Kyle Busch held off Kevin Harvick to win his first NASCAR Cup Series of the year, capturing first place at the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Kyle Busch Texas Motor Speedway
Kyle Busch took the checkered flag at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, his first win of the year following several close calls. (Image: AP)

Busch had yet to win a race this season, part of a nine-race losing streak dating back to late in 2017. That included three second-place finishes this season, as well as a runner-up finish in last year’s season championship race.

Busch Team Wasn’t Worried

That’s not to say that Busch hasn’t had success this year. He had led 233 laps over the first six races this season, including 128 in Phoenix.That meant Busch and his team knew a win would be coming sooner rather than later.

“Look how competitive we’ve been each and every week,” said crew chief Adam Stevens. “I’d feel a lot worse if we were coming to the track and weren’t competitive.”

On Sunday, it was Kevin Harvick who jumped out to the early lead, winning Stage 1 of the race easily after Martin Truex Jr. lost a tire and went into the wall late in the stage. Kyle Busch finished the stage second followed by his brother, Kurt Busch.

In Stage 2, it was Kurt who would hold the lead until Kyle was able to surpass him late in the stage. A crash by Kyle Larson shook up the standings, sending both Harvick and Ryan Blaney to pit row, though they were able to recover to stay in contention for the remainder of the race.

One lap into the final stage, a massive pile up led to a red flag and ended the races of Aric Almirola, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Brad Keselowski. After a series of green flag pit stops, the race came down to a showdown between Busch and Harvick. A strong final restart for Busch put him in the lead, and while Harvick challenged throughout the final laps, Busch was able to hold him off in order to capture the win.

Busch Leads Cup Series Standings

The victory puts Busch and his No. 18 car in first place in the NASCAR Cup Series standings with 316 points. Joey Logano is second with 278 points, with Blaney, Harvick, and Truex rounding out the top five.

The win was the 44th of Busch’s storied NASCAR Cup Series career, and will almost certainly secure him a playoff position later in the season. After the race, Busch said getting the victory was a weight off his shoulders for the rest of the year.

“As much as I love to win and hate to lose, it obviously feels a heck of a lot better when you can be in this room talking about a win rather than a second or third, like we have been the past six weeks,” Busch told reporters after the race.

Busch remains one of the handful of drivers considered favorites to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this year. While Harvick (11/4) is listed as the top choice at Marathon Bet, he is closely followed by Truex (4/1), Busch (9/2), and Larson (6/1).