Busch outduels Larson in Bristol

Kyle Busch celebrates
Getty Images for NASCAR

Kyle Busch caught a glimpse of the future, and it was in his rearview mirror coming to the final turn of Saturday’s Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Larson, making his fourth Nationwide start, trailed Busch by five car lengths with 10 laps to go but went high around lap traffic and traded paint with Busch as the two crossed the finish line 0.023 seconds apart, making it the second-closest finish ever at Bristol.

“I did everything I could to try to protect the momentum," Busch said. “A young kid like that, he’s got a lot of talent. He’s obviously made a name for himself. He was running hard, that’s for sure. He brought a lot to the table today and brought his show to the fans. "

Coming to the finish line, Busch had a decision to make: Maintain the high line or go low around the lap car of Brad Teague.

“There were two thoughts," Busch said. “You don’t ever want to give anyone the bottom for a cheap shot. Two, I ran the top in (Turns) 1 and 2 and gained so much ground on (Teague), I was afraid I was going to run into the back of him coming off Turn 4 — or I slow down any little bit and it hurts my run. Then Larson might have enough speed on the bottom to beat me back to the line. Knowing that the start-finish line is only halfway down the straightaway, I just needed to lunge off the corner to make it."

Larson, from Elk Grove, Calif., was happy to see Busch go low.

“I tried a couple of moves on Kyle around the bottle and (my car) was just a little too tight off (the corner) to get back to the throttle," he said. "The last lap, I was pretty happy he went to the bottom to block a slide-job or whatever. It gave me one more shot to try to get around him and he left me just enough room to squeeze the outside. I just missed it by a couple of feet, but it was a lot of fun."

Driving the Cottonelle Chevrolet for Turner Scott Motorsports, Larson entered the race simply seeking a solid result after finishing no better than 13th in any of his first three starts.

“We’d kind of been digging ourselves a hole," he said.

Busch, who started 13th, noted that although Larson didn’t win the race, he won a measure of respect.

“You certainly want to win races the right way," he said. “Coming up, running races in the Nationwide Series, Cup Series, I didn’t win a lot, but the ones that I did — there’s a way of going about things. There’s the way I did it and the way (Brad) Keselowski did it — ruffling a lot of feathers.

“(Larson) played it smart today. That was good on his end. I think a lot of people have been looking at him to try to see whether he was going to be a wrecker or a checker. Today he didn’t get the checker. That will come. If you’re driving into the corner and driving into the back of me — I’m going to be here for a while. … He’s not going to have fun dealing with me every week. Right now, I’m going to race him as hard as he raced me but just as clean as he raced me."

Busch, who made NASCAR history at Bristol in 2010 when he became the first driver to win all three national touring events in the same weekend, appears to be in the midst of another potentially dominant weekend. He will sit on the pole for Sunday’s Food City 500 and also turned the fastest laps in both Sprint Cup practice sessions on Saturday.

But Larson turned what looked like a battle between Busch and veteran Kevin Harvick into a three-dog fight.

“I was catching them. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I got to them," said Larson, who stayed on the gas as the two leaders battled their way through lap traffic.

Busch led 92 of the first 225 laps, however the run for the money began about Lap 230 when Busch and Harvick approached a five-car group of slower cars. It took nearly 10 laps for the lead duo to clear the pack and, by the time they did, Larson was applying pressure.

Harvick, who led 43 laps, elected to pit under caution with 32 laps remaining. Unable to match Busch’s speed while running low on the track and slated to restart on the inside lane, Harvick elected to take four fresh tires. He restarted eighth and finished fifth.

Brian Vickers and Sam Hornish Jr. finished third and fourth. Hornish extended his series lead to 22 points over Justin Allgaier, the pole-sitter who led the first 62 laps but settled for eighth.


Pos Driver Car MFG Start Laps Laps Led Status
1 Kyle Busch 54 Toyota 13 300 156 Running
2 Kyle Larson 32 Chevrolet 12 300 0 Running
3 Brian Vickers 20 Toyota 14 300 0 Running
4 Sam Hornish Jr 12 Ford 3 300 0 Running
5 Kevin Harvick 33 Chevrolet 7 300 43 Running
6 Regan Smith 7 Chevrolet 4 300 0 Running
7 Chris Buescher 16 Ford 11 300 0 Running
8 Justin Allgaier 31 Chevrolet 1 300 62 Running
9 Parker Kligerman 77 Toyota 16 300 0 Running
10 Brian Scott 2 Chevrolet 8 300 0 Running
11 Austin Dillon 3 Chevrolet 2 300 0 Running
12 Trevor Bayne 6 Ford 10 300 13 Running
13 Mike Bliss 19 Toyota 9 300 0 Running
14 Alex Bowman 99 Toyota 15 300 0 Running
15 Brad Keselowski 22 Ford 6 299 26 Running
16 Travis Pastrana 60 Ford 18 299 0 Running
17 John Wes Townley 25 Toyota 34 299 0 Running
18 Reed Sorenson 43 Ford 17 299 0 Running
19 Josh Wise 40 Chevrolet 26 298 0 Running
20 Scott Riggs 15 Ford 29 298 0 Running
21 Eric McClure 14 Toyota 24 296 0 Running
22 Brad Sweet 5 Chevrolet 27 296 0 Running
23 Mike Wallace 01 Chevrolet 33 296 0 Running
24 Joe Nemechek 87 Toyota 20 293 0 Running
25 Blake Koch 24 Toyota 39 292 0 Running
26 Dexter Stacey 92 Ford 31 292 0 Running
27 Robert Richardson 23 Chevrolet 37 291 0 Running
28 Mike Harmon 74 Chevrolet 36 285 0 Running
29 Brad Teague 70 Toyota 38 271 0 Running
30 Jason White 00 Toyota 35 261 0 Accident
31 Hal Martin 44 Toyota 25 158 0 Accident
32 Jeffrey Earnhardt 79 Ford 30 157 0 Accident
33 Jeremy Clements 51 Chevrolet 22 122 0 Accident
34 Nelson Piquet Jr 30 Chevrolet 19 104 0 Accident
35 Jamie Dick 55 Chevrolet 32 102 0 Accident
36 Elliott Sadler 11 Toyota 5 85 0 Engine
37 Jeff Green 10 Toyota 28 38 0 Vibration
38 J.J. Yeley 42 Chevrolet 21 7 0 Vibration
39 Chase Miller 46 Chevrolet 23 7 0 Ignition
40 Michael McDowell 27 Toyota 40 2 0 Handling

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