Kyle Busch ‘snookers’ the field at Bristol

BRISTOL, TN - APRIL 07: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 7, 2019 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Kyle Busch was the first to admit he didn’t have the fastest car at Bristol Motor Speedway Sunday.   In fact, he had a car that was damaged on a first lap crash.

None of that mattered.

Busch took the lead with 14 laps to go and held off his older brother Kurt to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series Food City 500.

That final restart proved to key to the race.  The race’s 1th and final caution came after Kyle Larson, who had struggled the entire afternoon, got into the wall on lap 478, 22 laps to go.  Busch was in third while the Team Penske duo of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski held first and second. The two front runners pitted, and Busch inherited the lead.

After a few extra laps with NASCAR trying to line the field up behind the Busch brothers, the restart came with 14 to go.  Kyle was able to shoot to the lead and held off his brother, aided in part to Kurt scraping the wall with 4 to go, to score his third win of the season and his eighth at Bristol giving him sole possession of wins at the Tennessee track among active drivers.

“We just do what we do, try to win,” Busch said. “It’s pretty awesome to be able to snooker those guys, get our win today here at Bristol.  Love this place.  It was fun to battle out the brother there at the end.  I know we didn’t quite get side‑by‑side racing it out.  I saw him working the top.  I’m like, I better go.  I got up there, was able to make some ground.”

Kurt Busch held on for second, marking only the second time the brothers had finished 1-2, the first coming at Sonoma in 2015.

“That one is tough,” the elder Busch said.  “I really wanted to beat him.  I was going to wreck him.  I wanted to stay close enough so when we took the exit I was going to drive straight into three and four.”

Joey Logano was able to race up to third after leading 146 laps.  Ryan Blaney who led a race high 158 laps settled for 4th as Denny Hamlin who had another pit road speeding penalty for fifth.

“I think we had the fastest car, we just didn’t get all the pieces right,” Logano said.  “You can have the fastest car, don’t do the rest of the stuff, you don’t win.  The 18 capitalized on that.  Congrats to them.”

Busch’s race seemed to be over literally as it started. On lap 1 Aric Almirola was sent up into the wall after contact with William Byron; Busch checked up behind Almirola and was hit by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hard enough to spin Busch. The Joe Gibbs Racing team took three extra pit stops before lap 40 to repair the damage to the back of the Toyota.

While Busch was fighting his way back, the Team Penske drivers seemed to have the race well in hand. Blaney led a race high 158 laps, Logano 146 and Brad Keselowski 40. Keselowski was victim of a late race penalty after NASCAR black flagged him prior to the final restart for failing to follow directions.  He finished 18th.

Paul Menard was sixth; Clint Bowyer overcame a flat tire that sent him into the wall on lap 431 and rallied back to finish 7th.

Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top 10.

Polesitter Chase Elliott was leading when he spun after contact from Cory LaJoie after slowing to avoid the spinning car of Ryan Preece. He then reported his power steering was gone. He would race his way back inside the top five before making contact with Newman on lap 428 and holding on to finish 11th.

Kevin Harvick failed pre-race inspection four times and was forced to start from the rear of the field, had his engineer ejected and had to serve a pass-through penalty. He was four laps down at one point but came back to finish on the lead lap in 13th. Ty Dillon used pit strategy then hard racing to hold off Bowyer and win the first stage, Logano the second.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Richmond Raceway for the first night race of the season the Toyota Owners 400 next Saturday night.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Food City 500

Bristol Motor Speedway

Bristol, Tennessee

Sunday, April 7, 2019
1. (17)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 500.

2. (27)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 500.

3. (7)  Joey Logano, Ford, 500.

4. (3)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 500.

5. (5)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 500.

6. (9)  Paul Menard, Ford, 500.

7. (8)  Clint Bowyer, Ford, 500.

8. (20)  Daniel Suarez, Ford, 500.

9. (11)  Ryan Newman, Ford, 500.

10. (10)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 500.

11. (1)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 500.

12. (21)  Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 500.

13. (13)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 500.

14. (15)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 500.

15. (24)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 500.

16. (2)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 500.

17. (23)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 499.

18. (12)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 499.

19. (16)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 499.

20. (28)  Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 499.

21. (22)  David Ragan, Ford, 498.

22. (25)  Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 498.

23. (14)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 497.

24. (4)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 497.

25. (30)  Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 496.

26. (31)  Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 495.

27. (29)  Matt Tifft #, Ford, 494.

28. (18)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 493.

29. (37)  Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 491.

30. (26)  Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 490.

31. (34)  Bayley Currey #, Chevrolet, 488.

32. (36)  Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 476.

33. (19)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 395.

34. (32)  Corey LaJoie, Ford, Accident, 308.

35. (35)  Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Suspension, 239.

36. (33)  Gray Gaulding(i), Ford, Engine, 142.

37. (6)  Aric Almirola, Ford, Accident, 3.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  90.527 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 56 Mins, 38 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .722 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  11 for 77 laps.

Lead Changes:  21 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   C. Elliott 1-38;C. Bowyer 39-40;R. Blaney 41;D. Hamlin 42-48;E. Jones 49-58;R. Blaney 59-117;C. Bowyer 118-123;T. Dillon 124-129;B. Keselowski 130-144;J. Logano 145-255;R. Blaney 256-353;J. Logano 354-374;C. Bowyer 375-377;J. Logano 378;C. Bowyer 379-383;K. Busch 384-408;C. Bowyer 409-416;J. Logano 417;K. Busch 418-444;B. Keselowski 445-469;J. Logano 470-481;K. Busch 482-500.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Ryan Blaney 3 times for 158 laps; Joey Logano 5 times for 146 laps; Kyle Busch 3 times for 71 laps; Brad Keselowski 2 times for 40 laps; Chase Elliott 1 time for 38 laps; Clint Bowyer 5 times for 24 laps; Erik Jones 1 time for 10 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 7 laps; Ty Dillon 1 time for 6 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 13,14,2,22,48,18,12,21,19,9

Stage #2 Top Ten: 22,12,6,2,18,1,37,14,3,41