As evidenced by his third straight win and fourth in five races, neither injury nor a constant evolving rules package can slow down Kyle Busch. Busch took the checkered flag during Sunday's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Busch broke his right leg and left foot in a February crash during the Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway. The injuries sidelined him 11 races and Busch didn't return until Memorial Day weekend.
But in the nine races since coming back, Busch has been near unstoppable. His four victories tie him with Jimmie Johnson -- who's competed in all 20 races -- for series-best this season and Busch is the first driver since Johnson in 2007 to win three consecutive races.
Considered one of NASCAR's marquee events, Indianapolis marks the biggest win of Busch's career (Busch owns 33 career premier division victories). He won the Southern 500 in 2008 at Darlington Raceway.
Sunday's win moves Busch just 23 points outside the top 30 in the series standings, the threshold he must obtain to earn a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff. Upon returning, NASCAR granted Busch a waiver stating he must win and meet the points requirement. Six regular season races remain.
"We're a championship contending team, we just have to be championship eligible," Busch said. "We're still continuing on, we can't have bad days. I don't know that any of that matters, we're going to bask in this moment here."
Busch used a series of late restarts to secure Sunday's win. Leading with two laps to go, he got the jump over Kevin Harvick, who spun his tires, and pulled away. But a caution for Trevor Bayne's single-car accident negated Busch's advantage, setting up a two-lap overtime finish.
Busch was on his game again, though. Second-place Joey Logano was even with Busch into Turn 1 until the Joe Gibbs Racing driver powered into a lead he didn't relinquish.
"I wasn't sure about it, but those late restarts definitely worked in our favor and to come home with a victory here at the Brickyard 400 there's nothing else like it," Busch said. "It's probably the biggest one of my career so far, and hopefully there's more wins here at the Brickyard and bigger wins in the series yet for me."
Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin completed the top five.
"It's frustrating," Logano said. "We were so close to winning here at the Brickyard. Second hurts, but I'm proud of this team. We worked hard throughout this whole weekend. We didn't unload very good, but pushed hard and qualified second and finished second, but there are no trophies for second."
Busch's win snapped Chevrolet's 12-race Indianapolis win streak and gave Toyota its first Brickyard victory.
"I can't believe what's going on," Busch said in Victory Lane. "It's really a treat to win here at Indy. Toyota has now captured a win at every single active Cup Series racetrack -- that's pretty awesome for us to be able to do that.
Indianapolis was the debut of a high-drag aerodynamic rules package NASCAR introduced to stimulate drafting and additional passing, which is challenging on a narrow primarily one-groove oval.
This is the third straight race NASCAR utilized a different rules package -- all resulting in Busch wins. A low downforce package featuring a reduced spoiler was ran two weeks ago at Kentucky Speedway, while last week's race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway used the package introduced prior to the season.
Drivers were largely unimpressed by Sunday's package, which will also be used next month at Michigan International Speedway. Although designed to create passing opportunities, Indianapolis largely was the same as previous events with the field stringing out and side-by-side largely occurring after restarts.
"I think everybody put in a lot of effort to really try to make everything a lot better, spent a lot of money, but I don't know that we accomplished everything that we were looking to accomplish," Harvick said.
An issue many faced was increased cockpit temperatures, brought by the new rules package that restricts airflow within the car. Logano said he blistered his foot.
Jeff Gordon's last Indianapolis start didn't go as he hoped. When Clint Bowyer spun in Turn 3 on Lap 51, Gordon swerved to avoid Bowyer and crashed into the outside wall, suffering significant damage.
An adopted Hoosier, Gordon moved to Pittsboro, Ind., as a teenager and was looking for a sixth Brickyard win. He is retiring at the end of the season.
"Today was an unfortunate day," said Gordon, the defending race-winner. "It seems like in recent years it's been kind of feast or famine for us here. But I tell you what, from the first time I came here all the way through last year and even this year the fans have been amazing, the experiences have been amazing, the wins.
"Everything has been incredible and I feel so fortunate to have just gotten an opportunity to race here."
Bowyer recovered to finish sixth. Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top 10.