, including the only playing of "Taps" at a NASCAR race and a haunting few minutes of bagpipes. Throw in the flyover at the end of the national anthem and the fallen soldiers' names on each driver's car, and you have about as nice a Memorial Day tribute as you could ask for.

As is customary for most runnings of the Coca-Cola 600, there was a sizable turnout from the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Shaq Thompson, Taylor Moton and Alex Armah were in attendance, among others.

Not the Coca-Cola 600 debut that Charlotte native and Cup Series rookie William Byron was hoping for. Byron grew up coming to Charlotte Motor Speedway for this race, but he took heavy damage to the right side during Stage 2 and wasn't able to finish the race.

He said it

"It's a little boy's dreams come true." — Kyle Busch

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