Kyle Bush went back-to-back on Monday, winning the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Bush claimed victory by using the classic Bristol move known as the bump-and-run, on runner-up Kyle Larson with five laps left. The victory came just over a day after the race started, due to Sunday rain at the speedway forcing postponement after 204 laps. “Rowdy” also won the week prior at Texas Motor Speedway. Sleet hit the track before the race resumed, but weather held long enough to get all 500 laps in.
Bush earned his 45th career victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series after starting from the pole. The end result allowed him to surpass NASCAR Hall of Famer, Bill Elliott, for 16th on NASCAR’s all-time wins list. Larson earned the most laps led at the Tennessee short track, pacing the field for 200 circuits. Larson led the restart on Lap 479, following the 13th caution of the race, where Brad Keselowski was sent into the Turn 2 wall when his left-front tire blew.
Throughout that run to the checkered, the leaders encountered lapped traffic, allowing Bush to closely stalk Larson, after passing eventual fourth-place finisher, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., until he could put the bumper to the leader through Turns 1 and 2. Larson held on that time, but as the leaders rolled through Turns 3 and 4, Bush used his Toyota to, a bit more forcefully, push Larson’s Chevrolet up the track, and assume the lead.
After the race, Bush, who led 117 laps over the two days, said the the final caution gave him what he needed over the final sprint to earn the win.
“We weren’t quite as good as the 42 (Larson) on that long run before that last caution came out,” Bush said. “I actually thought I had a tire going down, but we were able to get some tires on it and go give it everything we had.”
“We had a 20-lap shootout, and that was everything it was about right there, just chasing down that 42 and being able to get there.”
The fresh Goodyear rubber under the final caution proved to be pivotal to Bush earning a spot in Victory Lane.
“It was the best right at the end,” Busch said, who won his second straight Cup race at Bristol. “I know Larson was a little bit loose right there. It seemed like he was over-driving and trying to hold the bottom, but he was slipping out of the bottom, and I got a huge run on him and got to him and it was just on.”
“I knew I might as well just take the opportunity that I got right now. I knew it was a little early cause you tend to try to want to think about saving that bump-and-run deal for the last lap, but I just took my chance with it, and if he got back to my rear bumper, then so be it. I think that’s fair game, being able to race that way. Fortunately, I was able to run away from him and he couldn’t get back to me.”
Larson finishing second at the high-banked half-mile to Bush has become something he’s familiar with. Larson finished .628 seconds behind the No. 18 on Monday. From 2013-2015, Larson came home second from Thunder Valley in duels with Bush in the Xfinity Series, three times in the six races.
“I’ve been beat by Kyle about every time I race here, too, so that gets frustrating after a while,” Larson said. “As soon as we restarted there, I was extremely loose. The No. 17 (Stenhouse) got to my inside. I just really didn’t have any grip.”
“I thought it would tighten up for me and I could get going, but it never really did, and I was just really loose. I hate that I didn’t win. It’s another one at Bristol. I feel like every time I race here I almost get a win.”
Although it wasn’t a victory, Seven-time champion, Jimmie Johnson has a reason to be proud with finishing 3rd at BMS. He earned his first top-five of the season. Johnson started the race Sunday at the back of the field, due to a tire change at the conclusion of qualifying. Johnson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, Alex Bowman, finished a career-best fifth.
Aric Almirola, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman rounded out positions 6-10.
CONTENT NOTICE! Track Talk Episode 8 will not be featured with this story. Ep. 8 from Bristol will be placed with Ep. 9 recapping Richmond Raceway, for a special “Short-Track” edition of the Track Talk podcast.