(NASCAR.com) With a career record of 0-for-21 coming into Sunday night’s South Point 400 at his hometown Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kurt Busch may have felt like a “long shot.” But with fortunate track position late in the race and some sure-bet restarts at the front of the field, Busch can now count himself a Vegas winner.
The victory was a high stakes haul, automatically earning a position for Busch in the next round of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs – moving the 2004 series champion from last place among the 12 Playoff drivers entering the race to the first driver with a guaranteed spot in the Round of 8.
With only one top-10 finish in the last six races at the 1.5-mile Vegas track and so much on the line, Busch was understandably emotional as he climbed onto the hood of his No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to celebrate the big win after the checkered flag.
Busch held off Wood Brothers Racing driver Matt DiBenedetto by a mere .148-seconds for the win – keeping the fan-favorite DiBenedetto from a first career victory celebration. Again.
Denny Hamlin, who led a race-best 121 laps, finished third. Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman rounded out the top five.
Two races remain in this second round of the playoffs, next weekend at Talladega Superspeedway and Oct. 11 at the Charlotte Roval road course. Eight drivers will advance to the penultimate three-races following Charlotte that will decide which four drivers contend for the NASCAR Cup Series championship trophy at Phoenix on Nov. 8.
With his win Sunday, Busch has the automatic ticket into the next round. Harvick leads the playoff standings with a three-point edge on Hamlin. Brad Keselowski, Truex, Joey Logano, Elliott and Bowman round out the remaining provisional transfer spots after Las Vegas.
For a complete recap of the race, and the latest playoff standings, follow this link.