In the closing laps of Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at The Glen, it appeared Kurt Busch was sitting in the catbird seat.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver had been a factor in the top-5 throughout the day and found himself running third behind AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose. With the laps winding down, Busch was able to close on the leaders as they battled side-by-side for the lead.
The driver of the No. 41 SHR Chevrolet had a big run through the esses and made a move to the inside of Ambrose, but was blocked as the leaders headed into the Inner Loop.
With Allmendinger and Ambrose battling hard at the front, Busch was forced to hold off the hard-charging Carl Edwards and Kyle Larson.
As Allmendinger scored the win, Busch crossed the line third. Sunday’s finish was the fourth third-place finish so far this year.
For Busch, it was a total team effort that led to the strong run.
"We were in position all day. We ran top 5 and executed well in the pits," he said. "I thought our strategy played out well, and the final pit stop was flawless, and that put us in position to race with Ambrose."
While Allmendinger and Ambrose were able to make it back around to the checkered flag, Busch was "very surprised" they did not wreck battling for the win with so much at stake.
"I was like, hey, if I run third there’s almost as good as being able to win this thing because those two are just going to bring back the steering wheel only," he said. "I really thought they did a phenomenal job to beat the heck out of each other, maintain a pace that didn’t allow me to get close enough. There was just one moment I had, I wanted to go low on the back straightaway. It would have been three wide, and my right sides would have been in the grass, and I couldn’t quite make it getting into the bus stop to clear those two. It was just a phenomenal show.
"Those two deserve a lot of credit. Allmendinger brought home the trophy, and he deserves it. Ambrose gave everything he could. I was just hoping that, yes, those two would get a bit overzealous and I’d be able to squeak by them and pick up the win for our team."
With his win at Martinsville Speedway earlier this year, Busch is on his way to secure a spot in the 16-driver Chase.