Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

TORRES: Takeaways from the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

KFB (Kyle Busch) is back on top of the NASCAR Cup Series leaderboard with his first win of the season in the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway which finally concluded Wednesday evening.

Fuel economy and a hungry Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex, Jr. didn’t stop “Rowdy” from extending his win streak to 16 straight seasons, equaling Jimmie Johnson (2002-2017), Rusty Wallace (1986-2001) and Ricky Rudd (1983-1998) for the third longest streak in NASCAR history.

“We finally got it. I was so nervous – I was nervous the whole last run. I’ve been in this position so many times,” Busch on capturing his 57th series win. “The last three laps though, that’s like winning the championship – that’s how nervous I was. I can’t believe it, but just so proud to be here. My team guys, awesome pit stops, they were phenomenal. I appreciate M&M’s, Interstate Batteries, Rowdy Energy Drink. We’re ready to fight next year, we’ll be back.”

Busch’s win isn’t the only takeaway I have as there was plenty of topics worth bringing up, including that dreadful wait to get the race past Lap 53. On that note, let’s dive into my main takeaways from the 34th race of this Cup campaign.

That 72 Hour Red Flag

Although I was shooting photos at Kern County Raceway Park on Sunday, I was heavily aware of the 23rd red flag of 2020. Rain and mist became the two most dreadful words in NASCAR because the 334-lap race was halted 53 laps in with Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson leading the way.

Little did we knew that after plenty of weather updates from Bob Pockrass and Parker Kligerman, this race wouldn’t resume until Wednesday afternoon.

As the red flag stat man, the stoppage lasted a grand total of 72 hours, 28 minutes, 34 seconds. Is it the longest in ever? Nope.

The dubious honor goes to the 1973 Southeastern 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. A Lap 52 downpour halted the race for two weeks that’ll go down in history as the race where Cale Yarborough also led all 500 laps in “Thunder Valley.”

What happened to the two leaders? Bowyer would end up winning the longest Stage 1 in history but his race gradually fell apart and ended up 17th after leading 89 laps.

Johnson went MIA when the race resumed, highlighted with an engine failure late in the race that sent Noah “Lefty” Sweet’s designed No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE to the garage, finishing 36th.

Super Performance by Leavine Family Racing

Christopher Bell scored his best career finish Wednesday with a third-place effort. This is super significant because Leavine Family Racing will be done at season’s end, so a run like this was nothing short of brilliance.

It’s the No. 95 Procore Toyota Camry squad’s second top-five of the season and just one spot shy of equaling the team’s all-time best result from Matt DiBenedetto last August at Bristol.

That doesn’t erase how great his car ran down to the wire and when I asked Bell how gratifying it was to get a result knowing LFR only has two more races remaining, he felt they’re capable of winning at Martinsville and Phoenix.

It’s always great seeing a young driver that’s had a rich history of being a boss at Texas be smiling on a job well done, but understands it could’ve been even better. If they can pull that herculean feat, they’ll join Furniture Row Racing and Red Bull Racing as teams to cap off their runs with a win deep into the season.

The Much Talked About Winning Streak

I was totally wrong when I said after the ROVAL that Busch won’t win at all this season. Honestly, I’m happy that I’m wrong because Busch had a masterful drive to save fuel and fend off Truex, who is in a must-win situation due to the pre-race points penalty on Sunday, to get that elusive first win of 2020.

There was times last year where something wasn’t right because he wasn’t as passionate about winning like he used to, but this Texas triumph brought some of that energetic vibe he’s known for.

“It means a lot just to keep that winning streak going,” said Busch. “That’s the biggest thing I was hoping for and obviously wanting to accomplish this year before the year was out. I can’t say enough about Adam Stevens (crew chief) and Tony Hirschman (spotter), my pit crew guys and everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing for all their hard work and everything that they do year in and year out.”

Speaking of Stevens, he isn’t sure if he’ll be back calling the shots for KFB in 2021. He does have a secured job at JGR though, but such win may or may not be enough to keep him around for a seventh straight year which is one of the few active driver/crew chief pairings going that goes past five seasons.

As Stevens said, those discussions about his future with Busch should happen so, but in this world. Performance is everything and just for one race, the No. 18 nailed it when it mattered most.

Excellent win and a huge sigh of relief for Busch to keep his streak going. Now he’ll hope to equal David Pearson’s mark at 17 in a row next season. Should he do so, he’ll only trail Richard Petty for the longest streak of 18 straight seasons with at least one Cup win come 2022.

For now, in the words of Busch – “It’s still 2020.”

Conclusion

Everyone is just glad they’re getting the hell out of Texas, hoping rain isn’t a concern anytime soon. We’ve seen enough delays and I’d imagine they’re ready to get 2020 done and over with in more ways than one.

Fortunately, the next round is the ever popular Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway (Sunday at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBC) which is the cutoff race to determine the final three Championship 4 spots.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography ranging from Idaho athletics to auto racing with ambitions of having his work recognized.