Kurt Busch Wins at Bristol, 100th Victory for the Ford Fusion

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Bristol, TN, Saturday, August 18, 2018

There is no grander scene than “The Last Great Colosseum” lit up for the night race at Bristol. The big bowl, where there is not a bad seat, used to fill for the August Saturday night NASCAR race. Now entertainment dollars are spread thin and options many. If you have never been to Bristol Motor Speedway, add it to your bucket list. It will be an investment in fun you’ll be sure to remember.

Lasco Press Photo
Lasco Press Photo

In last night’s NASCAR Xfinity Race, Cup regular Kyle Larson(42) won riding the high groove just like the Bristol of old. Despite applying the PJ1 traction compound to the lower groove, the fastest way around keep moving up towards the outside wall all night. There was even some 3-wide racing. It will be interesting to watch the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers navigate the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile tonight.

Playoff Positions

Including tonight’s race at Bristol, only 3 more races are left before the NASCAR Playoffs begin. Darlington and Indianapolis are the other 2 chances for someone outside the top 16 to win their way in. The bottom 3 in points are Aric Almirola(10), 159 points above the cut line, Jimmie Johnson(48) +92, and Alex Bowman(88) +62. All 3 should point their way in unless Bowman has a complete collapse in the next month.

Lasco Press Photo

As long as someone inside the top 16 wins tonight, Almirola clinches. Same for Johnson at Darlington. Bowman appears to be in the most danger. All 3 tracks have the potential to produce a first-time winner this year. That would require Bowman to out-point Johnson. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17) appears to be the most likely to crash the party. He has a fast car, qualified 12th, and likes racing at Bristol. He just needs to get past Kyle Busch.

Rain

It poured rain off and on most of the morning. Shortly after the noon hour, the skies cleared. Then just before pre-race festivities started the skies opened up again. A brief shower soaked the track and the jet-dryers were forced into service.

Lasco Press Photo
Lasco Press Photo

The Start of The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race

It did not take long for the action to heat up after the drop of the green flag. Kyle Busch(18) spun coming out of Turn 4 on the 2nd lap. A total of 15 of the 40 cars on the track encounter some type of damage in the melee. Gary Gaulding(99), AJ Allmendinger(47), and Bubba Wallace(43) sustained enough to be eliminated from the race.

Kyle Busch’s crew repaired his car but lost 2 laps in the process. He lost the entire rear bumper cover, enough of the frame remained undamaged for NASCAR to allow Busch to continue.

Paul Menard(21) started 4th. He developed a problem early after contact with the wall. Something in the front suspension gave-way and Menard was forced to park the car after only 28 laps.

Competition Caution

With the rain washing the track clean, NASCAR scheduled a competition caution 60 laps into the event. The yellow flag allowed Kyle Busch another opportunity to work on their damaged car.

During the caution, 2 drivers needing a win to make the playoffs, Stenhouse Jr. and Daniel Suarez(19), were caught speeding on pit road. Going to the rear of the field on the half-mile track is a huge penalty. Laps are run in the 15-16 second range and the leader catches the back of the pack quickly.

Stage 1 Finish

Stages at Bristol are 125/125/250. After the early trouble, Ryan Blaney(12) took the lead and held it for 108 laps to the end of Stage 1. Kevin Harvick(4) closed to give Blaney all he could handle, finishing 3/1,000’s of a second behind.

Lasco Press Photo

Just 4 laps from the end of the Stage, Stenhouse Jr. suffered a flat tire and lost 3 laps changing 4 tires under green. Blaney passed Martin Truex Jr.(78) to put the series defending champion a lap down. Truex Jr. got the lap back courtesy of the free pass when the yellow waved.

Six Ford Fusions in Stage 1 point positions bodes well for the Blue Oval contingent.

Stage 1 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
12 Blaney* 10
4 Kevin Harvick* 9
14 Bowyer* 8
9 Elliott 7
10 Almirola* 6
42 Larson 5
41 Kurt Busch* 4
20 Jones 3
22 Logano* 2
48 Johnson 1

* Ford Fusion Drivers

Stage 2

The beginning of Stage 2 saw Harvick jumped to the lead on the restart. He did not hold the top spot long. Chase Elliott(9) drove around Harvick and built a quick 10-car length. Harvick cut a tire 185 laps in and lost 2 laps making a green flag pit stop.

On Lap 192 Blaney took the lead back from Elliott and Almirola followed him into 2nd. The two battled for the lead, going 3 wide with lapped traffic. Almirola tapped David Ragan(38) trying to pass and spun him at the end of the backstretch. Bringing out the yellow flag on Lap 197. The caution allowed Kyle Busch and Harvick to take a wave around and go from 2 laps down to just 1 lap behind.

As Blaney and Almirola were involved with each other, Joey Logano(22) snuck up and took the lead on Lap 201.

Fighting for the Stage Win

Battles exist all around the track. Kyle Busch and Harvick are the only 2 cars a lap down. They fight it out for the free pass with Busch holding on by a car length.

Logano won Stage 2 but had to keep Elliott from making a pass over the last 5 laps before the green and white checkered flag waved.

Lasco Press Photo

Stage 2 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
22 Logano* 10
9 Elliott 9
42 Larson 8
10 Almirola* 7
12 Blaney* 6
14 Bowyer* 5
20 Jones 4
48 Johnson 3
41 Kurt Busch* 2
88 Bowman 1

* Ford Fusion Drivers

The Final Stage

Logano resumed the lead on the restart from the Stage ending caution. Elliott hung around within striking distance and took the lead on Lap 297. Elliott’s car seems to come in on the long green-flag runs.

With 160 laps to go, Aric Almirola(10), one of the contenders for the win, developed a problem. NASCAR black-flagged Almirola for excessive smoke from the rear of the car and they had to pit. If that was not bad enough, during the pit stop his team had too many men over the pit wall. The resulting return to the pits for a drive-through penalty effectively eliminated Almirola from contention.

Trouble

Reed Sorenson(51) hit the wall entering Turn 3 bringing out the caution with 149 laps to go. The front of the field jumbled as everyone pitted for tires and fuel. Clint Bowyer, first out, took the lead on the restart. As the cars settled into position some new names sat in the top 5. Truex Jr. moved up to 2nd, Elliott ran 3rd, Logano dropped to 4th, and Kurt Busch sat 5th.

Byron, Michigan’s Erik Jones(20) sat 6th as the streak of strong runs since his Daytona win continues. With 100 laps to go, Kyle Busch moved into the top 5. Kyle passed his brother 4 laps later to move into 4th. He passed Elliott with 86 laps to go and trailed the leader by only 1.5 seconds.

The Charge to the Front

Kyle Busch moved to the rear bumper of Truex Jr. and with 69 laps to go tried to make the pass. He clipped Truex going into turn one and took the 78 out of the race after a hard impact with the wall.

During the caution, Kyle Busch’s crew informed him they have been unable to fully fuel the car since the Lap 2 accident. He came to the pits and the crew drained enough from the gas can to get him to the end of the race. Unfortunately, Busch returned to the track in 11th position.

Intensity Picks Up

After the restart, the battle for positions turned intense. Bowyer led, but Kurt Busch was on his bumper. Third place Jones fought with Elliott and Jimmie Johnson(48). Then with 29 laps to go Brad Keselowski(2) spun on the backstretch and the caution came out again.

On the restart, Kurt Busch(41) drove to the lead. Elliott, Denny Hamlin(11), and Johnson rounded out the top 5. Kyle Busch went 3-wide with Chris Buescher(37) and Johnson. Three-wide is very dangerous at Bristol and karma bit Busch. As the cars banged several times during their circuit around the track, Busch cut a tire and saw his chance at victory go away.

The Finish

On the next restart, with 12 to go, Kurt Busch jumped out to a nice lead. Larson moved to second but could not close the gap. Busch captured the win, his first of the year. The victory was Ford’s 100th for the Fusion in NASCAR’s Cup Series. It was the 10th win for Stewart-Haas racing in 2018. How excited was Kurt about the win? He drove

Playoff Status

Busch was well locked into the playoffs on points, so his victory did not impact the Playoff standing. Alex Bowman(88) entered the race on the bubble and improved his point lead on 17th position from 62 to 79 points. With 2 races left it will take a win to get in by anyone out of the top 16.

Next week is an off week. Darlington is next up on the schedule, Labor Day weekend.

 

 

Results of The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway

Position Car Driver Behind Laps
1 41 Kurt Busch 500
2 42 Kyle Larson 0.367 500
3 9 Chase Elliott 0.474 500
4 22 Joey Logano 1.343 500
5 20 Erik Jones 1.886 500
6 14 Clint Bowyer 2.582 500
7 12 Ryan Blaney 2.979 500
8 88 Alex Bowman 3.282 500
9 48 Jimmie Johnson 3.809 500
10 4 Kevin Harvick 4.192 500
11 6 Trevor Bayne 4.72 500
12 31 Ryan Newman 5.033 500
13 3 Austin Dillon 5.194 500
14 11 Denny Hamlin 5.421 500
15 95 Kasey Kahne 8.464 500
16 2 Brad Keselowski -1 499
17 38 David Ragan -1 499
18 19 Daniel Suarez -1 499
19 37 Chris Buescher -1 499
20 18 Kyle Busch -3 497
21 13 Ty Dillon -4 496
22 32 Matt DiBenedetto -4 496
23 24 William Byron -4 496
24 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -5 495
25 0 Landon Cassill -7 493
26 15 Ross Chastain -8 492
27 23 Blake Jones -15 485
28 66 Timmy Hill -19 481
29 1 Jamie McMurray -65 435
30 78 Martin Truex Jr. -69 431
31 10 Aric Almirola -72 428
32 7 JJ Yeley -77 423
33 51 Reed Sorenson -162 338
34 72 Corey LaJoie -266 234
35 96 Jesse Little -441 59
36 21 Paul Menard -472 28
37 34 Michael McDowell -490 10
38 43 Bubba Wallace -497 3
39 47 AJ Allmendinger -499 1
40 99 Gray Gaulding -499 1

Points/Playoff Standings

Rank Driver Points Wins
1 Kevin Harvick* 970 7
2 Kyle Busch 1003 6
3 Martin Truex Jr. 849 4
4 Clint Bowyer* 776 2
5 Kurt Busch* 796 1
6 Joey Logano* 768 1
7 Chase Elliott 697 1
8 Erik Jones 635 1
9 Austin Dillon 475 1
10 Ryan Blaney* 733 0
11 Brad Keselowski* 730 0
12 Kyle Larson 729 0
13 Denny Hamlin 707 0
14 Aric Almirola* 658 0
15 Jimmie Johnson 604 0
16 Alex Bowman 572 0
Playoff Cut Line
17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 493 0
18 Ryan Newman 481 0
19 Daniel Suarez 479 0
20 Paul Menard 473 0

* Ford Fusion Drivers

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Steve Sweitzer
Steve is the Sports Editor for the Lasco Press and highlights our coverage of NASCAR and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Steve is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association and a nationally published author of automotive related articles for industry trade magazines. He is also a freelance technical writer and accomplished photographer. A 25-year resident of Southeast Michigan, Steve’s passion for reporting on our community, it’s residents, and our automotive connections allow us to use his skills to cover a number of events. Steve’s ability to seek out the unique behind the scenes accounts that tell the often-overlooked aspect of a story makes for entertaining reading. Follow Steve at thelascopress.com with weekly NASCAR updates and featured articles.