At Chicagoland Speedway Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson manned up, put on the big boy pants and made the last lap unforgettable.

Larson didn't tell a tall tale about his intentions to bash his way to his first win of the season. Busch refused to lie about the retaliation preserving his fifth trip to victory lane in 2018.  Neither made excuses and, as there should have been, there was no whine with that finish. 

First, however, I'd like to thank the lapped traffic and the back of the pack lead lap cars that dragged Busch back into the clutches of Larson.  Without those guys racing for position, which they had every right to do, without Ryan Newman being the toughest guy to pass on the planet, which is his right, we never would have had a final lap for the ages.

Instead of everyone just moving over, giving up what they were fighting for and showing the "proper etiquette" according to the unofficial gentlemen driver's code, whatever that is, they raced for everything they could get at the end of the Overton's 400, allowing Larson to go for broke the final time through turn two.

To make a potential winning pass, he got into the left rear of Busch's car and Larson was willing to admit he never thought about doing a slide job.  The contact was intentional.  "I wasn't really trying to make it in front of him.  I figured if I ran in there to try and clear him, I would have had to slow down so much to not hit the wall that he would have just turned underneath me, and it wouldn't even have been a battle to the win."

"I thought he was going to pull a slide job," Busch confessed. "When he didn't try to do a slider, then I wasn't sure what his next move was going to be. I was like, surely he's not going to drive into the side of me. Then he did. After that point, all bets are off."

Added Larson, "I kind of made the plan to try and squeeze into him, to bog him down.  It worked just he was able to get back to my back bumper into three."

At that point, Busch had only one goal and the young California driver was his only target. "I drove off in there as far as I could, got into the back of him.  Once I did that, he was kind of sliding loose and I was just trying to get back to the start-finish line. I'd much rather not slam past him in order to win the thing. When I was going down the backstretch, I was like, Hell, no, you're not taking this one away right now. This was kind of where I was at."

"Once contact is made in a race, it's kind of like, okay, every man for himself."

Yes, it is and why Larson headed straight to victory lane after climbing out his car the runner-up for the fourth time this season.  "I just went down and talked to him and said that was a lot of fun," he said with a little chuckle. 

Busch felt Larson's visit was the right thing to do so the two of them could absolutely make sure they were on the same page. "I actually said first, I thought you were going to slide me," Busch explained. "I was all ready for that. He was like, no, I didn't have enough room. By the time you got back to my outside, I had no other choice to stall you out, I hit you. You knew it was fair game after that? Yeah, I knew.  All right, as long as we're good, you understood that was how it was going to be. He was like, no, it's totally on me for initiating it, for starting it. It was all good."

With some fans, though, it wasn't all good.  They didn't accept Busch's right to return fire.  They complained if he had finished second or the shoe was on the other foot instead of taking the high road he would have hit the highway without saying a word, running away and refusing to face the music like Larson did.

Given his past history, there's a chance that might be true, but should we pronounce Busch guilty of something he may or may not do? Sorry, that's not fair.  You're grasping at straws if that's your only complaint after that finish.  One of my friends asked me how much NASCAR should penalize Busch and I answered, "Are you kidding me?  Are you crazy?"

From the beginning of the sport in the late 1940's into the 90's, the leader of the race knew he was fair game and if someone got close enough in the closing laps he was going to, at least, get a bump and run. Somewhere along the line, however, that misdemeanor turned into a felony and drivers began to feel anyone who did that should be charged with assault and battery.  You've heard it said, "rubbings racing".  Well, that statement came from years ago and it hasn't really been that way for a while.

The key to the code once upon a time was simply, yes could push the leader out of the way, but you couldn't wreck him. You could bump him back to second or third, but you couldn't crash him back to 30th without a brawl in the garage.   I remember Jeff Gordon knocking Rusty Wallace out of the lead, not once but twice, at Bristol to win on the final lap and Rusty never screamed he had been screwed over.  He just took it on the chin, reminding Gordon he had better keep his mouth shut if the roles are someday reversed.

We need to get back to that mentality.  We saw it in the season-opening Daytona 500 when Austin Dillon hammered his way by Aric Almirola on the last lap to win and a classy Almirola walked away knowing Dillon had done nothing he wouldn't have done.

With their frantic finish at Chicagoland the Kyles, Busch and Larson, added another chapter to the story of, hopefully, NASCAR's road to recovery.  I loved every moment in the closing laps. Whether on the lead lap or not, whether it was among the top-two challengers, no one was asking for mercy, nor was anyone giving any.  They just drove their guts out until someone told them the checkered flag was out.

We need more of that, not less, and anyone who thinks otherwise…I don't know what to think.