HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) — Kyle Busch kept his perfect weekend alive by winning the Nationwide Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday — a victory that gave Joe Gibbs Racing the owner’s championship.
It was Busch’s 13th win of the Nationwide season and career victory No. 43 in that series, second only to Mark Martin’s 48 wins. It came on the heels of Friday night’s win in the Trucks Series, which also gave Busch the owner’s championship in that series.
Busch headed into Sunday’s finale looking for a weekend sweep — he won three races in NASCAR’s three national series at Bristol in August — but he was thinking about the big picture instead of his own personal accomplishments. JGR teammate Denny Hamlin can win his first Cup title in Sunday’s season finale.
"Wish I had something for tomorrow," Busch told his team as he crossed the finish line, "but we’ll play the teammate and get them one."
Kevin Harvick, one of three drivers racing Sunday for the Cup title, finished second and was followed by Brad Keselowski, who had already wrapped up the Nationwide driver’s championship. He had been hoping to catch Busch to give Penske Racing the owner’s title, but instead settled for a series record 26th top-five finish.
Harvick seemed loose and ready to go after the Nationwide race, and said he’d take lessons learned from Saturday night into the title fight. Hamlin has a 15-point lead over four-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson, and Harvick is 46 points back.
Harvick was the only one of the three contenders to run the Nationwide race.
"I feel like I’m in a much better rhythm, as far as the little bumps and crevices, knowing where I need to go and how many laps I need to do things and where I’m at on the racetrack a certain amount of laps after a restart," Harvick said.
"I feel like there’s a few things in practice that didn’t work in the race that tended to work better on the long runs. I know where the balance for my car needs to be to start the race tomorrow from where we started the race today from practice."
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished fourth to wrap up Rookie of the Year honors in the Nationwide Series, and Trevor Bayne rounded out the top five.
Danica Patrick finished her final NASCAR race of the season with a career-best finish of 19th, but was extremely frustrated after the race because she’d struggled to get around Brian Scott in the closing laps.
"Why am I so upset? I don’t know. Because I was working my (butt) off to get by the 09 car, and I couldn’t get by him," she said. "And so I’m mad. Because when you’re running where I’m running, it’s not like I’m running for a win and I was mad.
"I have to find like little victories in everything. So I was faster than him and I just couldn’t get by him. It’s not like it’s that big a deal, it’s not like finishing 18th versus 19th is going to change the world."