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Jim Utter

Busch survives multiple restarts for Cup win at Gateway

Busch dominated much of the race – leading 121 of the 243 laps – but to wait out a nearly 2-hour weather delay for lightning with the race just five laps old.

Busch powered past Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin on a restart on Lap 184 to move into the lead for the final time but then had to fend off repeated challenges on restarts.

He succeeded in every one, including in overtime, and held off Hamlin by 0.517 seconds to earn his third NASCAR Cup win of the 2023 season.

The win is the 63rd of his career and he now has 11 seasons with at least three or more victories.

“That was pretty awesome,” said Busch, who was met by his son, Brexton, on the track after the win. “Man, to sit on the pole, lead a lot of laps, my guys did just a great job today. It was pretty flawless for us. All the fans go out and celebrate with us.

“We’re going to have a great time with this one. This one is pretty cool.”

Last year’s Gateway winner, Joey Logano, finished third, Larson was fourth and Martin Truex Jr. ended up fifth.

Completing the top-10 were Ryan Blaney, Daniel Suarez, William Byron, Michael McDowell – who overcame an early-race spin – and Kevin Harvick.

Stage 1

Busch cruised to the Stage 1 win over Blaney after leading 44 of 45 laps despite a lengthy rain delay. Hamlin was third, Truex fourth and Logano fifth.

Just one lap in, Tyler Reddick got spun around to bring out a caution, and following multiple lightning strikes in the area, NASCAR was forced to red flag the race for an hour and 45 minutes until weather conditions cleared.

Stage 2

Blaney held off a late charge from Busch to take the Stage 2 win, just his second stage victory of the 2023 season. Hamlin ended up third, Byron fourth and Suarez rounded out the top five.

Austin Cindric (too fast) and Truex (removing equipment) both started the second stage from the rear of the field for pit road penalties incurred during the stage break.

Carson Hocevar, making his Cup debut in Spire Motorsports’ No. 7, got up to 16th when he wrecked in Turn 1 on lap 91. Blaney kept his lead during a round of pit stops thanks to taking just two new tires as the race returned to green with 38 laps remaining in the stage.

Stage 3

Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, all of the lead-lap cars pit with Reddick first off pit road thanks to a two-tire stop.

When the race resumed on lap 149, Reddick was followed by Byron, Blaney, Suarez and Busch. Byron quickly powered to the lead after the restart.

Reddick’s No. 45 Toyota appeared to blow a brake rotor on lap 175 and hit the wall which brought out the sixth caution of the race.

The field used the opportunity to pit for new tires and fuel to make it to the finish with Larson the first off pit road and took just two tires. Larson led Hamlin and Busch on the restart with 57 laps remaining.

It took less than a lap for Busch, who took four new tires on his stop, to get around Larson and Hamlin and reclaim the lead.

The No. 42 Chevrolet of Noah Gragson blew a brake rotor, drifted up the track and slammed hard into the wall to place the race back under caution on lap 198. NASCAR was forced to red flag the race for nearly 10 minutes to clean the track of fluid and debris.

Only a handful of cars elected to pit under the caution and Busch remained the leader on the restart with 37 laps to go.

A late-race caution for a wreck involving Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – as well as a five-minute red flag for some wall repairs – set up a restart with 15 laps remaining but Busch was once again able to hang on to the lead.

Busch appeared to have a clear path to victory, but Bubba Wallace blew a brake rotor and slammed the wall with five laps to go which set up the two-lap overtime.

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