The NASCAR Cup Series season continued on Sunday, May 23, with a rain-shortened race at Circuit of the Americas. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch locked up another top-10 finish, his eighth of the year, and he also joined an exclusive club. Busch became one of only 10 drivers to lead more than 18,000 laps in their Cup Series career.
The driver of the No. 18 JGR Toyota Camry only led 12 laps during the rain-shortened race at COTA, but this time at the front of the pack was enough to reach the major milestone. Busch ended the day with 18,002 laps led in his career. He now sits behind Jimmie Johnson (18,941), Rusty Wallace (19,995), Darrell Waltrip (23,135), Jeff Gordon (24,936), David Pearson (25,023), Dale Earnhardt (25,713), Bobby Allison (27,106), and Cale Yarborough (31,696).
Of course, “The King” Richard Petty sits atop the list with 51,061 laps led during his historic career. Petty is the man responsible for 200 wins, a mark that no other driver will ever reach. His race team, Richard Petty Enterprises, also sits in a tie with Hendrick Motorsports for the most team wins (268) in Cup Series history.
The Timing of the Rain Disrupted Busch’s Historic Day
The driver of the No. 18 Toyota Camry captured the Stage 2 win during the COTA race, setting himself up for a promising race to the final checkered flag. Busch proceeded to race near the front of the pack, but he had to make a late decision due to the rain and amount of water on the track surface.
Busch headed to pit road with 17 laps remaining to get four fresh Goodyear tires. He gave up his track position in order to prevent any potential crashes. However, the timing of his pit stop created an issue. The race came to a halt only three laps later, taking away any opportunity for Busch to reach the top five. Instead, he finished the day in the 10th position while Chase Elliott won his first race of the season.
Despite missing out on an opportunity to win his second race of the year, Busch said that he agreed with the decision to call the race. He explained to Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass that the drivers found that point where there was “too much” water on the race track. The conditions improved after NASCAR sent the Air Titans out onto the track, but the heavy rain created more issues as the final stage continued.
Busch Still Locked Up Crucial Points During Sunday’s Race
Despite falling victim to the poor timing of the final caution flag, Busch still added some points to his total with his performance at COTA. He walked away with 39 points, bumping him into a ninth-place tie with Brad Keselowski.
Both drivers have locked up 422 points while excelling in different areas. Keselowski has more top-five finishes, but Busch has more top-10s. Similarly, the Team Penske driver has led 195 laps during the 2021 season while the two-time Cup Series champion has only led 55. However, Busch has two stage wins to Keselowski’s one.
The two former champions will continue to battle as the season continues, trying to lock up playoff points and move up the leaderboard. The next race on the schedule is the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Keselowski took the checkered flag during 2020’s iteration of the Memorial Day Weekend race while Busch finished fourth. Now they will return to the iconic track and face off once again.