LONG POND, PA. – Kyle Busch watched the number of laps he’s led this season tick, tick, tick as it crossed 1,000, and he only really cared about the lap he hadn’t led: the last one.
“We’ve had speed. We’ve been right there,” Busch said. “We’ve been able to do what we should be doing and that’s running up front.”
For all that time up front, Busch also had the longest losing streak of his career, a rare recession over his time building a résumé even NASCAR Hall of Famers would envy, with the 2015 Cup championship, 176 wins over three series and an elite ride for Joe Gibbs Racing.
He can add two more feats to the list — 13 consecutive years with a Cup victory and his first checkered flag at Pocono.
Busch used a bump-and-run on Kevin Harvick to take the lead with 16 laps left and held on to snap a 36-race losing streak and win the NASCAR Cup race at Pocono Raceway on Sunday.
“I never thought this day would happen,” Busch said.
Busch won from the pole and gave Toyota its 100th Cup win since its 2007 debut. Busch had Toyota’s first Cup win in March 2008 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Busch had never gone a full season without winning a race. Charlotte Motor Speedway is now the only track where he’s failed to win a Cup points race.
“I wasn’t sure which one was going to be last,” he said.
Busch had seven top-five finishes in 2017 and was runner-up to Austin Dillon in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. All the near misses have gnawed at Busch, who won the All-Star race — at Charlotte. But that exhibition doesn’t count in the season standings, and Busch was in a victory slump that dated to the 2016 Brickyard 400.
He was racing for the lead last weekend at this year’s Brickyard 400 when he wrecked with Martin Truex Jr., which led to a pit road altercation.
Busch also won his 176th career NASCAR race over the Cup (39), Xfinity (89) and truck (48) series.
“We’ve all been fighting all year long and just wasn’t sure why,” Busch said. “This is something I’ve been waiting for for a long, long time. It’s been a frustrating year but an awesome day today.”
Harvick finished second, followed by Truex, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski.