Kenny Bruce – NASCAR Wire Service
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Kyle Busch wasn’t the only driver to overcome adversity during Sunday’s running of the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
But he was the only one to end up in victory lane.
The race winner was involved in a multi-car crash on the second lap of the 500-lap affair, sustaining damage to the rear of his car. But he patiently worked his way back through the field. He took his first lead at lap 384.
The key to the win came late – Busch collected his third win of the season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and his eight overall at Bristol Motor Speedway when he chose track position over fresh tires during the 11th and final caution of the race.
“I don’t know, we’re crazy; we just do what we do (to) try to win,” the driver of the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing said after climbing from his entry on the frontstretch.
The final run to the checkered flag was set up after Kyle Larson got into the wall with less than 25 laps remaining to bring out the yellow flag. Joey Logano and Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski, running 1-2, hit pit road, as did several others in the lead pack.
But Busch, along with older brother Kurt, opted to stay out, along with Daniel Suarez and Paul Menard to restart first through fourth when the field went back to green with just 14 laps remaining.
“It’s pretty awesome to be able to snooker those guys, get our win today here at Bristol,” the younger Busch said. “I love this place.
“It was fun to battle out the brother there at the end. I know we didn’t quite get the side-by-side racing it out; I saw him looking at the top. I’m like, ‘I better go.’ I got up there, was able to make some ground.”
“It was a no-brainer for us,” crew chief Adam Stevens said afterward when asked about the call not to bring his driver to pit road.
Busch also paid tribute to three-time series champion and FOX NASCAR analyst Darrell Waltrip, who won 12 times at the Tennessee venue.
“It ain’t 12, that’s for sure,” Busch said of his win total at BMS. “So I’ve got more to go.”
There were issues on the final restart, Keselowski was penalized for failing to follow a NASCAR directive, but none for the front two.
Logano, Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin completed the top five.
Menard, Clint Bowyer, Suarez, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson were sixth through 10th respectively.
“I really wanted to beat him,” Kurt Busch said of the battle with his brother. “I was going to wreck him. … He already won (this year). I figure he could give a little love to his brother. I wanted that one bad. …
“I’m happy that we were in position to do it. This group of guys, we’re not quite ready to win yet, but that was close.”
The win was Busch’s 54th overall in the series. His previous wins this season came at ISM (Phoenix) Raceway and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California
He led 71 laps, including the final 19. He also overcame an early spin that saw his Toyota swept up in a five-car incident on just the second lap of the 500-lap race.
The race was the eighth of the season; all eight have been won by drivers from either the JGR or Team Penske camps.
It was a battle reminiscent of past contests held at Bristol, with plenty of contact as well as lead changes. Blaney was the lap leader at 158 while Logano paced the field for 146.
Ty Dillon was a surprising winner of the opening stage, edging Bowyer with a last-lap pass. Logano won the second stage.
Several teams, including those of Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex, battled loose wheel issues. Others were merely forced to deal with damage typically associated with the close-quarters racing that has been the norm at BMS.
With luck on his side, Kyle Busch seems unstoppable
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – He may not win all the time, though considering the frequency in which Kyle Busch does visit Victory Lane it certainly creates the impression that the Joe Gibbs Racing driver is omnipresent in the winner’s circle.
Busch’s most recent Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory occurred Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway. Yet unlike so many of Busch’s wins – including his previous two this season – Busch didn’t have the dominant car in the Food City 500. Yes, his Toyota Camry was strong, but even Busch admitted others were better. Chief among them, Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney, who combined to lead 344 of a possible 500 laps.
But winning is more than just which driver possesses the most talent, though Busch is undoubtedly not lacking in this department. Many factors play a role in deciding the outcome, as was the case at Bristol.
The decisive moment Sunday came during a caution with 21 laps remaining. Keselowski was leading, Logano was second, Busch third and Blaney fourth. The Penske trio all elected to pit for fresh tires, while Busch’s crew chief, Adam Stevens, smartly chose to keep his driver on the track. A critical call that vaulted Busch into the lead he wouldn’t relinquish.
Keselowski incurred a penalty on the subsequent restart, while even with fresher tires Logano and Blaney lacked enough time to move forward and challenge for the win.
“It stinks when you have the fastest car and don’t win, but it’s a team sport and it takes every piece to make it work,” said Logano, who finished third.
Not as if Busch didn’t earn his 54th all-time victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, tying him with Hall of Famer Lee Petty for 10th on the all-time wins list. He did have to fend off older brother Kurt over the last 14 laps. Had he been able to get to the rear bumper of his younger sibling, Kurt said post-race he would’ve crashed him but he never got that chance as the situation never materialized.
Sometimes circumstances simply work in your favor. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. And when you’re both lucky and good, then you’re Kyle Busch.
“It’s pretty awesome to be able to snooker those guys, get our win today here at Bristol,” Busch said. “The Skittles Camry wasn’t the best today, but we made the most of not having the best and got everything we needed here at the end.”
It has been that kind of season for Busch. He now has a Monster Energy Series-best three wins, finished in the top 10 in all eight races – the first driver to accomplish this feat since Terry Labonte in 1992 – and continues to sit atop the standings, stretching his lead to 27 points over second-place Denny Hamlin.
Many times over it has been demonstrated that Busch is capable of winning, any race no matter the track. It’s not as if he also needs any luck. But when things do go his way, or when his competitors hand him an opportunity on a silver platter because of pit strategy that can best be described as curious like on Sunday, it creates the impression that there is simply no slowing him.
Adding to that seemingly aura of invincibility and what must give the competition fits is what lies ahead: Richmond Raceway. Merely a venue where Busch has won six times – second only to his now eight wins at Bristol – including the past two races on the short track, and boasts a stellar average finish of 6.9 in 27 career starts. It is a place where he is often at his best.
“We got some good tracks coming up,” Stevens said. “Hopefully we can get back on our horse, give him something he can race with a little closer next week.”
Maybe Busch won’t get another fortuitous break on Saturday night. It also may not even matter.
Jordan Bianchi – NASCAR Wire Service
Bell rings up Bristol win, banks Xfinity Dash 4 Cash bonus
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Christopher Bell overtook Brandon Jones with less than 20 laps remaining to capture Saturday’s Alsco 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race and pocketed a $100,000 bonus for his efforts.
Bell, driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, was one of four drivers competing for the series’ Dash 4 Cash bonus. Other eligible drivers didn’t finish far behind – Tyler Reddick finished second, Chase Briscoe finished fourth and Michael Annett wound up eighth.
“That’s pretty cool to get my first win here with the Dash 4 Cash bonus,” Bell said in victory lane. “Joe Gibbs Racing has a really, really good package at Bristol. For whatever reason, we struggled to find that. I didn’t feel good basically all practice and didn’t qualify good.
“As soon as they dropped the green flag for the race, I was really, really loose. But the longer the runs went the better I got.”
Third place went to Cole Custer while John Hunter Nemechek rounded out the top five.
Reddick, piloting the No. 2 Chevrolet out of the Richard Childress Racing shops, was second in both the first and second stages en route to his runner-up finish.
After leading 61 laps, he mistakenly thought the first stage had ended, and the hesitation while still under green allowed Justin Allgaier to shoot past for the stage win.
Reddick shadowed Allgaier for the entire second stage, only to finish second, then lost five spots on pit road due to an issue in the pits. Late contact with the wall wasn’t an issue, he said, as he tried to chase down Bell.
“Not necessarily getting into the wall,” he said. “These composite bodies are just as durable as can be. I just needed a little bit more there to get past Christopher.
“The unfortunate part is when I got behind him it is hard to make the pass.”
Allgaier (JR Motorsports No. 7 Chevrolet) won two stages and led 138 of the race’s 300 laps. But during a heated battle up front among himself, Bell, Reddick and Custer, Allgaier’s entry began to slow. Moments later he was pulling his blue and white entry behind pit wall, the victim of an apparent engine issue.
Custer rallied from an early setback that saw him pit twice under yellow to repair damage to his Ford after the opening stage. By the start of the final stage, he was back among the race leaders.
“We just didn’t really have the fire off speed or the perfect scenarios to pass people when we got up in the top five to really get track position,” Custer said. “It was impossible to pass, really. I don’t know. I’m pretty mad because I think we had the best car there at the end, we just didn’t have the best fire off (speed). I know we’ve got to get a little bit better.”
The top four finishers will be eligible for the $100,000 bonus next week at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. The program will continue in subsequent races at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
Jones inherited the lead when he did not pit after Harrison Burton brought out the caution flag at lap 261. With nearly 80-lap old tires, Jones still managed to hold Bell and the others at bay for nearly 20 laps.
“He (Jones) did a great job,” Bell said of his JGR teammate. “He really did. This place, for whatever reason, suits his driving style. He should have won this race last year. … He just couldn’t quite hang on on those older tires. …
“I knew I was going to have to do the slide job and hopefully take the top away, which I was able to do.”
Darrell Waltrip reflects on career as
driver and broadcaster
BRISTOL, Tenn. – A day after it was announced that Darrell Waltrip would end his broadcasting career this year, the three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion sat down and spoke with the media about his legendary career behind the wheel and in the television booth.
“Some people have thought that this was a spur-of-the-moment decision, something that I decided to do over the last two or three weeks,” Waltrip said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, where he won 12 times. “That is so far from the truth. …
“Anybody that’s done what I’ve done, whether it’s a driving career or a TV career, you can always look back and say ‘maybe should have done something different, maybe I should have thought about this or maybe I should have thought about that.’
“This is my home. For 60 years of my 72, I was holding on to something. I was holding on to a steering wheel for 30 years; I let go of that wheel and I grabbed on to a microphone. And I held on to a microphone for another 19 years. I’ve always been holding on to something.”
Waltrip, along with Mike Joy and former series crew chief Larry McReynolds, made up the original booth talent for FOX Sports when the network began NASCAR coverage in 2001. The move to television came after a driving career that saw Waltrip win series championships in 1981-82 and ’85 as well as 84 races.
In 2016, three-time series champion Jeff Gordon joined Waltrip and Joy in the booth.
As a racer in the early 1970s, Waltrip rocked the established stars of the day almost from the moment he arrived on the scene. By the end of the decade, he was winning multiple races and contending for championships. He was both loved and loathed as a competitor by fans and fellow drivers alike.
His career as a broadcaster was equally notable as he quickly helped merge two very different eras of the sport, identifying seamlessly with the older established followers while teaching a younger audience the ins and outs of NASCAR.
Mike Helton, vice chairman of NASCAR, noted that Waltrip has made “a remarkable impact on a lot of people personally but on our industry in general.
“I count my blessings as I get older about those that I have been able to share my career with, but you’re right there among the top,” Helton told Waltrip. “You’re a remarkable person.”
Waltrip will remain in the booth for the remainder of the FOX portion of the 2019 racing season, which concludes June 23 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.
A replacement has not been named.
“They say you get what you give,” Waltrip said. “Well, I gave a lot. But I got a whole lot more in return.”