Kurt Busch rounds Turn 1 at Michigan International Speedway. He led the last six laps of a rain-shortened race. BLADE/JULIA NAGY
BROOKLYN, Mich. — One had to wonder when Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 would be over. Or better yet, when the Sprint Cup Series race would ever restart.
In the end, the race was abruptly shortened because a torrential downpour that came with 62 laps left in the race, and Kurt Busch celebrated his second win of the season in a makeshift winner’s circle tucked underneath the suites at Michigan International Speedway.
The impromptu setup didn’t deter Busch or his crew and racing entourage.
The champagne was uncorked and sprayed. Hugs were exchanged. Pictures were taken and a trophy was bestowed, because even though the celebration may have been more exciting than much of the action on the track, a win still went down in the books as a win.
PHOTO GALLERY: Kurt Busch wins Quicken Loans 400
MIS NOTEBOOK: MSU football coach was grand marshal
RELATED ARTICLE: Truex’s impressive start equal to Petty
The win was even more gratifying for Busch. Two days prior, Busch wrecked the No. 51 Chevrolet during practice and started Sunday’s race in the back of the field, as he had to resort his backup car.
“To be able to pull the backup car out, to have it as prepared as it was and to have extra work that went into it, all the crew members that Tony Gibson leads rolled up their sleeves, jumped right in it and we made it a race-winning backup car,” said Busch, who missed three races earlier this season because of a NASCAR-issued suspension.
“That shows you the depth of Stewart-Haas Racing and gives the crew members the confidence to know that we’re doing things right.”
Busch’s only lead came on the final six laps of the rain-shortened race, and he finished ahead of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Martin Truex, Jr., Matt Kenseth, and Joey Logano. Kasey Kahne, who won the pole on Friday, finished 15th. Kevin Harvick, the Sprint Cup points leader with 575, led for 63 laps but finished 29th after he resorted to the pits on the 122nd lap with a flat tire.
Busch’s win came a day after his younger brother Kyle’s win in the Xfinity Series Great Clips 250. Kyle Busch returned to the Xfinity Series for the first time since he broke his left foot and right leg in a crash in February at Daytona International Speedway.
Sunday afternoon, only one Busch crossed the finish line in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race; Kyle Busch’s day ended after 52 laps when he crashed into the wall on Turn 4.
Kurt Busch’s day ended early, but on his terms. He took over the final race lead on the 133rd lap, when Kyle Larson was forced to pit because of fuel issues. Larson finished 17th.
NASCAR officials halted the race three times for a combined stretch of nearly two hours before finally calling it with 62 laps remaining.
Each time the delays came, some drivers killed time. Martin Truex chatted with his crew members about his car, but got to a point where all he could do was find new ways to kill time.
“That only lasts a few minutes, and then you talk about everything else,” said Truex, last week’s winner at Pocono Raceway. “What we’re going to do on the off weekend and all that kind of stuff. There’s really not a whole lot you can do in the rain delay.”
Kurt Busch, meanwhile, got picky about a red-flag snack. First, he was denied a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich by his crew, which became a bit of a running joke among his team. Then, while he was at his pit box during the race’s second red flag, a group of kids approached him for autographs.
“I’m like, in my zone but at the same time it’s kids and they wanted pictures and selfies and you’ve got to just roll with it,” Busch said. “You’ve got to have fun. You don’t know when the rain’s going to stop, you don’t know when the track’s going to dry and you don’t know when the rain’s going to come again. You’ve just got to be prepared.”
Busch found the place to make his move less than six laps before the fourth red flag, and allowed the weather to take its course. Mother Nature obliged, allowing Busch just enough time to maintain the lead before another line of storms hit MIS and abbreviated the race.
Now, Busch has a little extra time to enjoy Sunday’s win. Before he left the track, he did some advance planning, already looking ahead to the final race of the season.
“The best part about winning on a day like today?” Busch said. “There’s an off week next week. We’ll recharge, and that will give us the gas we’re going to need, because we’re going to try to go all the way to Homestead.”