Kyle Busch was in position to complete his second career Bristol sweep – winning the Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series events in the same weekend – but wound up thwarted in the early going of the Irwin Tools Night Race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Rather than reveling with the celebratory broom, Busch settled for an 11th-place finish at “Thunder Valley.”
But a fast racecar allowed Busch to muscle his way into the top-20 within the first 80 circuits around the half-mile bullring and riding a bullet.
Not long after completing the 100th lap around Bristol among the top-15, Busch got loose in traffic and was hit from behind by Joey Logano. The push was enough to send the Doublemint Toyota into the wall, causing damage to the splitter and misaligning the toe.
“The car wasn’t perfect early, but we were fast and could actually pass people,” Busch said. “The car just wasn’t the same after the accident. We couldn’t pass and just didn’t have any speed.”
The team worked on the car on numerous occasions throughout the remainder of the race, but it was never as good as during the first 100 laps. Crew chief Dave Rogers exercised strategy just past the halfway point of the race, electing to keep the No. 18 car out while many teams made stops.
The call placed Busch second for the restart. Although Busch made the most of the track position, the handling on the No. 18 car never gave him an opportunity to contend. He stretched the fuel mileage and brough the Doublemint Toyota home in 11th-place.
Busch’s JGR teammate Matt Kenseth won the Irwin Tools Night Race, scoring his 29th career Sprint Cup victory, his fifth of the season and his third at Bristol.
Busch’s other JGR teammate, Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota Camry, finished 28th.
Kasey Kahne finished .188 of a second behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Juan Pablo Montoya, Brian Vickers and Logano rounded out the top-five. Paul Menard, Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were 11 caution periods for 74 laps, with six drivers failing to finish the 500-lap race.
With round 24 of 36 complete, Busch continues to lead the JGR trio in the championship point standings. He remained in fifth place with 739 points, 82 behind series leader Jimmie Johnson and 58 ahead of 11th-place Brad Keselowski. Kenseth remained sixth with 736 points, 85 out of first and 55 ahead of Keselowski. Hamlin remained 25th with 456 points, 365 out of first and 229 behind 10th-place Logano.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the AdvoCare 500 on Sunday, Aug. 29 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with its pre-race show at 6:30 p.m.
Joe Gibbs Racing