Kyle Busch did it again. For the second time in his career Busch completed a three race sweep at Bristol Motor Speedway, capping off the week by winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Bristol Night race Saturday night.
Busch took the lead for the final time on lap 444, and held off rookie Erik Jones in the final laps to complete the sweep, score the 40th win of his Cup career, his second of the season and his sixth at Bristol.
“Man, Erik Jones put up a whale of a fight,” Busch said. “That all I had. I was running with my tongue hanging. My arms were jello and my throat hurts, but man that’s awesome…Car might not have been perfect, but I’m never perfect. I never feel like we’re perfect, but this Caramel Camry was fast. So proud of these guys, so proud of my team, so proud of Joe Gibbs Racing. So proud of Rowdy Nation, this one’s for you.”
The sweep of all three NASCAR National touring series races was his second at Bristol, the first coming in 2010. He remains the only driver to have done so.
Jones, starting from his first career pole, led a race high 260 laps but didn’t have enough to score his first career win.
“You know, you don’t want to sound like you’re whining or being a sore loser by saying it sucks to run second, but it’s a bummer,” Jones said. “It hurts. You know, you want to win every race you’re in. This was the first shot that I really had to come really close to it in the Cup Series. Bristol is a really good racetrack for myself. Thought we had a shot at it all night, led a ton of laps.
“That good of a car, it’s Kyle Busch. He won all three races here this weekend. So I feel like I’m close to him here, just trying to find that last little bit.”
Denny Hamlin came home third followed by Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch who rallied back from hitting the wall to finish fifth.
There were few hard crashes, but a great deal of hard racing as NASCAR’s playoffs gets closer. Those who crashed out included Austin Dillon and Jeffery Earnhardt who ended up in the garage after Dillon lost a tire and spun up into Earnhardt. Landon Cassill also crashed hard on lap 416. Chase Elliott also went for a spin while fighting for fifth on lap 396, he would finish 18th.
Kenseth needing a win to make the playoffs fought hard all night, winning the second stage but still coming up short.
“We didn’t start the race very good,” Kenseth said. “Made good adjustments. Had really awesome pit stops. Got behind when we sped on pit road. We had a great 40‑lap car. Really, really fast. Then it would just get tight. Just really couldn’t do anything about it. So that run was just too long.”
Kyle Larson led 70 laps on the night, but also came up short finishing ninth.
“It was a good race up until the last stop,” Larson said. “I felt like we had a shot to win and then something went on with the left-rear maybe. I didn’t get a good stop and lost all of our track position and that was kind of all she wrote. Just got stuck behind and then guys had better tires than I did and it just is what it is.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his final Bristol race as a full time Cup driver, struggled all night and finished 23rd.
“I think I will much rather enjoy coming here and watching,” Earnhardt said laughing. “I always loved watching, but this race track can be a lot of fun. It can be very difficult. There is never really no middle ground. “
Ahead of Larson, Ryan Newman finished sixth, Trevor Bayne overcame a meeting with the wall to finish seventh, and Kevin Harvick finished eighth.
Ryan Blaney rounded out the top 10.
Series points leader Martin Truex Jr. lost two laps pitting under green for a flat tire early in the race and finished 21st, missing a chance to clinch the regular season championship.
The Monster Energy Cup series has a week off before heading to Darlington Raceway for the Southern 500 on Sept. 3.