Once again, the Busch family has staked their claim to victory lane, reducing the act of winning a Sprint Cup race to a simple activity where the brothers take turns, like the game of Memory. At Las Vegas, Kyle Busch claimed the victory. Two weeks ago at Atlanta, older brother Kurt Busch dominated on his way to victory.
This week, it was Kyle’s turn again.
Kyle Busch started 19th and immediately started coming up through the field. Busch first took the lead on lap 69 from Jimmie Johnson, and from that point on, Kyle was in near complete control.
After lap 69, Busch only gave up the lead during pit-stop sequences, and once right before a caution to his teammate, Denny Hamlin. Busch led a race high 378 laps on the way to a dominating victory in Sunday’s Food City 500.
Even though Busch was like an impenetrable wall at times, he had to hold off Hamlin on a green-white-checkered finish to claim the victory, in what seems to be the norm for the spring race at Bristol these days (the last two have ended in GWCs, and both have burned Hamlin).
After the race, Kyle Busch was happy with his performance, but considers it be the status quo.
“It was a good day for us,” Busch said during the post-race news conference. “We knew [that] it was going to be a good racecar coming here from our performance last fall [when Busch led 415 laps].”
Runner-up Hamlin also seemed to be satisfied with his performance.
“Yeah, we had a good car. It was extremely good on the long runs,” Hamlin said. “When we had that caution with 50 or 60 laps to go, I knew it was going to be tough, unless we got out [off] pit road first to have anything for [the No. 18].”
Behind the two Joe Gibbs Racing teammates was Johnson in third. He seemed to be happier with his third place than the top two were. Points leader Jeff Gordon brought his No. 24 home in fourth and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top five.
Mark Martin finally put together a complete race to finish sixth, followed by Ryan Newman and Jeff Burton. Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose, whose car sputtered home with engine issues, rounded out the top 10.
This race will best be remembered for Kyle Busch’s domination. However, it was also a fairly quick race by Bristol standards. With only nine cautions for 58 laps, the race was finished in just two hours and 54 minutes. Also, with a lack of big crashes, attrition was very low. Six cars failed to finish the race, and only one of those (the No. 64 of Todd Bodine) was due to a crash.
Points Standings (Top 12)
Gordon, although currently mired in the longest winless streak in his entire career (46 races), continued his consistent form on Sunday, finishing fourth. This expanded his points lead up to 76 points over new second-place man Kurt Busch. Busch finished 11th on Sunday despite getting some front end damage as a result of a chain reaction wreck on the frontstretch on lap 60. Behind Busch, the standings get really tight. Just three points behind Kurt is Clint Bowyer, who was invisible on Sunday. Bowyer stayed on the lead lap all day and finished 13th, but never showed any sign of being able to contend. Just six points behind Bowyer is today’s winner, Kyle Busch. Busch gained three spots as a result of his victory.
Carl Edwards is down one place to fifth this week, but he should be lucky that he only lost the one place. Edwards struggled with handling most of the weekend, qualifying 38th on Friday and dealing with an ill-handling car for most of the race on his way to a 15th-place finish. Kahne is now sixth, 26 points behind Edwards as a result of his fifth-place finish, and Tony Stewart is six points behind Kahne in seventh. Hamlin was the big gainer on Sunday, moving up six places to claim eighth in the points after finishing second.
Johnson makes his first appearance in the top 12 this year, moving up to ninth after a third-place finish. Maybe the No. 48 team is finally returning to form. The big loser this week was Matt Kenseth, who fell five spots to 10th after a terrible day on Sunday. Kenseth’s No. 17 hit the wall early on and dealt with severe handling issues on the way to a 33rd-place finish. Three points behind Kenseth is David Reutimann, who ran in the top 10 for most of the race before fading back to a 12th-place finish. Kevin Harvick rounds out the top 12.
Around the 35th Place Cutoff
Bristol was a do-or-die race for Martin and his No. 5 team. Yes, they had run very well this season, but bad luck had the team in 35th entering Sunday’s race. A strong sixth-place finish moved the No. 5 up four places to 31st in owner points. They are 85 points ahead of 35th and locked into Martinsville next weekend, but they are not completely out of the woods yet.
Another team that finished well on Sunday that was desperately in need of a good run was the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet driven by Newman. Prior to Bristol, Newman’s best finish this season had been a 22nd. The team had struggled to be competitive at some races, and suffered extreme bad luck at Daytona despite qualifying well. On Sunday, the team ran well all day and Newman brought the No. 39 Army Chevrolet home in seventh spot. This elevated the No. 39 up five places to 27th in owner points, 140 points ahead of 36th.
Now that five races have been run, this season’s owner points will now be used to determine who is locked into the races. There are three teams that had to qualify for the first five races on speed that are now locked in for Martinsville. Those teams are the No. 14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet of Stewart-Haas Racing, the No. 44 Dodge of Richard Petty Motorsports and the No. 71 Capital Window Chevrolet of The Racers’ Group.
The three teams that were formerly locked in that now must qualify on speed are the No. 82 Red Bull Racing Team Toyota, the No. 8 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and the No. 98 Yates Racing Ford.
In addition, the No. 28 for Yates Racing that Travis Kvapil drove Sunday to an 18th-place finish may not run any longer. It was reported on Sunday morning that if sponsorship is not found, the No. 28 team would not go to Martinsville. Despite the 18th-place finish at Bristol, the No. 28 is still 39th in owner points, 33 points out of 35th. This is likely the end of the road for this team.