Who’s in the headline
Kurt Busch owned Bristol at one point in time. He won five races there from 2002 through 2006, including three straight in 2003 and 2004. Since his fifth win in 2006, he didn’t have a single runner-up finish. Busch ran in the top 10 the majority of the night and made great restarts when they counted the most to grab the lead and ultimately win the race. Ryan Blaney took the first stage of the race while Joey Logano grabbed stage two. William Byron finished 23rd for the Rookie of the Race award but Darrell Wallace Jr. was involved in the wreck on lap two that affected so many drivers.
The race started with chaos on lap two. Kyle Busch came up off of the bottom of the track at the exit of Turn 4 and made slight contact with Blaney, spinning the No. 18 in front of the field. Busch’s car was hit by three different cars that were part of the 15 officially involved in the wreck. Things were relatively calm after that incident in the first stage. A competition caution flew on lap 60 thanks to the rain that fell the night before. After that, it was green to the end of the first stage. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson swapped the lead on the restart after the initial caution before Blaney led the remainder off the stage. The end of stage one was a true photo finish. Blaney beat Harvick to the line by .003 seconds.
The second stage was packed with action at the beginning with Chase Elliott and Blaney leading before David Ragan went for a spin thanks to a flat tire. On the restart from that caution, Logano took the point and never relinquished it through the end of the stage. The end of stage two saw Logano beat Elliott to the line by the length of his car while Kyle Busch beat Harvick to the line by a car length to get back onto the lead lap.
Over the final stage, Elliott led until the first of four cautions. Clint Bowyer grabbed the lead on the restart after the caution and led through the caution where Kyle Busch clipped Martin Truex Jr. on his way through the field. The subsequent incident took out Truex and JJ Yeley. Bowyer held the lead through the subsequent restart up until a spin by Brad Keselowski. After that caution, Kurt Busch beat Bowyer on the restart to take the lead and held him and Larson off on the final restart to claim the win. Busch became the ninth different driver to win in 2018 and the third from Stewart-Haas Racing.
In an interesting twist, it seemed like cars were coming and going all night long, however, the front of the pack was quite consistent all night. Nine of the 10 cars in the top 10 at the end of the race was also in that area at the end of the other two stages. Alex Bowman was not in the top 10 at the end of stage one and Harvick was not in the top 10 at the end of stage two. Aric Almirola was the only driver in the top 10 in the first two stages who was not in the final top 10.
Why you should care
The Stewart-Haas Racing camp continues to be the dominant organization in the sport. Every time people start to doubt their abilities, they come back with another impressive race. Harvick was one of the strongest cars all night but had to rebound from a flat tire, which put him laps down, for a 10th-place finish. Almirola was in the top five at the end of the first two stages before a mechanical issue knocked him down to a 31st-place finish. Bowyer also led 120 laps before slipping back on the final restart and ending up sixth. The Toyotas have had some strength and the Chevrolets are getting better but the SHR Fords are still the measuring stick.
Speaking of Chevrolets, Hendrick Motorsports continues to get better. Elliott came home in third place while Bowman came from 22nd to eighth and Jimmie Johnson scored a ninth-place finish. It isn’t what HMS expects from its organization, but the improvement is a step in the right direction.
What your friends are talking about
After the race a fan confronted Kyle Busch, most likely not a KyBu fan. Busch had none of it and went chest-to-chest with the fan. A swing was reportedly taken by the fan and some shoving did occur. Fans want drivers to show passion and yet Busch will probably get roasted for his actions. Fans have passion too. Feel free to express that passion as vehemently as you like, just do not get physical. We all love the sport and no one needs to deal with the authorities over that passion.
The silly season for 2019 is going to be more active than originally anticipated. After telling Frontstretch a few weeks ago that he was looking to sign an extension with Leavine Family Racing, Kasey Kahne announced this week that he’s stepping away from full-time Cup competition. While no one believes he is going to quit racing, it is a safe bet that it will most likely be on a different type of racing surface. For those who doubt how serious Kahne is about retiring, apparently, he was approached about speaking to SHR concerning the No. 41 seat but respectfully declined.
Also announcing his retirement this week was Elliott Sadler. The longtime national touring series competitor is going to spend more time with his family and probably start coaching his son Wyatt’s baseball teams.
In a rather surprising statement this weekend, Truex acknowledged that, if sponsorship doesn’t come together, he very well could switch to a new team in 2019. Truex is very loyal to team owner Barney Visser, who helped resurrect his career and offered Truex time away from the car while his girlfriend Sherry Pollex battled ovarian cancer. Truex feels that things will settle out more in the next couple of weeks. Some believe that he could move into the No. 41 if Kurt Busch moves on, but it would seem that Cole Custer is destined for that seat.
Johnny Sauter received the first NASCAR regular-season championship trophy after Bristol on Thursday night. Winning the regular season carries a few perks for the playoffs but do we really need a trophy for it? Give them a nice jacket, maybe a certificate in a nice, plastic Wal-Mart frame, but do we really need a freaking trophy? C’mon NASCAR, let’s not lose our minds.
Bowman Gray Stadium has hosted more NASCAR races than any other track in the country. The history and reputation of the facility are unrivaled. Saturday night, for the ninth time in his career, Burt Myers grabbed the track championship. He is one behind Tim Brown at a track where Tim Flock and Glen Wood are former track champions.
Robert Wickens was airlifted from Pocono Raceway on Sunday after a huge wreck in the IndyCar race. He was awake and alert in the infield care center but was admitted to Lehigh Valley Cedar Crest Hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania. We continue to pray that he will recover from his injuries.
A medical update on Robert Wickens: pic.twitter.com/8FSOg83Sup
— Schmidt Peterson (@SPMIndyCar) August 20, 2018
Who is mad
A Busch brother won the race but it wasn’t the one that everyone thought it would be. Kyle Busch made a mistake on lap two and it made his night extremely difficult. After tearing up his car in that accident Busch rebounded from two laps down and got all the way back to second place before late race contact gave him a flat tire that knocked him down to a 20th-place finish. Busch took the blame for the initial incident but after a mistake Friday cost him the XFINITY race, Saturday was an even more bitter pill to swallow.
Larson put the car on the pole for the race but simply didn’t have it when the green flag flew. His team thrashed all night long on the car trying to make it better but it was never really a contender, even though he was close over the final run to the checkered and he did come home second, again. Larson loves Bristol and felt like this was his best shot yet at a win but the night was a huge disappointment for him.
Most weeks we only have two drivers in here but Bristol always has the opportunity for more. Truex was in the incident that killed Kyle Busch’s car early and had damage himself. He rebounded and, after much work throughout the night, had his car in the top three as the laps were winding down. As Busch was making his way back to the front he came up on Truex and gently clipped him on the left rear out of turn four. The subsequent incident took out Truex and Yeley. Truex has still never won a short track race and Saturday was another bitter disappointment for the defending series champion.
Who is happy
Trevor Bayne is running a part-time schedule thanks to the return of Matt Kenseth to the Roush Fenway Racing ranks in 2018. Kenseth has four wins at Bristol but RFR put Bayne in the car this weekend. A Tennessee native, Bayne wanted a strong run in front of the home state fans and he did not disappoint. All race long Bayne was near the front, although he didn’t manage a top 10 in any of the stages. An 11th-place finish was a great result for Bayne and he has to be happy about that.
When the checkered flag flew
In his 636th career start Kurt Busch scored his 30th victory.
This is Busch’s sixth triumph at Bristol Motor Speedway.
For Busch this is his first win of the season and first since the 2017 Daytona 500.
Busch is now 26th on the all-time list, one behind Denny Hamlin for the top 25.
Kyle Larson came home in the second position again at Bristol.
For the second time in his career and the second time this season Larson crossed the line in the runner-up spot.
Larson has finished in the top two five times in 2018, all of which are second place runs.
For his career Larson has come home second 19 times in his career. That ranks him tied for 43rd with Tim Flock, Dick Hutcherson, and Jack Smith.
Chase Elliott rounded out the podium for his best career finish at Bristol.
Elliott has five top three finishes in 2018.
For his career Elliott has 18 podium finishes, which ranks him 78th on the all-time list, tied with Elmo Langley, Michael Waltrip, and Glen Wood.
William Byron finished 23rd which was good enough to win his 15th Rookie of the Race for the season.
For the year, Byron’s 15 awards are six more than Darrell Wallace Jr’s nine..
Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Erik Jones, Chase Elliott and Kurt Busch are the nine race winners in 24 races of 2018. At this point it is impossible for there to be more than 16 unique winners in the regular season, so all winners are locked into the playoffs based on winning a race, assuming they attempt the remaining races in the regular season. Thanks to their accumulated points and the maximum points available over the final two races, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson are also locked into the playoffs. The drivers who would qualify for the playoffs and their associated playoff points (race winners are bolded):
1) Kyle Busch – 35
2) Kevin Harvick – 40
3) Martin Truex Jr. – 27
4) Kurt Busch – 7
5) Clint Bowyer – 10
6) Joey Logano – 8
7) Ryan Blaney – 5
8) Brad Keselowski – 4
9) Kyle Larson – 0
10) Denny Hamlin – 2
11) Chase Elliott – 8
12) Aric Almirola – 1
13) Erik Jones – 5
14) Jimmie Johnson – 0
15) Alex Bowman – 0
19) Austin Dillon – 5
What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)
What more could you ask for? Multiple lanes of racing, comers and goers, drivers recovering from difficulties and a return to victory lane for a former dominant driver at the track. Bristol offered all of it and more. This one easily gets six ice-cold Pilsners from Yee Haw Brewery.
Where do you point your DVR for next week
This coming weekend is the final off-week of the season. That doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be exciting racing action. Saturday, Aug. 25 the XFINITY Series is at Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI. The coverage starts at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the NBC Sports Live app. The Truck Series is racing at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park Sunday, Aug. 26. Coverage is on FS1 at 2:30 p.m. ET and on the Fox Sports Go app. Audio for both races is available on your MRN affiliate, www.motorracingnetwork.com and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.