NASCAR: Tensions flare at Bristol; Kurt Busch survives, snaps yearlong winless streak

Kurt Busch has raced in all 25 NASCAR Cup Series events at Kansas Speedway.
Kurt Busch has raced in all 25 NASCAR Cup Series events at Kansas Speedway. AP File Photo

Call it ol’ school, or bumping-and-grinding, or whatever other saying you want. Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway can only truly be described one way:

Exciting as hell.

Kyle Busch wrecked on the second lap to throw everything into disarray, and first position was a turnstile from then on. Ryan Blaney led, and then Joey Logano, and then Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson — heck, it was as if half the drivers were on the lead lap led at some point.

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But with about 20 laps to go, it was Bowyer and Kurt Busch gunning for position on the restart. Bowyer gave it his best ... and the elder Busch smoked him anyways. Larson tried to sniff Busch’s bumper again in the closing laps, but for all the drama in the first 495 laps, the last five were as orderly as they come.

And the way it all shook out? Larson with another second-place finish, Kyle Busch in the garage, and Kurt Busch back in Victory Lane for the first time since the 2017 Daytona 500.

Race breakdown

Stage 1: It only took two laps for Bristol to make a mess of everyone’s plans — Kyle Busch got loose and spun into the middle of the track, wrecking Kurt Busch, Bubba Wallace and others. Ryan Blaney assumed the lead soon after and led the rest of the first stage, narrowly staving off Kevin Harvick by .003 of a second.

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Stage 2: Blaney battled with Chase Elliott and Joey Logano for most of the stage, with Logano barely beating Elliott for his third stage win this season. Kyle Busch also battled with Harvick for free pass position to get himself back on the lead lap.

Stage 3: After Kyle Busch surged into the Top 5 with about 75 laps left, he got into the back of Martin Truex Jr. and spun the No. 78 hard into the wall.

Kurt Busch celebrates with his wife, Ashley Van Metre, after winning Saturday night’s Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn. Wade Payne AP

Three who mattered

Kurt Busch: He stole the lead from Clint Bowyer with 18 laps to go ... only for his younger brother to wreck and cost him the top spot. Good thing he nailed the subsequent restart, pulled out in front by a comfortable margin, and rode to his first victory since last February.

Kyle Larson: He got bumped off the lead in the final laps at Bristol this spring, and another second-place finish is the last thing he wants. Praising any playoff points from his runner-up finish is what Larson should do, but it’ll take time for him to get over back-to-back Bristol disappointments.

Kyle Busch: His wreck on the second lap of the race should have doomed his day (like it did for several others), but by the last 75 laps, he had worked his way back into the Top 5. Then he wrecked Truex, only to crash himself with 18 laps to go — all that work, and impact on the race, and he didn’t even finish.


Bristol’s spring race was postponed a day due to rain, and bad weather was also a threat this weekend. NASCAR ultimately moved the start time up to 6:45 p.m., and there ended up not being a single rain delay or stop during the race.

Austin Dillon failed pre-race inspection three times Saturday afternoon, relegating him to start from the rear of the field. Dillon would ultimately finish 13th, although he did run in the Top 5 for a few laps.

Drivers were introduced with walk-out songs on Saturday, and the clear favorite? Kyle Busch, who walked out to “All I Do Is Win”... and then told fans, “I don’t need no introduction.”

They said it

“I hope he goes and kicks his ass.” – Sherry Pollex, Truex’s longtime girlfriend, on Twitter after Kyle Busch wrecked the No. 78.

Brendan Marks: 704-358-5889, @brendanrmarks