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NASCAR Cup: Kurt Busch returns to victory lane at Bristol

BRISTOL, TN – AUGUST 18: Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 18, 2018 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

By AMANDA VINCENT

Kurt Busch claimed his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win since the 2017 season-opening Daytona 500 on Saturday night when he took the checkered flag in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The win broke a 58-race winless streak, and even though it was his sixth-career win at Bristol, it was his first at the track since 2006.

“It’s awesome to do it at Bristol,” Busch said. “I love this place. We now have won six times here, and I have great teams that have always helped me win. This group of guys, Billy Scott, my crew chief, this is his first win, and to be able to do it with Ford and Monster and Haas Automation is just what it’s all about is executing as a team, and we had good restarts when we had to, and then, you’ve got to get clever and start throwing everything at it.” 

The win was the 10th in the 24 races of the season, so far, for Stewart-Haas Racing, added to Kevin Harvick’s seven and Clint Bowyer’s two. It also was the 100th series win for the Ford Fusion model, which is on its way out in favor of the Mustang at the end of the season.

Kyle Larson finished second after restarting fourth with 13 laps to go after the ninth and final caution of the race. Larson got up to second on the restart when the previous second-place runner, Busch’s SHR teammate Clint Bowyer, had a bad restart and fell back to sixth by the checkered flag.

“I think if I had a better car, tires probably would have showed what they are really capable of,” Larson said. “This was just a really frustrating day. Our DC Solar Chevy was not very good from lap on to lap 500, there, but we fought and got a second-place finish out of it, so I was happy about running second but just disappointed, because I had a lot of confidence going into this race and thought our car was really good. But we were probably a 12th to 15th-place car, I thought. Just lined up in the right re-starts just about every time and was able to gain some spots on every re-start and maintain and then would be terrible there towards the end of the run. Frustrating, but we were able to fight, so that’s good for our team to be able to do that. Our pit stops, aside from the first one, were really good, so I’m happy about that that. So we’ll just continue to fight to get our cars a lot better.”

Bowyer got out of the pits first during a lap-351 caution. Busch, then, took second on the next restart about 80 laps later, making SHR first and second in the running order. Then, Busch took the lead from Bowyer on the next restart following a lap 472 caution.

“It was up to Bowyer to choose the lane,” Busch said. ”He chose the outside, and we got a perfect start on the inside. I dug it perfect right into turn one and two and the spotter said, ‘Take it. Take it,’ which meant go to the wall on exit, and I didn’t even bother to look in the mirror. He said, ‘Take it,’ and when you trust your team to give you the right stuff setup-wise, you’ve got to trust the spotter the same way. Tony Raines — he’s a racer. That’s why he’s my spotter, and it worked out perfect.”

Bowyer was second in the laps-led column, leading 120 laps to Ryan Blaney’s 121 of the 500-lap race. Blaney was a stage winner, winning the first stage that ended on lap 125, but he finished the race in the seventh position.

Joey Logano won stage two and finished the race fourth after leading 95 laps.

After Larson started on the pole and led laps early. Blaney took his first lead on lap 17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. beat Blaney off pit road during a lap-60 competition caution, but Stenhouse was caught speeding on pit road. His penalty handed the lead back over to Blaney.

Harvick and Chase Elliott each led laps early in the second stage before Blaney retook the lead on lap 194. Logano took his lead that led to his stage win by getting of pit road during the lap-197 caution.

Chase Elliott fiinished third after leading 112 laps, and Erik Jones rounded out the top-five.

“Just got tight, there, after the run that we had the lead, and once, we got it freed back up, but we kept getting the bottom on all the restarts, and it was just hard to go forward and what not,” Elliott said. ”But, man, that thing was really fast, there, at the end. It felt like we were making up some ground on those guys.”

Bristol was a struggle for the “Big Three” drivers who have dominated the 2018 season– Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. Busch and Harvick each were two laps down in the first half of the race.

Busch was involved in a multi-car crash on lap three. Harvick. Harvick was running second when he made an unscheduled pit stop for a vibration on lap 185. He and Busch got one of their laps back by staying out and taking the wave-around during a lap-197 caution. Then, they battled to be the first car one lap down. Busch won that battle on the final lap of the second stage that ended at lap 250, and as a result, he got back on the lead lap by virtue of the free pass.

Truex fell off the lead lap on 117 but eventually got back on the lead lap. Truex was up to second and Busch third on lap 413.

But on lap 432, Busch got into Truex, sending Truex into a spin and hard into the wall. Truex retired from the race. Busch’s team had trouble fueling his car as a result of damage, and steam rolled from his car on pit road.

“I just got hit in the left rear, pretty simple,” Truex said. “It’s a shame. We had a good night going. Started off rough. Battled hard and got the car pretty good there. I don’t know, I just got hit in the left rear.”

Busch continued but spun with a flat tire on lap 481.

Meanwhile, Harvick finished 10th.

Other top-10 finishers included Alex Bowman in eighth, and Jimmie Johnson finished ninth after an early-race pit-road speeding penalty.

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Posted by on August 19, 2018. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,Monster Energy NASCAR Cup,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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