That was something else. In by far one of the better races of the 2018 season, Kurt Busch survived all the chaos and captured his 30th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory Saturday night in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the front of his Ford Fusion bashed in and his helmet flying free.
Kyle Busch was NOT out front in Thunder Valley. (In fact, no Toyota led all night, only the third time this season that’s happened.) Why wasn’t he? Because of a gigantic pileup on the second lap that involved around fifteen cars and parked at least three. That was the start of a long night for the No. 18, and neither he, Kevin Harvick or Martin Truex Jr. were in contention for the victory.
Just as in the spring race, Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney was out front again in the early going, winning a drag race to take the win in stage one, while his teammate Joey Logano won a close one of his own to take the second stage.
Fifteen cars finished on the lead lap at race’s end, 30 cars were running at the checkers out of a maximum field of 40 entries.
There were between 19-21 lead changes among nine drivers throughout the night, and nine cautions overall.
Kurt Busch’s victory was the 10th this season for Stewart-Haas Racing, to go along with Harvick’s seven wins and Bowyer’s pair of triumphs. It puts Busch second to his younger brother for most active wins at Bristol with six. (Darrell Waltrip has an even dozen, setting the all-time record.)
Kurt has logged four top-fives and 15 top-10s this season, and has an average finish of 12th despite three DNFs. He currently holds the seventh seed out of the 16 drivers in the playoffs.
Aric Almirola was running fifth when he was black-flagged for dropping fluid onto the track, which necessitated a long trip into the garage for repairs. Ultimately, the SHR No. 10 completed 428 laps and finished 31st. It was his second-worse finish of the year, and the third time in the past four races that Almirola finished 22nd or lower.
Usually if a Roush Fenway Racing car is near the front at Bristol, it’s the No. 17, right? Not Saturday. Trevor Bayne was behind the wheel of the No. 6 at his home racetrack, and hung within the back half of the top 10 for most of the race, scoring a bonus point in stage one. Ultimately he finished 11th, the best run this season for the No. 6 team. Bayne was seventh in this race last year.
Bristol doesn’t agree with Martin Truex Jr. His car was unimpressive early, then picked up in the second stage before Kyle Busch shoved him into the wall (and apologized afterwards), leaving the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 in 30th – exactly where he finished the spring Bristol race.
Truex has just three top 10s in 26 Bristol starts in Cup, and he’s finished 21st or worse in half those races.
Three Hendrick Chevrolets in the top 10? Yup. What’s more, this was the fifth straight race with at least one Hendrick Camaro (Elliott’s No. 9, specifically) in the top 10, and the seventh straight event where at least one Hendrick driver led laps. Johnson and Bowman are both almost assured of spots in the playoffs, barring two back-to-back miracles. And William Byron is almost assuredly going to win Rookie of the Year, so even though this season started dismally, it’s turning around.
Darrell Wallace Jr. wasn’t expected to excel in his rookie season – Richard Petty Motorsports is too underpowered, even before the hassles of a new alliance and a new manufacturer were thrown into the mix. But still, since a 14th-place finish in the July Daytona race, he’s finished 27th, 24th, 33rd, 25th, 23rd and 38th, and his team has had to self-sponsor the car five times in that timespan.
Wallace’s poor finish Saturday night came because he was a casualty of the lap 2 wreck, but his average finish this season is 23rd when the field in a season where the field was short in 17 of 24 races.
Paint Scheme of the Week
The lights at @BMSupdates make for some great photos!
— RCR (@RCRracing) August 20, 2018
It’s the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. And the Camaro is a great looking car, as I’ve been saying from its introduction. So this week’s Paint Scheme of the Week goes to Ryan Newman’s No. 31, wrapped in the black, hunter green and yellow-gold of the Bass Pro/Cabela’s scheme. It just looks masculine and no-nonsense, which fits Newman‘s old-school mentality.
While I don’t have any interest in hunting (or skill at it), my brothers both enjoy guns and shooting, and thus are fans of both Bass Pro and Cabela’s, so I can at least identify what firearms components they’re discussing most of the time. Also, a friend of mine works for Bass Pro, which inclines me to try to think well of the company.
NASCAR’s top series is off this weekend, but the NASCAR XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series are both in action on road courses, the XFINITY Series at Road America for the Johnsonville 180, the CWTS north of the border for the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Predictions….let’s go partially out on a limb this week: Conor Daly will be involved in at least one accident in his stock-car debut, while the winner of the truck race will have spun the previous leader out while coming to the checkers.
The NXS race is Saturday, August 25 at 3 p.m. ET, with TV coverage on NBCSN, while the CWTS event is Sunday, August 26 at 2:30 p.m. ET, with TV coverage on FS1.
The MENCS gets back into action with the Bojangles Southern 500 at the egg-shaped Darlington Raceway on Sunday, September 2 at 6 p.m. ET, with TV coverage on NBCSN. The throwback weekend will feature some of the best paint schemes of the year as yesteryear’s rides reappear for a moment.