Kyle Busch reels in win at Bristol
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Kyle Busch claimed his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of 2017 on Saturday night at the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
It was Busch’s sixth career win at Bristol — most among active drivers — and completed a sweep of the three NASCAR national-level races at Bristol between Wednesday and Saturday.
“That one was a lot harder,” Busch said of the Cup win.
Erik Jones finished second, 1.4 seconds behind Busch, after leading 260 laps. Busch led 156.
“Man, Erik Jones put up a whale of a fight,” Busch said. “That’s all I had. I was running with my tongue hanging. My arms were jello and my throat hurts, but man, that’s awesome. Can’t say enough about everybody on my Joe Gibbs Racing team. Adam Stevens (crew chief) and the guys are phenomenal.
“Car might not have been perfect, but I’m never perfect. I never feel like we’re perfect, but this Caramel Camry was fast. So proud of these guys; so proud of my team; so proud of Joe Gibbs Racing. So proud of Rowdy Nation; this one’s for you.”
Toyota claimed the top-four positions in the finishing order with Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth taking third and fourth, respectively. Kyle Busch’s brother, Kurt Busch, rounded out the top five.
“We’ve been struggling with the VHT (traction compound) on the bottom, so I just knew we needed to wait and wait and wait, and I was hopeful at lap 250 that it would come to us,” Kurt Busch said. “I pushed it too hard then and got some right-front tire damage on the fender. We had to work through that, but I think at the end we got in position, because Tony Gibson made a good call and put us on fresher tires than the competition, and it was the old fun Bristol for me.
“So I’m really proud of this Monster Energy Ford — to be first in class, to get a top-five in my 600th start, and to see the lead with 50 to go.”
Kyle Busch took his final lead of the race from Jones with just over 50 laps remaining. Jones and Kenseth swapped second back and forth for much of the remaining 50 laps before Hamlin got by Kenseth for third.
“It is what it is; we raced hard all night,” Jones said. “We led a lot of laps. We did almost everything we needed to do. We qualified on the pole and ran second, so I wish we would’ve had a little bit more. It’s a bummer. It’s a great weekend for us. You can’t take that away. The 5-Hour Energy Camry was fantastic, but you still wish you could’ve had that little bit more to grab the win. That one would’ve meant a lot to us, but we’ll just have to keep after it. That’s two good weeks for us and we’re going to keep fighting and keep going after these wins.”
Kyle Busch and Kenseth were the winners of the first two stages.
When a yellow flag waved late in the second 125-lap stage, Kenseth was among six drivers who stayed out, and as a result, inherited the lead for a restart with six laps remaining in the stage.
Busch was first off pit road but restarted seventh. He lost a position to eighth by the end of the stage.
Jones started the race from the pole, his first career series pole. Kyle Larson took the lead on lap 51 and Busch, after starting 18th, got to the front to take the lead from Larson on lap 118.
Busch and Larson battled back and forth for the lead in the closing laps of the opening stage, with Busch taking the lead on the last lap of the stage. Jones also got by Larson on lap 125 to take second in stage one.
NOTES: Kurt Busch made his 600th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start. ... Kyle Busch dominated and won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Wednesday night and the NASCAR Xfinity Series race Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch swept all three races, including the Cup race, at Bristol in 2010. ... The PJ1 traction compound was applied to the lower groove of the racing surface for the third consecutive NASCAR weekend at Bristol. ... Jimmie Johnson won the most recent race at Bristol in April. Kevin Harvick won the previous Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. ... Cole Whitt crew chief Frankie Kerr suffered a broken right scapula and a severely bruised sternum and ribs when the race car fell on him at the track Friday, but remained at Bristol for Saturday night’s race. ... Kasey Kahne qualified third but had to drop to the back for the start of the race because of a tire change.