SPARTA – For whatever misfortunes Kurt Busch faced last week at Daytona, none of it mattered at Kentucky.

Busch battled his younger brother Kyle in a two-lap shootout and used just enough room on the outside to hold on for his first win of the season in the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

The battle of the brothers brought arguably the most exciting finish at Kentucky Speedway since it started hosting an annual event in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2011.

Kurt Busch’s first win of 2019 was also the first for crew chief Matt McCall, and it came one week after victory was snatched from the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet at Daytona by lightning.

Busch was in the lead taking a pit stop under caution when lightning struck near the track and forced a red flag that called the race early. Justin Fields was the leader when the call was made and Busch finished 10th.

This time, the yellow flag was friendlier to Busch.

“We got the yellow at the end that put us back in position,” Busch said on the NBC broadcast. “Whatever last week was, it’s this week right now. We got the trophy.”

The final lap was a banger between brothers after the restart featured three-wide racing throughout the 1.5-mile track. Kyle Busch rode the bottom at the white flag and tapped Kurt’s left-rear quarter panel entering Turn 1 and briefly took the lead.

Kurt was faster on the backstretch and the two entered side by side into the infamously flat Turn 3. Kyle took a deep dive into the turn and had momentum to ride up the track, but not enough to clear his older brother for a clean pass. The two made contact exiting Turn 4 and Kurt pulled away for his first win in Sparta.

“Racing your little brother every week and watching him win a lot, I’m proud of him but I’m proud that he gave me a little room on that outside,” Kurt said. “He could’ve clobbered us against the wall and third place probably would’ve got it.”

Kurt Busch led 41 laps and Kyle Busch, a two-time winner in Sparta, led a race-high 72 laps. The driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota has led over 600 laps at Kentucky in the Cup series.

“Glad it was a thriller,” Kyle said on the broadcast. “Unfortunate we were on the wrong end of the deal. Obviously cool to put on a great race and great finishes. Been part of a lot of them. Not many, in fact, none with my brother like that.”

Erik Jones finished third while Kyle Larson was fourth and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five.

Pole sitter Daniel Suarez led the first 49 laps and finished eighth. Kurt Busch earned his first stage victory after the first 80 laps. Kyle Busch dominated the second stage for his sixth stage win of the year and held an eight-second lead at one point.

The lead shuffled during an 82-lap stretch of green flag racing in the final stage until Wallace spun out in Turn 2 with seven laps remaining. Joey Logano made an aggressive pass on the bottom of the front stretch to take the lead from Kyle Busch and appeared to be well on his way to victory lane until the caution. He finished seventh.

Two-time defending Kentucky winner Martin Truex Jr. was hit with a late penalty on pit road and finished 19th.{&end}

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Covering high school sports and Western Kentucky women's basketball for the Bowling Green Daily News.

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