BRISTOL, Tenn. – Kyle Busch is still the king of Bristol Motor Speedway, but there was nothing routine about his victory in Sunday’s Food City 500.
The obstacles included a crash on the opening lap, a mangled rear bumper and a day-long rally.
“We just do what we do to try to win,” said Busch after his eighth career BMS win.
Sunday’s defining moment came after a restart with 15 laps to go. In textbook fashion, Busch took off from the field with his brother Kurt trailing close behind.
Kurt made a couple runs at his brother but was unable to pull off the pass.
“I wanted that one bad,” Kurt Busch said. “I was willing to wreck my little brother to win. He had already won seven times here. With three laps to go, the car stepped out in Turn 1 and I wasn’t close enough after that.”
Kyle said he enjoyed the family interplay.
“It was fun to battle out the brother there,” Kyle said. “I know we didn’t quite get side-side racing it out. I saw him working the top. I got up there and was able to make some ground.”
While Kyle displayed his usual high-level racecraft, the decisive call was made by his crew chief, Adam Stevens, who elected not to call his driver in for a pit stop before the final restart.
“We don’t come out here to ride around,” Stevens said. “We get paid to win.”
Kyle took delight in how the final chapter played out.
“It’s pretty awesome to snooker those guys and get our win,” Kyle said. “Our car wasn’t the best today, but we kept making adjustments and we got everything we needed at the end.”
With the victory, Kyle tied Lee Petty for 10th on the all-time Cup win list with 54.
The race, which began under overcast skies, attracted an estimated crowd of 38,000. It appeared that nearly all of those fans were on their feet for the dramatic finish.
“It’s pretty cool to have the opportunity to go out there and win these races,” Kyle Busch said. “Getting to Lee Petty, you’re starting to get into some really heavy company.”
Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five finishers.
Unlike Kyle Busch, Logano’s crew elected to pit their driver before the final restart. Logano was leading at the time.
“I think we had the fastest car, we just didn’t get all the pieces right,” Logano said. “The 18 [Busch] capitalized on that. Congrats to them.”
Logano labeled the final restart as a “mess.”
“I don’t know what was going on out there,” Logano said. “We were all three and four-wide.”
It was a bitter finish for Brad Keselowski, who was penalized by NASCAR for failing to line up in the proper place on the final restart.
“Nobody could figure out the lineup,” Keselowski said. “There wasn’t enough communication and it was just a tough deal.”
Pole-winner Chase Elliott led the first 38 laps before encountering near disaster. The drama began when the Ryan Preece car spun on lap 39 after cutting a tire. As Elliott slowed, he was punted from behind by Corey LaJoie.
While Elliott expertly managed to avoid hard contact with the inside wall, his No. 9 Chevrolet came away with damage to the left-rear and right-front. To the dismay of his large fan contingent, Elliott encountered problems with his power steering which malfunctioned after the race resumed.
“Definitely not what we started out hoping for,” said Elliott, who finished 11th. “We got turned late in the race, that was about it. We fell behind from there. Had a great car, even without the power steering.”
The first caution came just after the green flag when William Byron lost control of his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and bumped the Aric Almirola car into the outside wall. Almirola was relegated to a last place finish.
“You work all week getting ready for the event, and to make it just one lap is kind of uncalled for,” Almirola said. “[Byron] got loose underneath me, lost it and ran right into the side of us. Part of that comes with experience. I’m disappointed and frustrated, but life goes goes on.”
In the ensuing traffic jam, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. slammed into the rear bumper of Kyle Busch. The Stenhouse car sustained extensive damage, but the battle was far from over for Kyle.
The day began on a down note for Kevin Harvick. After his car failed pre-race inspection and his engineer earned an ejection from the track, Harvick was forced to start the race from the rear of the field. He finished 13th.
One of the most compelling moments of the day came at the end of stage one when Ty Dillon managed to hold off a hard-charging Clint Bowyer, who settled for a seventh place finish.
“We had a good car, it’s just horribly disappointing,” Bowyer said.
After 50 laps, drivers were able to find a cushion on the low and high grooves.
“The track was really racey from bottom to top,” Blaney said. “I thought it put on a really good show.”
Friday’s qualifying session generated some jaw-dropping numbers. Twenty drivers in the 37-car field posted laps of under 15 seconds. Sunday’s top four starters all posted speeds of under 131-mph, including the track-record run of 14.627 seconds 131.182-mph by No. 3 qualifier Blaney.