Race Wrap Up: Busch — No, not Kyle — triumphs for sixth Bristol win
BRISTOL, Tenn. - Is it really an upset if Kurt Busch, who entering Saturday's Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol had five wins in Thunder Valley, wins at the world's fastest half-mile?
Considering how dominant the big three of Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch
"I'll tell you, this track brings out the best in everybody," Busch said. "Just to come here, to feel that Saturday night atmosphere, racing under the lights, it brings you back to the roots."
And even though Busch was a virtual lock for the playoffs via points, his win gives him five extra playoff points and the guarantee that he can throw caution to the wind in the regular season's last two races.
How Busch won the race: If you ask Busch, he'll tell you he went to his "tool chest" and made the most of a bad situation on a late restart. But that's not doing it justice. On worn-out tires, Busch restarted on the inside of teammate Clint Bowyer with 24 laps to go. Once the green flag flew, Busch drove it into turn one as hard as he could and he cleared Bowyer despite Bowyer having the preferred outside lane.
He was then able to hold off Kyle Larson on a late restart for his 30th career Cup Series win. And here's some fun trivia. Kurt and Kyle Busch are the only pair of brothers to have 30 wins each in NASCAR's top series.
"I always wanted to get to 30. This is a big win for me," Busch said. "I grew up at Roush Racing watching a guy named Mark Martin help me. He was a great mentor, I looked up to him as a racer.
"Early on, before I won my first ever race, I said if I can get to 30, that's a pretty special career. Made it tonight. I'm choked up about it. I really love this win tonight."
Kyle Busch did everything except win: Calling Kyle Busch's race Saturday night as eventful might be an understatement.
After qualifying third, Busch quickly found trouble on the second lap of the race when he spun after contact with Ryan Blaney in Turn 4, triggering a massive pileup in front of the field that swept up Bubba Wallace, AJ Allmendinger, Michael McDowell, Denny Hamlin and several other cars.
Take another look at the wild start to tonight's race. pic.twitter.com/MsvmX53PHF— NASCAR (@NASCAR) August 18, 2018
Despite having heavy damage and falling three laps down, Busch somehow managed to get back on the lead lap via the free pass at the end of Stage 2. From there, Busch drove through the lead pack like a madman and cracked the top three. That's when things got really hot.
Busch misjudged his exit of turn four with about 65 laps to go and clipped Martin Truex Jr., sending the 78 into the inside wall and collecting JJ Yeley. As if that wasn't enough, Busch had a slow pit stop and began working his way back to the front when a three-wide situation with Jimmie Johnson and Chris Buescher cut the left rear tire of Busch's car and sent him spinning with less than 20 to go.
When the smoke cleared, Busch ended the night 20th, three laps down.
Fast Fords: As has been the case for much of this season, Saturday night's race was largely dominated by the blue ovals. Ford drivers combined to lead 370 of 500 laps, including 124 of the final 125 circuits.
Team Penske's Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano won the first two stages of the race, and Blaney's strong performance helped him clinch a playoff spot based on points. Past Bristol winner Brad Keselowski struggled with the handling of his No. 2 all night, but a 16th-place finish was good enough to lock him into the postseason for the fifth straight season. With Kurt Busch's win, Ford has now won 11 of 24 races on the season.
More short tracks: You know what they say. There's nothing wrong with NASCAR that a short track race can't fix. Well, maybe no one actually says it, but it's how a lot of people feel, including Kyle Larson.
After finishing second Saturday night, Larson said he has a solution to sagging attendance and TV ratings.
"I just think Bristol is awesome. If we could race here every Saturday and Sunday, our grandstands would be packed, our TV ratings would be very high," Larson said. "Let's build more Bristols."
It's hard to argue with that. Even Dale Jr. is getting in on the campaign.
Rotten luck ruins Almirola's bid for Bristol win: Aric Almirola can't seem to catch a break. Despite spending most of the race's first 300 laps in the top five, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver was forced to the garage with an apparent power steering fluid leak in the final stage.
Almirola ended the night in 31st, but remains in the playoff hunt and should lock himself in after the Southern 500 at Darlington in two weeks.
Social Media Spotlight: It's tradition at Bristol in August that the children from Motor Racing Outreach, as well as some drivers' kids, sing the national anthem. It's one of the few times of the year, if not the only time, that drivers find themselves on the opposite side of the camera as they record the special moment to share a memory that will last a lifetime.
What a cool moment for these kids.— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) August 18, 2018
The Motor Racing Outreach kids, and some @NASCAR drivers' kids, got to sing the National Anthem. Now it's time to race. Join us for Bristol on @NBCSN or stream here: https://t.co/WTwvY7sMVl pic.twitter.com/6zAGYCqnTY
Bloomin' Monday: You aren't surprised, are you? Kevin Harvick rebounded from early race problems to score a 10th-place finish at Bristol. Which for us, is like a win, because of free Bloomin' Onions at Outback Steakhouse!
Race on in and tell your server you're there for the Bloomin' Monday special and they'll give you a delicious Bloomin' Onion at no charge! Talk about an awesome deal. Thanks, Kevin!
Next week: It's a welcomed off weekend for the Cup Series as the race to the playoffs heats up with just two weeks to go. Alex Bowman's cushion over Ricky Stenhouse Jr. means drivers on the outside will likely have to win one of the final two races to clinch a spot in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Xfinity Series will have the spotlight Saturday afternoon with the Johnsonville 180 from Road America. The Motor Racing Network and NBCSN will have live coverage of the race at 3 p.m.