Busch involved in late-race incident, finishes 35th at Bristol.
What was shaping up to be a solid outing for Kurt Busch and the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team in Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway came to a disappointing end when he was collected in an unavoidable incident on lap 394, resulting in heavy damage to the Haas Automation Chevrolet that would see the 24-time Sprint Cup Series winner finish the race in the 35th position.
Busch started 13th in the rain-delayed race and maintained position inside the top-15 in the early going of the race despite struggling with a tight-handling racecar. When NASCAR elected to throw a competition caution at lap 50, crew chief Daniel Knost brought Busch to pit road for routine service of four tires and fuel, but also elected to make a track bar adjustment to help correct the handling woes of Busch’s red-and-black machine.
Despite continuing struggles with the front end of his Haas Automation machine, Busch was able to advance to the sixth position before rain began to soak the track on lap 117, forcing NASCAR to display the red flag due to the inclement weather.
Some three hours later when the race restarted, Busch showed the strength of his Haas Automation Chevrolet, charging to the lead on lap 120. Busch continued to hold position inside the top-five until the halfway point of the race, when a combination of the tight-handling condition and a long green-flag run saw him fall as far back as 19th on lap 269, when he would lose a lap to the race leader.
Busch fought hard to maintain position in front of others a lap down and was rewarded for his efforts; when the caution flag waved on lap 333 for a multicar accident, he received his lap back as the first car one lap down. He restarted 16th on lap 339 and reported that the handing of his racecar had finally stabilized. Unfortunately for the 15-year Sprint Cup Series veteran, an incident on lap 394 involving a spin by his younger brother, Kyle, proved unavoidable. He went high to miss Kyle’s No. 18 machine and wound up making contact with the outside retaining wall. As a result of the damage sustained in the incident, Busch was forced to take the No. 41 behind the wall to make repairs to the right-front suspension. He was able to rejoin the field but was relegated to a less-than-desired finish.
Busch’s teammate Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, led the four-car SHR contingent by finishing fourth.
Stewart started 37th before earning his seventh top-five in 30 career Sprint Cup starts at the .533-mile oval and his 180th top-five in 525 career Sprint Cup starts.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy/Get Found Chevrolet SS for SHR, started 36th and finished 18th. It was Patrick’s 50th career Sprint Cup start and her fourth at Bristol.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 39th after a broken oil line knocked him from the lead and into the turn-one wall with 50 laps remaining. Harvick was in command of the race, having led 28 consecutive laps before misfortune struck.
Carl Edwards won the Food City 500 to score his 22nd career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his third at Bristol.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished behind Edwards in the runner-up spot, while Aric Almirola, Stewart and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top-five. Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers and Kyle Larson comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 12 caution periods for 95 laps, with five drivers failing to finish the 503-lap race, which featured a three-hour, 19-minute stoppage for rain and eventually ended under caution when more rain swept over the track.
With round four of 36 complete, Harvick leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He is 21st, 74 points behind new series leader Brad Keselowski. Stewart is 23rd, 75 points out of first. Patrick is 28th, 101 points out of first. Busch is 31st, 106 points out of first.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Auto Club 400 on Sunday, March 23 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. The race starts at 3 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by FOX beginning with its prerace show at 2:30 p.m.