All four remaining playoff drivers led the field for some portion of the Ford EcoBoost 400, the final race of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in Homestead, Florida on Nov. 17. On the last lap, when it mattered most, the No. 18 M&M Toyota driven by regular season champion Kyle Busch crossed the finish line first to capture the second Cup Series title of his career.
“We have a great race team, a great owner and the best sponsors in sports. I just can’t say enough and thank everyone enough for this opportunity,” Busch said. “I may be the one that’s able to hoist the trophy, or to have a championship, but it wouldn’t be possible without Adam Stevens (crew chief) and Joe Gibbs, J.D. Gibbs, Coy Gibbs and the whole family. M&M’s, of course, and Interstate Batteries and Norm Miller. And, Toyota – this TRD engine was awesome tonight.”
Busch came into the race as the only one of the Championship Four to have not won a race in the playoffs. In fact, the No. 18 team had not seen a checkered flag since March 10 at Poconos. The winless streak was comparable to the road to his first title in 2015 when he missed 11 races due to injuries and won his way into the playoffs with five wins in the remaining 14 races.
“We had a cold spell there. It’s been well-documented, believe it or not. Quite a few questions about it,” Stevens said. “Felt a little bit like 2015 to me. Take the broken legs out of the equation. We were hot early in 2015 when Kyle came back. We didn’t win since Indy that year, then came to Homestead and got the job done.”
Starting fourth, Busch was in contention for the entire race finishing third in stage one and first in stage two. He first gained the lead on lap 87 of 267 but exchanged the top spot with Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin until pulling away for good on lap 223.
With the exception of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. holding the lead for one lap, no one outside of the Championship Four set the pace during the nearly incident free race. John Hunter Nemecheck slid into the turn two wall on lap 138 to bring out the only wreck related caution of the day.
The victory marked the fifth championship for Joe Gibbs Racing and was a fitting end to an emotional season dedicated to the memory of J.D. Gibbs, the son of owner Joe Gibbs, who passed away early this year.
“I just want to say that J.D. spent his entire professional life building our race team and this whole year I think is just a tribute to him,” Gibbs said. “Everybody that saw the Daytona 500 and everything that’s happened this year would have to think the Lord had his hand on what has taken place. I believe J.D. had a great view of it.”
JGR opened the season with a 1-2-3 finish at Daytona and, fittingly, ended the season the same way at Homestead as Truex Jr. and Erik Jones followed behind Busch to finish second and third, respectively. Harvick and Joey Logano rounded out the top-5.
With his second title, Busch joins seven-time cup champion Jimmie Johnson as the only active drivers with multiple championships. Busch also became the first repeat champion in the elimination style playoff system since its introduction in 2014.