By David Morgan, Associate Editor
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Kyle Busch entered the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a 21-race winless streak to his name and without a win at a 1.5-mile track in 2019, but in the end none of that mattered.
Earlier in the week, the 34-year old Las Vegas native lamented the fact that he was behind his own schedule for success in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, believing he should already have multiple championships to his name.
After adding a second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title to his resume on Sunday, Busch is now back on track toward his self-imposed goals, given that aside from seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, he is the only driver with more than 50 wins and multiple championships, as well as being the only driver to have won more than one title in the Playoff era.
Fellow Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Martin Truex, Jr. dominated early in the Ford EcoBoost 400, but as the sun set in the South Florida skies, Busch came alive and the driver of the No. 18 Toyota found himself in command. Building a multi-second lead as the race wound down, the other three championship contenders were going to have to come and take it from him.
Ultimately, none of them were able to catch him and Busch crossed the line 4.579 seconds ahead of Truex to earn the right to hoist the championship hardware. In the final tally, Busch led five times for 120 laps.
A third JGR driver, Erik Jones finished third, with the other two championship contenders, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin finishing fourth and 10th, respectively.
“Everybody always says you never give up,” Busch said. “We’re no different. We just do what we can do each and every week.
“Sometimes we may not be the best, sometimes we may not have the right track position. Today we had a really good car and I could race around and move around. That’s what’s so special about Homestead-Miami Speedway, is the ability to put on a show.
“I felt like we did that there racing those guys. I know it kind of dulled out towards the end. It was exciting enough from my seat. It was a lot of fun to cap off such an amazing year.”
Busch ends the season with five wins, 17 top-five finishes, 27 top-10 finishes, one pole, 1582 laps led, and an average finish of 8.9 over the course of 36 starts.
It was not lost on Busch that delivering the championship to team owner Joe Gibbs this season was going to be special. Gibbs lost his son J.D. over the offseason and all year long, the four JGR drivers have been dedicating their on-track success to the memory of J.D. and the impact he had on those around him.
In addition to Busch’s championship, the organization ends its dominant season with 19 wins, including the Daytona 500 and the Southern 500, along with all four of the drivers in the stable visiting Victory Lane at least once.
“I know it’s been a difficult time on Melissa and Joe,” Busch said. “To be able to reward them with a championship, I don’t know how much it means to them, but it’s the best I can do.
“I know J.D. was looking down on us all year long. I mean, damn, what a season Joe Gibbs Racing put together. For as awesome as our group is, everybody back in the shop, how awesome they are at building some really, really special racecars. We put it on them this time.”
Joe Gibbs noted during the championship celebration on the frontstretch that the last race J.D. was able to attend was the 2015 season finale in which Busch won his first title, so things have come full circle four years later.
“This whole year I think is just a tribute to him,” Gibbs said. “I think everybody saw the Daytona 500, everything that’s happened this year. I know the Lord had His hand in what has taken place. I believe J.D. had a great view of it.”