The winner may not have been a total surprise.
The process that got Kyle Busch to Victory Lane in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, however, should bode well for the rest of the 2015 NASCAR season.
In what was arguably one of the best races from start to finish this season – and on a track now known for producing it – Busch traded the lead several times with Joey Logano before finally hanging on for his second Sprint Cup Series victory of the season.
“It was fun. Certainly, when you have a great car like that, it makes it nothing but fun,” Busch said after the race. “We could move around the race track there toward the beginning and middle part of the race. I kind of mired myself to the bottom and middle (grooves) and I didn't really want to move from there but toward the end I knew I had to move around try to find some other options.”
Busch, who missed the first 11 races of the season because of an injury, already has a difficult road to reach the top 30 of points by race No. 26 to use his wins to make the Chase, but the road got much easier on Saturday night.
It came in a race that debuted a new aerodynamic rules package specifically tailored to Kentucky Speedway and it appeared to make a dramatic difference in the quality of the on-track product, particularly over recent races at this track.
"I enjoyed the race, I really did. I guess I did more so than anybody else because I'm in Victory Lane,” Busch said.
“I just thought you had options. All of the drivers were kind of striving for this."
Logano finished second, Denny Hamlin third, Carl Edwards fourth and Matt Kenseth fifth – as all four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers finished in the top-five for the first time.
Brad Keselowski took command of the race early, leading the first 32 laps after getting around Kyle Larson, who started on the pole.
Debris from Paul Menard slamming into the wall brought out a caution on lap 81. Busch was the first car off pit road and led on the restart on lap 87.
Between laps 93 and 95, Keselowski and Busch traded the lead three times with Keselowski finally coming out on top of that battle.
Busch spun on lap 99 to bring out the fourth caution of the race. Keselowski led on the restart on lap 105 followed by Busch and Logano.
An accident involving J.J. Yeley on lap 122 brought out the fifth caution of the race. All of the lead-lap cars pitted for fuel and tires, and during the stop, Keselowski was dropped off of his jack early and ran into his tire carrier.
On the restart, Busch led the way as Keselowski restarted 10th.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. hit the wall on lap 136 to bring out another caution. Earnhardt had been complaining of braking issues most of the race. On the restart on lap 141, Busch led the way.
Busch’s pit crew continued to get him first off pit road during cautions on laps 152 and 187. Ryan Newman stayed out to take the lead on the restart on lap 192, but Busch quickly got around him and ran out to a sizable advantage.
Danica Patrick got loose on lap 208 and Earnhardt, already struggling with brake issues, ran into her to bring out the 10th caution of the race.
Patrick was not pleased and slammed into Earnhardt’s car as they drove down pit road under the caution.
On the restart on lap 213, Hamlin took the lead.
Kyle Larson tagged the wall on lap 221 to bring out the 11th caution of the race. On the restart on lap 225, Hamlin led the way followed by Logano and Busch.
One lap later, Logano powered around Hamlin and into the lead for the first time.
After swapping the lead twice, Busch finally made his way around Logano on lap 249 and began to run out to a sizable lead.
"That's what worked for me was being able to chase Logano back down,” Busch said. “He got away from me and I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to get back to him. I just tried something different to go get him and it really worked for us.”