Kurt Busch put aside all question marks about his future by taking home the chequered flag in a quite brilliant Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The driver of the #41 Stewart-Haas Ford hovered in the top 10 for most of the day, but only took the lead on Lap 478 of 500 after leader Clint Bowyer spun his tyres on the restart.
Busch had to hold off the young chargers Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott over the last 10 laps but was delighted to pick up the 100th Cup Series victory for the Ford Fusion.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) August 19, 2018
Polesitter Larson largely fell backwards throughout the race but took advantage of some shrewd pit strategy and strong restarts to drag himself back towards the front.
Elliott meanwhile was one of the drivers to beat all day, leading for a large portion of Stage 2 before finishing second to Joey Logano, whilst remaining in the top 5 for nearly the whole race. He gained massively on Busch and Larson over the last few laps, but just ran out of time to secure his second win in three races.
One of the stories of the day was that of Kurt’s brother, Kyle. The younger Busch brother’s day appeared to be over before it really began when he got together with Ryan Blaney on Lap 2, spun in front of the field, and was collected by multiple cars.
With the rear of the car badly damaged, and the front suffering from a massive tyre rub, it appeared that Busch would be unable to continue. But his #18 team managed to get repairs done just inside the damage clock and he began his recovery from 2 laps down.
Kyle Busch CRASHES on Lap 2 at @BMSUpdates!
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) August 18, 2018
Over the next 400 laps, Busch was one of the fastest cars on the track and took advantage of a wavearound and a lucky dog to get back on the lead lap.
From there, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver set his sights on the leaders, making his way up to third by Lap 432. However, as Busch attempted to pass Martin Truex Jr. for second, he clipped the rear of Truex’s car, sending it careering into the barrier. Truex was furious, but not as upset as his girlfriend Sherry Pollex, who went to Twitter to show her displeasure.
Omg I can’t believe that just happened. Kyle Busch is a moron
— Sherry Pollex (@SherryPollex) August 19, 2018
Despite this, the often-divisive Busch remained in winning contention, though he fell back before the restart due to rear damage making it more difficult to put fuel in the car.
This left him with a lot of work to do in the remaining laps and ultimately his challenge would come to an end with 20 to go, when contact with Chris Buescher, whilst three-wide with Jimmie Johnson, cut down tyres on both cars.
In the battle to make the playoffs on points, it was a strong day for Alex Bowman against Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Stenhouse ran towards the front in the early stages before a pitroad speeding penalty began to unravel what could have been a big race for the #17 team.
Stenhouse says his car is handling great, maybe the fastest he’s ever had at Bristol. Unfortunately he’s scored six laps down after a few unscheduled pit stops. pic.twitter.com/fNmUJO6MT4
— Roush Fenway Racing (@roushfenway) August 19, 2018
Bowman on the other hand had a solid race in around the top 10, only picking up 1 stage point but coming home in 8<sup>th</sup> ahead of Stenhouse in 24<sup>th</sup>. This now means that he has a 79-point lead in the battle for the 16<sup>th</sup> playoff spot with just two races to go.
However, a win for a driver outside the top 16 in points at either Darlington or Indianapolis could have Bowman on the outside looking in. All this means that #NASCARThrowback weekend at the Southern 500 on September 2<sup>nd</sup> should be a thriller.
If it’s anything like Bristol then it will be a blast.