BROOKLYN, Mich. — Kyle Larson knew the rain was coming — and wanted it to arrive as soon as possible.
He didn’t get his wish. Instead, the downpour that ended this Sprint Cup race in Michigan gave the victory to Kurt Busch.
With his fuel running low, Larson had to make a pit stop, ceding the lead to Busch only a few laps before heavy rain arrived and ended Sunday’s race. It was Busch’s second Cup victory of the year. Larson remains winless, although he had tried to stay out on the track long enough to reach the rainstorm in first place.
“We could see weather coming there off of (Turn) 4 and just praying that it would get here in time for me to stay out and be in the lead when the rain did hit,” Larson said. “I applaud my guys for trying. We are pretty deep in points so we have to take risks like that to make the Chase. I’m happy with the call, just wish the rain would have come three laps sooner.”
The fourth weather-related red flag of the day came after lap 138 of a scheduled 200. Busch was leading at the time, and he was declared the winner after a downpour soaked the track. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was second, followed by Martin Truex Jr.
Larson gave up the lead on lap 133.
Busch won in his backup car — he switched after an accident in practice Friday.
“It was a fantastic group effort,” he said. “To be able to pull the backup car out and to have it as prepared as it was and then to have the extra work that went into it, all the crew members that (crew chief) Tony Gibson leads rolled up their sleeves, jumped right on it, and we made it a race-winning backup car.”
Busch led for only six laps, but they were the last six of the race.
“I don’t know how Tony got the rain to come out, but he did that,” owner Gene Haas said. “That’s all it takes to win a race is you just need about 4,000 or 5,000 things to line up, and you’re there.”
Kevin Harvick led for 63 laps, but a tire problem knocked him well back. He finished 29th, only the second time all year he’s been out of the top 10. Harvick did stay atop the Cup standings, leading by 15 points over Truex.
Pole winner Kasey Kahne was 15th. The shortened Michigan race was a missed opportunity for several drivers with no wins, like Kahne, Larson and Jeff Gordon.
Busch’s victory in his No. 41 Chevrolet was part of a huge weekend for Chevy, which took the top three spots in this Cup race while also emerging victorious in a NASCAR Truck race, an IndyCar race and in the GTE Pro category at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
This was Busch’s third career Cup win at Michigan International Speedway and first since 2007. It’s his first multi-win season in NASCAR’s top series since 2011.
This was supposed to be a 400-mile, 200-lap race, but the weather made that a tough task from the start. The first three red flags, on laps 14, 20 and 46, delayed the race for a total of over two hours.
Laps 12 through 28 were all under caution, and the third red flag came during a competition caution.
“You just go to your pit box and talk to your guys about the race car,” Truex said. “That only lasts a few minutes and then you talk about everything else, what we’re going to do on the off weekend and all that kind of stuff. Really just trying to kill time. There’s really not a whole lot you can do in the rain delay.”
Almost immediately after the race went green following the third red flag, Kyle Busch went into the wall. That was the end of his race.
The bad weather held off for a while after that — until the rain returned with a vengeance. First came a yellow flag, then red. The grandstands were evacuated, and the rest of the race was eventually canceled.
Kurt Busch was already in good shape to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, having won at Richmond in April. He began the year on a three-race suspension for an alleged domestic assault on an ex-girlfriend. When the decision came from authorities to not charge Busch with a crime, he was reinstated by NASCAR.
Sunday’s win made him just the third driver to win multiple races this year, joining Harvick and Jimmie Johnson. Busch is now 11th in the points standings.
“Any time you win a second race, it really gives you that stamp on, you’re in the Chase,” Busch said. “Now let’s work through these summer months to continue to make the team better.”