More than twenty lead changes, a lot of bumping and banging, drivers up on the wheel and tempers flaring under the lights in the roaring Coliseum. Oh, it’s Bristol Baby. It was the crown jewel night race for the short-track and boy did spectators and those watching at home get their money’s worth on Saturday night. If you want high intensity racing filled with drama just three to go before the playoffs, Bristol was just what the doctor ordered.
When the dust cleared it was the No. 41 of Stewart-Haas Racing who took the checkered flag snapping a 58-race skid since Kurt Busch last won in the 2017 Daytona 500. Busch took the lead from teammate Clint Bowyer on a late restart with 22 to go, despite charging from the inside line with the outside being the preferred spot on restarts all night long. Kyle Busch spun causing another late caution inciting one final restart to the finish. Kurt Busch was able to fend off Kyle Larson from second who was charging with 30-lap fresher tires. Despite that Kurt pulled away and secured his 30th career win.
“It’s awesome to do it at Bristol. I love this place. We now have won six times here and I have great teams that have always helped me win,” Busch said in his post-race interview. It was also the first career win for his crew chief Billy Scott who had the set-up of the 41 car right where it needed to be at the end, and also in the right position all night to capitalize. Despite damage during the first wreck on lap 3, Busch fought back with a little duck-tape on the hood to win the race and officially lock himself into the playoffs.
Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Erik Jones rounded out the top five at Bristol for the Bass Pro Shops NRA 500 with Bowyer finishing 6th and Jimmie Johnson securing a top-10 finish. Ryan Blaney led a race-high 121 laps and finish 7th. Kyle Busch was the man to watch all day after spinning on lap 3 causing the wreck and incurring some serious damage. No bumper and all, Busch worked his way back from two laps down into the top 10 and turned fastest laps during his charge to the front. Busch even took out corporate teammate Martin Truex Jr. on lap 432 when he was trying to take second place, clipping the 78 and turning him around. Truex was not happy and said “we’ll just have to race him a little harder next time.”
Three other drivers lock themselves into the playoffs on points at Bristol with just two races remaining in the regular season. Larson, Blaney and Brad Keselowski are all locked in with Denny Hamlin not far behind +214 points sitting 13th in the standings. Aric Almirola is 14th after starting off with a top-ten car, but an issue with a tire going down cost him a good finishing position. Johnson is 15th +111 points and teammate Alex Bowman holds the cut-off spot 79 points ahead of Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The series takes a breather next weekend and returns for Labor Day Weekend for their “Throwback Weekend” at Darlington for the Southern 500 on September 2nd.