News Trending Viral Worldwide

Kyle Busch Takes Us Inside That Wild Final Lap In Atlanta And What He’d Do Differently To Win

kyle busch nascar
Getty Image

Daniel Suarez won Sunday’s Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the third-closest finish in NASCAR history. Suarez edged out Ryan Blaney by .003 seconds and Kyle Busch by .007 seconds in a wild three-wide drag race to the checkered flag.

The catalyst for the crazy finish was Busch, as he was the one who pushed it three-wide down the back stretch. Though he’s shifting his attention to his home race in Las Vegas this coming Sunday, he walked us through that final lap in Atlanta from his perspective in the No. 8 car.

“I thought, obviously, it was an exciting last lap. It was great for the fans. They really got a treat towards the end of that one,” Busch said over the phone on Thursday. “For us though, with our Cheddar’s Camaro, I felt like we had a fast car all day. We kept ourselves in the right positions, we stayed out of trouble, and we had that opportunity there at the end. So, I had a big push down the front stretch from Bubba Wallace and was able to get back up alongside the 99 car getting into one and two, and coming off of two, I knew I needed another push down the back stretch in order to kind of accelerate me through one more row, which would put me up alongside the 12. So, the 23 got to my back bumper off of two, gave me that push down the back stretch, and the 12 was in my lane, so I was like, ‘Well, hell, where am I gonna go?’ And fortunately, there was a pathway between he and the 99. So I was able to stick it three-wide on the entry to turn three, get alongside.”

However, the run Busch got down the back stretch and through turns three and four was too good, as he explained. As they exited four, Busch was in the lead position he was trying to avoid.

“And I kept telling myself during the caution before that last restart, I was like the only thing you can’t do is you can’t be ahead going into turn three. It will never work. You’ll never win if you’re ahead going into turn three,” Busch explained. “So, I get to turn three and I got a run and I’m not ahead of the 12, but I’m ahead of the 99. And then we get towards the exit of turn four and I am the one ahead, I’m too far ahead. And so both of those guys, the 12 on my inside and the 99 on my outside, were side drafting off of me, because I was furthest ahead.

“So, any time you were able to be side by side with somebody, the car ahead get some backwards from the draft, and so that was me [laughs] off of turn four and just didn’t come to the line with enough speed and enough nose length to be able to take the checkered flag,” he continued. “But great finish nonetheless, a lot happening and 185-90 miles an hour, and glad we we finished straight. No crash, no nothing. We just were able to put on a whale of a photo finish.”

I asked Busch whether there’s anything he would do differently in that spot if he had a chance to do it all over again, or if you just have to go with the run you’ve got. Overall, Busch wouldn’t change the move he made to jump to the middle of the track when Blaney blocked him, noting when you have a run like that, you can’t expect to get it again. However, once there, he would probably look to take a bit of a gamble to hold back and try to get the side draft to his advantage coming down the front stretch.

“One thing to try would have been just dragging a little bit of brake when I was alongside the two of them to pull me further behind through the middle of turns three and four, and get myself to where I was a nose behind coming out of turn four,” Busch said. “So, when we got straight on the front stretch, then I was able to power through the middle of them and use my car as the side draft on the each of them to pull myself through the middle, so that would have been the only other thing to try. I’m not sure if it would work, but that would have been the thought that I should have done.”

The finish in Atlanta was the type of racing NASCAR was hoping for when they re-profiled Atlanta Motor Speedway three years ago, resurfacing the old asphalt that chewed up tires and raising the banking to 28 degrees — the highest of any track on the circuit — to facilitate more pack racing similar to what we see at superspeedways like Daytona and Talladega. That decision was a bit controversial in the garage, as drivers preferred the old surface even though it was hard on tires because it required a bit more tact and skill to navigate your way around the track for 400 miles.

Busch falls into that group that preferred the old track, but with the way Sunday’s race panned out, he knows it delivered on what NASCAR was hoping for — and was glad it wasn’t just a crash-fest.

“I would definitely say I liked the old Atlanta better, just more racy for the driver, more opportunity for the driver to control his own outcome, if you will,” Busch said. “But this package here with the restrictor plate package, with the drafting package at Atlanta with the higher banking and the speeds and stuff that we carry, it puts on a good show. Overall, I felt like the race was a good race. The fans should have enjoyed it. There was a little bit of crashing, there was one huge big pile up. Some of the cars came out of that and still raced on for the day. Some of them were done for the day, which is tough for the guys that were involved in that. A couple single car crashes later in the day, some issues of guys getting into pit road, so you kind of saw a little bit of everything. And then obviously at the end there, you saw great finish, too. So, pretty exciting stuff from my standpoint, I don’t know how it could get better.”

As he shifts his attention to Las Vegas, Busch admits he’s put a little too much pressure on himself at his home track before, pushing for wins and putting himself in some bad spots. Recently, he’s tried to be a bit more patient and let the race come to him, noting that’s how he won it in 2009, and that’s allowed him to pick up back-to-back third place finishes in Vegas. As they head out to the desert, he notes those are “good, solid days,” but he’s hoping for a bit more this time around.

It’ll be his second time around at his home track driving for Richard Childress Racing, as he made the move from his longtime home in the No. 18 with Joe Gibbs Racing to the No. 8 Chevy in 2023. He’s enjoyed the opportunity of getting to work with another team and learning a new operation after 14 years with JGR, as they once again are off to a hot start, holding a one-point edge over William Byron in the early Cup Series points standings.

“I’ve had fun being able to learn the system and get to work with Richard and Austin [Dillon] and my team guys, Randall [Burnett] and everybody,” Busch said. “So, we obviously had a really good start to the season last year. We came out of the gate ready to go and then we kind of fell off and tapered off as the year went, so we want to change that, fix that, and make sure that we’re ready to go the whole year and we can be just as strong at the end as we are in the beginning, and here we are doing the same things. You know, we finished second at the Clash. We had a shot to win Daytona, I felt like I put myself in the wrong row on a restart and instead of going forwards I went backwards and that hurt us for the finish there. But then, at Atlanta, was able to obviously come out close on top there, .007 behind with our Cheddar’s Camaro. Just ready to go to Vegas and if we can run like we did the last time we were in Vegas, which was a top three finish, that’ll be a great day and it’ll help our points lead that we have and we can carry on some more good momentum.”

As Busch noted, a year ago he won three times in the first half of the year, but struggled to find the same results in the back half of the year, falling back to finish 14th in the final standings. This year, the message for the No. 8 team is to be more consistent over the full season to compete for a championship, which is a responsibility that gets shared from top to bottom on the team.

“It’s not just one thing,” Busch said. “I think there’s a bunch of little things that kind of have to add up in order to get you to where you need to be for that. So yeah, I mean, we’ve been talking about that. We’ve been working on that. I think some of it has to do with the car prep at the shop. I think some of it has to do with NASCAR kind of changing their procedures throughout the year and us just not keeping up with that. And also the competition. The competition is always looking at you and what you’re doing and how you’re doing it and how they can do it and how they can be better and making themselves out-do you. So, you just got to be ready for all of that.”