Kyle Busch Battles Back for Food City 500 Win, Busch Brothers 1-2 Finish
For the second short track race of the season, there were plenty of storylines at Bristol. After a long and attrition-filled afternoon, it was Kyle Busch who won the Food City 500. This win marks his 8th at Bristol, 3rd of 2019, and the 54th checkered flag of his Cup Series career. Even more impressive is the fact that both Busch brothers finished 1-2 for only the second time ever. A questionable call at the end gave the Busch brothers prime track position, was that call a mistake?
Costly Prerace Penalty for Harvick
On race morning at Bristol, Kevin Harvick’s number 4 Mustang failed inspection 3 times. As a result of this, Harvick would start the Food City 500 from the rear, in addition to serving a pass-through penalty on pit road at the start. Lastly, the 4 team’s race engineer was also ejected. This series of penalties would put Harvick in a nearly insurmountable hole for the day. It would take Harvick nearly the entire day to regain the lead lap, and he would only finish 13th.
Early Chaos in Food City 500
The craziness kicked off early in the Food City 500, as there was contact at the front of the pack that triggered an accordion effect. Outside polesitter Wiliam Byron got loose on lap 2, sending Aric Almirola into the wall and to an early exit. As a result of this contact, 17th-place starter Kyle Busch slowed up. Ricky Stenhouse Jr, who was behind Busch’s 18, did not anticipate the immediate stoppage, and sent Busch around. This was eerily similar to how Busch started off last August’s race at Bristol, as he spun early then too.
For the start of the race, polesitter Chase Elliott led the way until he found trouble on lap 39. While the 9 was trying to lap Ryan Preece, the 47 had a tire go down, and spun coming out of turn 4. Similarly to Busch’s incident, Elliott got run over from behind by Corey Lajoie. Miraculously, when Elliot spun he kept it off the wall and had minimal damage. However, the 9 of Elliott would lose power steering after this, and amazingly went on to finish 11th.
Pit Strategy Shakes Up Stage 1 Results
With just 7 laps remaining in Stage 1 of the Food City 500, Daniel Hemric spun to bring out a yellow. This caution dragged some of the leaders to pit road. But some also chose to stay out in hopes of a Stage win. The top 2 on the restart would be Clint Bowyer and Ty Dillon. Bowyer chose to restart the 2 lap dash to close Stage 1 from the inside lane, which in hindsight may have been a mistake. On the restart, Dillon stayed even with Bowyer in the preferred outside line. The 13 Germain Racing Chevrolet would lead both laps and take the Stage win by about 2 feet over Bowyer. This marks Ty Dillon’s first ever Stage win, as well as his first ever laps led at Bristol. After the upset Stage win, the younger Dillon brother would finish 15th in the Food City 500.
Penske Power Breaks Through in Stage 2
For the entirety of Stage 2 in the Food City 500, a Team Penske Ford Mustang led the way. Penske’s trio of Keselowski, Logano, and Blaney had arguably the strongest cars in Bristol, as they all led laps. Keselowski started the Stage out front, but he could not escape the grasps of Logano. The 22 eventually passed the 2 on lap 145, and held on to a commanding Stage 2 win. Following Stage 2 another Penske driver took over the lead, Ryan Blaney.
The 12 of Blaney appeared to be one of the strongest cars out front, as he led for 98 laps. For much of the last half of the Food City 500, Blaney traded the lead with Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano. Immediately as Bowyer passe Logano for the lead on lap 375, a debris caution would be thrown.
Undr this debris yellow, Bowyer held the lead after a stellar pit stop by the 14 crew. However, Kyle Busch would take the top spot from Bowyer after the restart on lap 384. This would be the 18’s first time out front all day, as he suffered heavy damage in the lap 2 spin.
Bad Day Gone Worse for Larson
Kyle Larson came into the Food City 500 with big expectations, after running 2nd in both Bristol races last year. However, the 42’s day went far from expectations, as Larson would bring out a caution on lap 416. Larson was running behind the 52 car, and got loose after having to slow down so much. Larson’s spin would also take out William Byron.
Under this caution, the lead did change but it was short-lived. Denny Hamlin’s pit crew only put 2 tires on his car to get him the top spot, but he would be busted for speeding. This penalty sent Hamlin to the rear of the field, and put Busch back in prime position. But this race was far from over, as Busch would have to contend against Clint Bowyer as well as all 3 of the Penske cars.
On the restart, Busch left 2nd place Clint Bowyer in the dust, as the 14 had a terible restart from the inside lane. Just a few laps later Bowyer would bring out a yellow by hitting the wall, as his car’s handling went away rapidly. With Bowyer now out of contention, it was shaping up to be a batle between Busch and the Penske trio.
Penske Has the Race in Hand Late
On lap 454, Brad Keselowski rocketed by Kyle Busch for the top spot, looking for his 3rd win of 2018. Not long after, Logano would pass Busch for 2nd, putting the Penske team in prime position for another 1-2 day. Although the final caution of the day would change everything for the Penske cars.
With just 22 laps remaining, Kyle Larson brought out another yellow by hitting the wall again. Pit strategy was split among the leaders, as the Penske cars all made their way into the pits. In order to gain track position, Kyle Busch stayed on the track, and would line up alongside his brother Kurt. On the restart with just 14 laps left in the Food City 500, the Busch brothers were 1-2.
Late Charge by Logano as Brothers Battle in Out
After restarting 8th on 4 fresh tires, Logano quickly gained ground on the Busch brothers. Within just a few laps he was in 3rd, but he was not closing in on the leaders fast enough. Up front, Kyle had scooted away to a half-second lead over Kurt, but the 1 also mounted a late charge. Kurt was closing in on Kyle, but with just 3 laps left he would drift wide into the wall. Kurt would still manage to finish 2nd behind Kyle, who would collect the Food City 500 win.
For just the second time ever, the Busch brothers would take the top 2 spots. Behind the brother duo, Joey Logano would take 3rd. Following them, it was Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Paul Menard, Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Newman, and Jimmie Johnson in the top 10.
Significance of the Food City 500 Win for Kyle Busch
For 2 straight years now, Kyle Busch has won the Food City 500, and has also won 3 of the last 4 Bristol races. Bristol also marked his 3rd win of 2019, which leads everyone just 8 weeks into the year. In addition, his was Kyle’s 54th career Cup Series win, which is tied with Lee Petty for 10th-most all time. Kyle’s 8 career Bristol wins lead all active drivers, as he’s now within striking distance of the record 12 wins mark at BMS.
How to Watch the Next Race
Week 9 for the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be Richmond Raceway. The Toyota Owners 400 marks the first Saturday night show of the year on the 3/4 mile short track. Kyle Busch swept the Richmond races last year, so can he keep his winning ways going? Tune in to find out. Coverage will be on Fox, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on April 13 at 7:30 PM EST.