Kyle Busch had the Dollar General Tundra in a position to win the Truck Series finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway until two late cautions bunched the field – the final one setting up an exciting green-white-checkered finish. Busch maintained the lead on the final restart and took the white flag at the front of the field, but Cale Gale ran him down on the final lap. The two raced side-by-side down the backstretch and into turns 3 and 4. Coming off turn 4, Busch had a strong push on the outside lane until Gale’s No. 33 truck pinned the No. 18 truck against the outside wall down the frontstretch, and crossed the stripe 0.014 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch Motorsports’ (KBM) flagship Tundra.
“Came down to losing it on a yellow again,” said Busch, who finished in the top five in all three of his Truck Series starts this season. “That’s about it — we had a really good truck all day today. We just kind of watched Nelson (Piquet Jr.) run up there and Kyle Larson and those guys ran a good race too — and they were really fast. So, we just bided our time and kept working on our stuff and making adjustments there to try to get it better. That last run there, the battle we had with (Matt) Crafton I was really loose, but I was giving it everything I had. Just hate it that we had that caution that came out and then we had the red flag and then – - well we had a caution and then we had another caution with the red flag. Just brought too many trucks into the picture and changed the order around too much.”
Busch, who qualified fourth, worked his way into the runner-up spot on lap 11 and set his sights on Nelson Piquet Jr., who had opened up a sizeable lead in the early stages of the race. Despite communicating that his Dollar General Tundra was “a little darty in the back,” he had slowly but surely closed the gap on the leader when the first caution of the race occurred on lap 36.
Crew chief Eric Philips summoned his driver to pit road, where the KBM over-the-wall crew administered a speedy four-tire stop – which included a track bar adjustment – and returned their driver to the track at the front of the field for the lap-40 restart.
Busch remained on point until lap 50, when it surrendered the lead to youngster Kyle Larson and the runner-up spot to Piquet Jr. one lap later. The Dollar General Tundra settled into the third spot for several laps, then eventually came to life and worked its way back into the runner-up spot on lap 77.
KBM’s owner-driver regained a short-lived lead on lap 87 when Larson made his regularly scheduled green-flag pit stop. One lap later, Busch came down pit road for four fresh tires – with an air pressure adjustment – and a full tank of fuel. The No. 18 Tundra was scored in the fourth position when it returned to the track, then after the final two trucks made their way down pit road, returned to the runner-up spot – nearly four seconds behind Larson.
A debris caution on lap 105 erased Larson’s lead and set up another round of pit stops. Before making his way down pit road, Busch communicated to Phillips that his Toyota needed more rear grip. The over-the-wall crew put on four fresh tires and made another track bar adjustment before returning their boss to the track scored in the fourth position, behind Larson and two trucks that elected for two-tire stops.
The Las Vegas native made quick work of the top-three trucks and maneuvered to the front of the field on lap 109. Fellow Toyota driver Matt Crafton made his way into the runner-up spot, where he tucked in behind Busch. In the closing laps it appeared to be a two-truck race as the two drivers distanced themselves by over a second to Kyle Larson in the third spot. Crafton was able to make his way underneath Busch several times, but never was able to complete the pass.
With eight laps remaining, Max Gresham hit the wall and brought out the fourth caution of the race. The race restarted with five laps remaining and the Dollar General Tundra quickly opened up a four truck-length lead. As Busch approached the start-finish line with two laps remaining, a big wreck ensued behind him, bringing out the red flag and setting up a green-white-checkered finish.
Busch once again held serve on the restart and Gale ensued from a three-wide battle into the runner-up spot, three truck-lengths behind. Gale was able to close the gap heading down the backstretch and with his first career victory in sight off turn 4, left Busch with a severely damaged Dollar General Tundra and an undeserved runner-up finish.
Gale became the 16th different winner in the Truck Series this season, which is a new record. Busch finished 0.014 seconds behind him in the runner-up position. Future KBM driver Joey Coulter finished third for the second consecutive week, while Piquet Jr. and Miguel Paludo rounded out the top-five finishers.
German Quiroga, Busch’s teammate, finished in the 15th spot in his sixth career Truck Series start.
There were five caution periods for 23 laps. Seven different drivers led, exchanging the lead 11 times, including Busch who led three times for 45 laps. Six drivers failed to finish the 140-lap race.
With its 10th consecutive top-10 finish, the No. 18 Tundra team moved into fifth place in the Truck Series owner’s point standings. The team, which ranked 24th after four races, catapulted up the standings by scoring more points than any other Truck Series team over the final 18 races.