CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Kyle Busch normally celebrates his victories by climbing on top of his race car and bowing to the crowd.
But with no fans in attendance at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Monday night due to the coronavirus pandemic, Busch passed on the tradition after driving past Austin Cindric on the final lap of overtime to claim his 97th career Xfinity Series win.
“It kinda felt a little odd,” Busch said. “I guess I could have bowed to the camera.”
After a crash involving several cars sent the race into overtime, Cindric had a great restart in overtime and overtook Busch for the lead starting from the inside lane. But Busch battled back, driving by Cindric on the backstretch of the final lap and holding on to win 18th overall race at CMS.
“I thought choosing the outside was the right way but obviously it wasn’t. I don’t know,” Busch said. “Those guys put up a whale of a fight tonight on restarts. I guess I’m not good at it anymore.”
Cindric thought he had Busch beat.
“To almost beat one of the best in the business on worse tires, I never lifted, I never lifted until I knew I was done,” Cindric said. “I wanted to win so bad.”
Busch has won 210 races overall across NASCAR’s top three series, the most of any driver.
Daniel Hemric edged Cindric for second. Cindric finished third followed by Ross Chastain and Justin Allgaier.
Busch appeared in control for most of the race winning the first two stages, but was assessed a speeding penalty on pit row with 38 laps to go, dropping him to 10th place.
But Busch was far from done.
He battled back through the field with the help of a series of strong restarts on the six cautions over the final 45 laps.
Busch recaptured the lead with 10 laps to go, but nearly gave it all away in overtime.
“I was surprised (Cindric) got as good of a launch as he did,” Busch said. “On that restart he passed me and I was like, ’Oh man I don’t know if I can get back to him,” Busch said.But Cindric got a little loose between turns one and two and Busch was able to make a pass.
Busch drove a No. 54 Toyota sponsored by the Appalachian State University class of 2020.
“Hopefully this will lift your spirits, we won one for you,” Busch said to the App State students who didn’t get to have a traditional graduation ceremony due to the coronavirus.
Busch is in the midst of running all seven races in 11 days at Darlington and Charlotte since NASCAR returned to action after being sidelined for two months because of the coronavirus.
It was a tough night for Darlington winner Chase Briscoe, who finished 20th.
Briscoe, who was looking for his third Xfinity Series win of the season, drew penalties for an uncontrolled tire and speeding on pit road and then sustained damage to his car after hitting the wall with 45 laps to go when Timmy Hill’s engine blew up. Things went from bad to worse when he suffered damage to the right front of his car with 28 laps to go.
Jeffrey Earnhardt pulled out of his pits too early and wound up turning a lap with a jack wedged under his car.
It was the second of four races in four days at the 1 1/2-mile track at Charlotte.
Brad Keselowski won the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night in overtime after a late caution flag cost Chase Elliott an almost certain victory. The Truck Series returns to the track for the first time in more than three months on Tuesday night, followed by another Cup race on Wednesday.