BRISTOL, Tenn. — Kyle Busch became the first person in NASCAR history to complete two separate weekend sweeps of NASCAR’s national touring series at the same track by winning Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.
His third victory of the weekend was much more difficult than the first two, however, as he had to hold off rookie Erik Jones in the final stages of the race, driving three-wide through the middle of traffic at points to preserve his gap. Busch used the lap cars as picks, and though Jones was mostly equal on speed to the No. 18, he never was able to gain the track position to fight side-by-side for the win.
“That one was a lot harder,” Busch said post-race. “Erik Jones put up a whale of a fight. That was all I had, I was running with my tongue hanging on, my arms were Jell-O and my throat hurts but that’s awesome. I can’t say enough about everyone on my Joe Gibbs Racing team. Adam Stevens and the guys are phenomenal. The car might’ve not been perfect but I’m never perfect. I never feel like we’re perfect but this M&M’s Caramel Camry was fast! I’m so proud of these guys, so proud of my team, so proud of Joe Gibbs Racing.”
Jones led the most laps in the race and ended up second in his 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota Camry for Furniture Row Racing. There was, however, palpable disappointment in his voice after the checkered flag fell. “We raced hard all night, and we led a lot of laps. We did almost everything we needed to do and qualified on the pole and ran second,” he said. “I wish we would’ve had a little bit more, it’s a bummer. It’s a great weekend for us, you can’t take that away. The 5-Hour Energy Camry was fantastic but you still wish you could’ve had that little bit more to grab the win so that would’ve been meant a lot to us.”
Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth finished third and fourth to make it a one-two-three-four finish for Toyota at the front of the pack.
Save for a brief two-lap stint at the front for Chase Elliott, the race began in the hands of Jones, who led 48 of the first 50 laps. Brad Keselowski race was derailed early when was bitten by a flat left front tire and had to battle back from the back of the pack. He would finish 29th.
Kyle Larson was slow on the initial drop of the green flag, but got back to the front of the field by lap 50. Save for a first quick yellow for Aric Almirola blowing a tire in Turn 3, the race was Larson’s until the final 10 laps of the first stage.
At that point, Kyle Busch completed his charge from 18th on the grid to the front of the field and took the lead away. Busch and Larson traded the lead once over the final handful of laps, but Busch had the final say when he pulled a bump-and-run on Larson on the last lap of Stage 1 to claim the playoff point for his No. 18 M&M’s Caramel Toyota.
Erik Jones snuck past Larson to finish second in Stage 1, and Larson had to settle for third. Jones’ crew was the fastest on pit road and got him out front to begin Stage 2, as Larson was punted back to sixth after a poor first stop of the night.
Stage 2 was dominated by Jones and Busch, who spent most of that period trading the lead back-and-forth as they worked their way through lapped traffic. This pattern was only interrupted by two cautions: one for Ricky Stenhouse Jr’s foray into the wall on the backstretch, and one for Austin Dillon’s spin in Turn 3 after his left rear tire went down.
On the following restart, it was Matt Kenseth who was the fastest to get away, and he would finish first in Stage 2 ahead of Jimmie Johnson.
Jones returned to the front after the round of pit stops that occurred in between Stages 2 and 3, and it was again a race in his control. He led from lap 254 to lap 355. when Trevor Bayne and Ty Dillon got into each other in Turn 2.
Busch took the lead on pit stops there, and maintained control for the next 40 laps, when Chase Elliott spun down the back straight on lap 397 to bring out the yellow again.
Jones once again took the lead on pit road, and then controlled the race again through the next fifty laps, which included the last yellow of the race for Landon Cassill’s crash into the inside retaining wall on the front stretch on lap 417. It was in the middle of the last green flag run the
It was in the middle of the last green flag run, which followed that yellow, when Busch cleared Jones for good on lap 445. Busch led the final 56 laps to complete the second weekend tripleheader sweep in Bristol’s history and complete one of what he proclaimed afterward to be the hardest stretches of racing he ever had to do in his life.
Bayne, meanwhile, rebounded to finish seventh and claim his second top five finish in as many races. “I feel like the last month we had strategy and things went our way and we’ve gotten results from it,” Bayne said post-race. “Here at Bristol, Roush Fenway always gives us good cars and we’ve had really good runs the last four or five races. Our Ford was fast when it mattered. At one point we blew a tire and hit the fence. I thought we were going to get lucky and get back on the lead lap. We got on the lead lap, got a caution and put new tires on it and started passing cars. We were able to get to seventh and we’re pretty happy about that.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to action on Sunday, Sept. 3 at Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles’ Southern 500.
RESULTS: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series; 57th Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race’ Bristol Motor Speedway, August 19, 2017
- Kyle Busch
- Erik Jones
- Denny Hamlin
- Matt Kenseth
- Kurt Busch
- Ryan Newman
- Trevor Bayne
- Kevin Harvick
- Kyle Larson
- Ryan Blaney
- Jimmie Johnson
- Jamie McMurray
- Joey Logano
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
- Daniel Suarez
- Paul Menard
- David Ragan
- Chase Elliott
- Clint Bowyer
- Michael McDowell
- Martin Truex Jr.
- A.J. Allmendinger
- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
- Kasey Kahne
- Danica Patrick
- Matt DiBenedetto
- Chris Buescher
- Corey LaJoie
- Brad Keselowski
- J.J. Yeley
- Gray Gaulding
- B.J. McLeod
- Cole Whitt
- Joey Gase
- Landon Cassill
- Ty Dillon
- Aric Almirola
- Reed Sorenson
- Austin Dillon
- Jeffrey Earnhardt
About the Writer
James Pike is a multi-faceted reporter for Race Chaser Online and an analyst on the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Pike is the lead correspondent for Race Chaser Online’s coverage of Australian Supercars and also covers regional touring series events in the Carolinas, including the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and the CARS Tour.
He is a graduate of the Motorsports Management program at Belmont Abbey College and currently resides in Winston-Salem, N.C.
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