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The old "better to be lucky than good" adage certainly applied to Sunday night's NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, as Kurt Busch caught a caution at just the right time with the laps winding down at the South Point 400.

The Las Vegas native's good fortune got him a victory and an automatic berth in the third round of the series' playoffs.

The victory was the first for Busch, 42, at his hometown track.

"This is what kids dream of," Busch said fighting back tears. "When they grow up racing, you dream of winning at your hometown track. And for two decades, it's kicked my butt."

With little more than 30 laps to go and the field cycling through green-flag pit stops, out came the yellow flag. Busch, who had not pitted under green, took advantage, and when the green flag dropped again with 25 laps to go, Busch restarted from second place. A lap later, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver passed Matt DiBenedetto for the lead.

Busch, not among the race leaders until that point, hung on, survived a restart and overtime, and went on to get his first victory of the season -- and just his third top-three finish of 2020.

"I knew the race would come to us," Busch said. "We needed to get to nightfall and one of those quirky Matt McCall (his crew chief) pit sequences finally unfolded. We got lucky. ...

"You've got to be lucky in any race, but we did it tonight with teamwork and pulling through and just not giving up."

Las Vegas was the first of three races in the second round that will see the playoff field trimmed from 12 to eight. The Round of 8 begins in three weeks.

DiBenedetto of Wood Brothers Racing finished second while Denny Hamlin, who led a race-best 121 laps for Joe Gibbs Racing, was third.

DiBenedetto came within 0.14 seconds of giving his iconic team its 100th race victory.

"Man, it's heartbreaking to come that close," said DiBenedetto, who has not yet been signed to a contract for next year. "I love driving for this team. I hope I get to drive for them for a long time to come."

Hamlin's finish followed a big few days of news for him. Earlier in the week, it was announced that he and basketball legend Michael Jordan had purchased a Cup Series franchise and would field a one-car team next season. Their driver will be Bubba Wallace.

"Untimely cautions, it's what's keeping us out of victory lane," said Hamlin, who got his first podium of the playoffs. "We obviously had a dominant car today. It was probably by far the best car I've had at Vegas and maybe a in a long time at a mile-and-a-half (track).

"Really encouraged by the way we ran. Obviously very disappointed we didn't get a win."

Fourth was Hamlin's Gibbs teammate Martin Truex Jr. while Hendrick Motorsports' Alex Bowman was fifth.

Having tough nights among the 12 playoff drivers were Joey Logano of Team Penske and Austin Dillon of Richard Childress Racing.

Logano may well have fallen victim to payback. On Lap 88, Kyle Busch and Logano were going door-to-door when Busch appeared to bang into Logano. The contact caused a rear tire rub on Logano's car and sent Logano to the pits.

Last week at Bristol, in the final race of the first round of the playoffs, Logano blocked Kyle Busch late in the event in a move that may have prevented Busch from getting his first victory of the season.

After the Bristol race, Kyle Busch said of Logano, "He's nobody's friend for a reason."

Logano fell off the lead lap Sunday because of the pit stop. Thanks to late-race cautions, Logano was able to move up to a 14th-place finish.

Kyle Busch had his own problem a bit later. During a green-flag pit stop on Lap 118, the air gun of Busch's tire-changer failed and had to be replaced. Busch was running fourth at the time. He finished sixth but never threatened for the win again.

Dillon raced in the top 10 for virtually the whole race -- until he pitted under caution on Lap 191. That's when a penalty on pit road forced him to the rear of the lead-lap field. Then, with little more than 50 laps to go, Dillon's engine threw the belt that powered the power steering and the cooling fan.

The Round of 12 continues next weekend at Talladega Superspeedway and will be finished off at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course in two weeks.

--Field Level Media

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This article originally ran on gwinnettprepsports.com.

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