Kurt Busch took a trip to victory lane at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday driving the No. 41 Monster Energy Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Busch, who took the lead with 24 laps to go following a bad restart by teammate Clint Bowyer, led one time throughout the entire 500-lap event.
“It was up to Bowyer to choose the lane. He chose the outside and we got a perfect start on the inside,” said Busch. “I dug it perfect right into turn one and two and the spotter said, ‘Take it. Take it.’ Which meant go to the wall on exit and I didn’t even bother to look in the mirror. He said, ‘Take it,’ and when you trust your team to give you the right stuff setup-wise, you’ve got to trust the spotter the same way. Tony Raines. He’s a racer. That’s why he’s my spotter and it worked out perfect.”
The Las Vegas native scored his 30th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win and his sixth victory at the 0.533-mile oval. The veteran driver will leave the track with four top five and 14 top 10 finishes this year.
Clint Bowyer fell from the lead and finished sixth on the leaderboard in the No. 14 Ford. Bowyer, who led 120 of the 500 laps, will go into the off weekend with seven top five and 11 top 10 finishes.
“It just matters to win. It’s all about winning. I’m glad we did,” said Kurt Busch after the race. ”We’ve been the most consistent team this year that hasn’t won. 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 gonna keep going after it. The Southern 500 is after this week off and we’ve got Indianapolis and then my hometown kicks off the Playoffs, so we’re all about these next 12.”
Kyle Larson will take home the runner-up spot in the No. 42 Chevrolet after starting the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race on the pole. The winner of Friday night’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Bristol led 17 circuits en route to the checkered flag.
“I think if I had a better car, tires probably would have showed what they are really capable of. This was just a really frustrating day,” Larson described after the 500-lap event. “Our DC Solar Chevy was not very good from lap 1 to lap 500 there, but we fought and got a second place finish out of it. So, I was happy about running second, but just disappointed because I had a lot of confidence going into this race and thought our car was really good. But, we were probably a 12th to 15th-place car, I thought. Just lined up in the right re-starts just about every time and was able to gain some spots on every re-start and maintain. And then would be terrible there towards the end of the run. Frustrating, but we were able to fight; so that’s good for our team to be able to do that. Our pit stops, aside from the first one, were really good. So, I’m happy about that that. So, we’ll just continue to fight to get our cars a lot better.”
Larson, coming in as one of the favorites to watch at Bristol, finished stage one sitting sixth on the leaderboard and sat third in stage two. The young racer will leave with his 13th top 10 finish this year.
Watkins Glen race winner Chase Elliott will round out the top three finishers on Saturday. Elliott, son of Bill Elliott, scored his 13th top 10 finish on Saturday after finishing stage one in fourth and runner-up in stage two.
“Yeah, not quite enough of something,” said Elliott. “I don’t know, just got tight there after the run that we had the lead and once we got it freed back up, but we kept getting the bottom on all the restarts and it was just hard to go forward and what not. But, man, that thing was really fast there at the end. It felt like we were making up some ground on those guys.”
Stage two winner Joey Logano and Erik Jones rounded out the top five.
Kyle Busch entered the weekend as one of the drivers to watch at Bristol. Busch, younger brother of race winner Kurt Busch, has seven career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victories alone at Bristol.
The Las Vegas native had an up and down night behind the wheel of the No. 18 Toyota. On lap 2, Busch suffered damage in a crash that involved 15 cars on the frontstrech. The driver then drove his way back into the 10 before he and Martin Truex Jr. made contact. The incident did not end the night yet for Busch as he continued until lap 481. Busch and Chris Buescher later brought out the yellow flag with 19 to go in turn four and that incident would end the chance of winning for the team.
“Totally my fault, man, I feel terrible about that,” said Busch regarding the incident with Martin Truex Jr. “Obviously I just misjudged it by a little bit – four inches, six inches, whatever and I got in the gas and was coming up off the corner and was going to slide in behind him (Martin Truex Jr.) and I didn’t think I was next to him yet and I clipped him and sent him for a whale of a ride. Hopefully, he’s alright and everything is okay there. I hated that I clipped him, I know he could have had a good shot to win the race too.”
Busch continued to finish 20th and three laps down on the leaderboard. Truex weren’t so lucky as his night ended at lap 431 with a 30th place finish.
Clint Bowyer, stage one winner Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top 10.
The next race for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race will be at Darlington Raceway on September 2nd. Coverage of the Southern 500 will take place at 6:00 p.m. ET. on NBCSN.