Kyle Larson looks for a sweep on NASCAR’s Bristol bullring
BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — Kurt Busch stole the spotlight from his younger brother Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway to snap a 58-race winless streak and grab an overdue short track victory.
Busch won for the first time this season — first since the 2017 season-opening Daytona 500 — but it was his sixth victory on the 0.533-mile bullring he once dominated. Busch once won three consecutive times on the Tennessee track and was considered the best in the business on the concrete oval.
Then his younger brother learned his way around the place, and Kyle Busch became the master of the track.
Kyle Busch has seven Cup wins at Bristol, 21 combined across NASCAR’s national series. He’s so good that he chose the song “All I Do Is Win” by D.J. Khaled to play as he was introduced before the race. The crowd responded with a thunderous jeering, and Kyle Busch’s eventful evening was off to a roaring start.
He triggered a 15-car accident just two laps into the race, fell two laps off the pace, came back to race Martin Truex Jr. for second, and moved Truex out the way late in the race. His late spin set up the final restart that helped Kurt Busch seal the victory.
A frustrated Truex kicked his car in anger after the incident, and as Kyle Busch was tending to his wounded race car, older brother Kurt battled Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer for the lead. Kurt Busch was relentless on the restart and got his Ford to the front, then came Kyle Busch’s spin for the ninth caution.
Kurt Busch had a good restart and Kyle Larson, on fresher tires, desperately tried to catch him. Kurt Busch held him off and Larson, winner of the Xfinity Series race Friday night, finished second in his bid for the Bristol sweep.
The victory was the 30th of Kurt Busch’s career and he and Kyle Busch became the only brothers in Cup history with 30 wins each. It was Kurt Busch’s first Bristol victory since 2006. Kyle Busch ranks fifth on Bristol’s career list, while Kurt Busch broke a tie with Jeff Gordon for sixth.
“I love this place,” Kurt Busch said. “I always wanted to get to 30 (wins). This is a big win for me. Early on before I even won my first race I said, ‘Man, if I could win 30 races.'”
The ninth driver to win this season, Kurt Busch earned a spot in the 16-driver playoff field.
“It’s all about winning,” he said. “I wasn’t worried about not making the playoffs, so we could kind of treat these races coming up as free-for-alls, and we’re just going to keep going after it.”
The victory was the 13th for Stewart-Haas Racing since it joined Ford last season, and the 100th Cup victory for the Fusion.
Kyle Busch wound up 20th. He led the first 70 laps of the Xfinity Series race but wrecked with a flat tire, so his Bristol weekend was a bust.
“We probably finished where we should have anyways, as torn up as our race car is,” said Kyle Busch, who also accepted fault for the contact with Truex. “I feel terrible about that. Obviously I just misjudged it by a little bit – four inches, six inches, whatever — I didn’t think I was next to him yet and I clipped him and sent him for a whale of a ride.”
Other events from an action-packed Bristol race:
LOCKED IN: Although they have yet to win a Cup race this season, Larson, Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski scored enough points to clinch berths in the playoffs. There are two races remaining before the playoffs begin.
Larson thought he’d get in via a victory at Bristol, where he’s finished second five times between Cup and Xfinity. He lost four races to Kyle Busch, now one to Kurt Busch.
“Probably the most frustrating Bristol race I’ve had just because I never really felt like I had a shot to win,” Larson said.
STILL SEEKING A BRISTOL WIN: Truex Jr. has never won on a short track and felt he had a chance to snap that streak at Bristol.
He was running second behind Bowyer when Kyle Busch tapped Truex’s rear bumper to cause Truex to wreck. Truex was so angry, he threw pieces of equipment to the ground and gave the side of his Toyota a hard kick.
“I just got hit in the left rear, pretty simple,” Truex said. “This place has been so hard on us. I can’t even explain to you how good we’ve run here in the past three or four years and crap like this happens every single time. It’s like just one thing after another.”
Truex was also frustrated with himself for not moving Bowyer out of his way and taking the lead. Had he done that, he wouldn’t have been in position for Busch to make contact with him.
“I should’ve knocked (Bowyer’s) butt out of the way because he held me up for 15-20 laps and burnt my front tires off screwing with him,” Truex said. “Played too nice and got the crappy end of the stick.”
THEY SAID IT: “If we could race here every Saturday and Sunday, our grandstands would be packed, our TV ratings would be very high. Let’s build more Bristols,” said runner-up Kyle Larson.
UP NEXT: The Cup Series is off next weekend and races again Sept. 2 in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. Denny Hamlin won last year’s race.