Kyle Busch capped off perhaps the most complete weekend he's had in NASCAR Cup Series competition for at least the last few seasons this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway in Gateway.
The driver of the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing 3CHI Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 snagged his first pole position in four seasons on Saturday. On Sunday, Busch proved that the pole was no fluke.
The 38-year-old won the opening Stage of the race, and he would go on to lead a race-high 121 laps in the 243-lap race -- the most laps Busch has led in a race win since the fifth race of the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season at Auto Club Speedway.
While the race, which featured a total of 11 cautions, and three red flags, ended in an overtime finish, the finish was only even thought to potentially be in doubt for approximately a blink of an eye on the final restart of the race.
But then Busch did what he does, he closed out the race, as he cruised to a win by more than a half-second over his former teammate Denny Hamlin.
"That was pretty awesome," Busch said after sharing an embrace with his son Brexton following a victory burnout. "Man, to sit on the pole, lead a lot of laps, and help my guys do such a great job today was pretty phenomenal for us. Great for RCR, just win baby."
By winning the race, Busch led the final 60 laps of the race uninterrupted and he now has three victories in his 15 starts with Richard Childress Racing. To put Busch scored a total of three wins over his final 74 races with Joe Gibbs Racing.
I think it's safe to say Busch is back at the top of his game, as he is now tied with William Byron for the most wins in the NASCAR Cup Series through the opening 15 races of the season.
For Hamlin, the runner-up finish was a welcomed change of pace after being intentionally crashed by Chase Elliott near the mid-way point of last weekend's Coca-Cola 600.
Defending Series champion Joey Logano, who won this race a season ago, came home with a solid third-place finish. While Logano scored a win at Atlanta Motor Speedway earlier this season, the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang had fallen into a bit of a slump recently.
However, Sunday's finish at Gateway snapped a five-race drought on top-five finishes for Logano.
Kyle Larson, who was mired deep in the 32nd-place position for a large portion of the opening Stage of the race, rebounded in a big way to finish fourth in the race, and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top-five finishers.
While Busch ultimately took control of the race, it appeared -- for a while -- that Ryan Blaney would challenge Busch as he was attempting to score his second-consecutive win.
Blaney led a total of 83 laps on the day and won Stage 2. However, as things got crazy late in the race, Blaney faded to a sixth-place finish.
Daniel Suárez, William Byron, Michael McDowell, and Kevin Harvick rounded capped off the top-10 finishers in the Enjoy Illinois 300.
Sunday's race was a pretty wild contest, which featured 11 cautions -- four of which were from exploded front brake rotors by competitors in the race.
The first brake rotor issue of the race came on Lap 198 when Carson Hocevar, who was making his NASCAR Cup Series debut for Spire Motorsports in the No. 7 Chevrolet had a failure, which led to him falling out of the race.
Prior to the issue, Hocevar had made quite the first impression, as he was running in the 16th position.
Tyler Reddick, Noah Gragson, and Bubba Wallace were the other three drivers who suffered from exploding brake rotors in the race. Gragson suffered the biggest impact into the wall, as his No. 42 LEGACY MOTOR CLUB Chevrolet Camaro whipped around and he hit the Turn 1 wall with the rear and driver's side of his machine.
Luckily, all drivers were able to walk away from the carnage.
Another notable finisher in the race was Corey LaJoie, who was filling in for the suspended Chase Elliott in the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. While LaJoie had high hopes for his opportunity in a Hendrick car, he and the team struggled to find the handling on the car for the duration of the event, and LaJoie would finish in the 21st position.
The NASCAR Cup Series now heads to Sonoma Raceway for the 16th of 36 stops on the 2023 schedule. The Toyota / Save Mart 350 is scheduled for Sunday, June 11th. That race will have television coverage provided by FOX beginning at 3:30 PM ET. PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the radio broadcast for that event.
Photo Credit: Ryan Nuttleman