EditorsNote: adds quotes and details
After his car took a nasty bash to its rear end just a lap and a half into Sunday’s Food City 500, it looked like Kyle Busch’s bid to win his third race of the season was doomed. But you don’t become NASCAR’s career victory leader by giving up so early in a race.
The Las Vegas native and the winner of 203 races across NASCAR’s three elite series battled back, took the lead for the first time with 117 laps to go, took it again by staying out on old tires during a caution with 20 laps to go and went on to post win No. 204 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee.
“We’re crazy,” Busch said when asked about the strategy to not pit for tires during the caution. “Pretty awesome to be able to snooker those guys (the drivers in front of him who did stop for tires) and be able to get our win today at Bristol. Love this place.”
The victory was the 54th of Busch’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career. It was his eighth win at Bristol Motor Speedway’s .533 mile short track.
He led just 71 laps.
“We just weren’t quite our best today,” said Busch, who has finished in the top 10 of all eight races this season. “Certainly we were competitive. We were top four, top five but we were just never the No. 1 dominant guy. It seemed like the Penske cars definitely kind of had us all covered today.”
To get the victory, Busch had to hold off older brother Kurt Busch, who was bidding to get his seventh win at Bristol and his first victory since moving to Chip Ganassi Racing for 2019.
“It was fun to battle my brother there at the end,” Kyle Busch said. “I saw him working the top (of the high-banked track) and I’m like, ‘I’d better go.’ And I got up there and was able to make some ground.”
It was not fun for his older brother.
“That one was tough,” Kurt Busch said. “I really wanted to beat him. I was going to wreck him. I was wanting to stay close enough so that when we took the white (flag that signals one lap to go), I was going to drive straight into (Turn) 3 and floor him. He’s already won. I figured he can give a little love to his brother. I wanted that one bad. I feel like him right now. I’m all mad because I didn’t win.”
Team Penske drivers Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney finished third and fourth, respectively, while Kyle Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin was fifth.
Ty Dillon of Germain Racing won Stage 1. It was the first stage win of his career. Defending series champion Logano of Team Penske won Stage 2 — his third of the season.
Kyle Busch, ran into trouble on the second lap — rather, trouble ran into him as he was rear-ended by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. when they accordioned behind a wreck. Busch, who has won twice and earned five podium finishes in seven races this season, and who is a seven-time Bristol winner, suffered major damage to his Toyota.
—Field Level Media