BRISTOL, Tenn. — Kyle Busch won the Food City 300 on Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, leading 186 laps en route to collecting his 91st career NASCAR XFINITY Series victory and fifth XFINITY Series win of 2017 in the process.
“We had a great car,” Busch said post-race. “All our guys at Joe Gibbs Racing did a phenomenal job tonight. I want to thank all the fans, especially Rowdy Nation (booing) … for supporting this sweep so far. Hopefully we can close it out tomorrow night.”
In regards to the 100-win benchmark, Busch was relatively coy in his “I know, for all the fans, the countdown is on,” Busch added, referencing his declaration to stop racing in the XFINITY Series when he reaches the 100-win threshold. “It’s just cool to race with this team. It’s nice to come out and race in this series and our car was awesome today. It was awesome off the truck yesterday. We had speed and we were able to show it.”
Daniel Suarez ran in the top five virtually all night long and made it a one-two finish for Joe Gibbs Racing by finishing runner up.
“I believe (the caution) was our chance. I’m really proud of this (No. 20) team,” said Suarez afterward. “I don’t get to race with them very often, but I’ve gotten to do it twice this year and we’ve finished third and second, so it feels good. I’ve enjoyed working with new people and trying new ideas.”
Suarez also said he learned a few things racing with his mentor/ teammate. “It was a lot of fun racing right there with the No. 18 (Busch). I was maybe a little bit too tight on the exit of (Turn) 4, but I used my tires a lot trying to catch him. That’s just experience, right? It’s just part of racing. We’ll get there.”
Elliott Sadler came home third to continue a strong run of momentum towards the playoffs. “Man, we had a great car. I’m so proud of everybody on this team,” he said. “I hit the wall with 50 to go, and then I threw my water bottle out and it got in the jackman’s way and messed us up … but we rallied. We’re peaking at the right time. Everyone at JR Motorsports is giving us good race cars. We ran great here tonight; we overcame some obstacles and we’re gaining momentum. That’s a big deal for us.”
The race took a while to settle into a rhythm, as David Starr brought the first yellow flag out on lap 13 when his No. 99 Whataburger machine smacked the wall and bent the right front corner of his car significantly. That was followed by the second yellow on lap 26 when Aric Almirola’s No. 98 got into the wall on the right side in Turn 4, then was turned into Ryan Reed by Spencer Gallagher on the following lap.
In between those first two cautions, Justin Allgaier used the outside line to jump around Kyle Busch and take the lead away on lap 17.
After being involved in the second caution, Reed brought out the third caution of the night by himself when the right front suspension broke on his car and sent him straight into the outside retaining wall in Turn 3.
Busch got the lead back on the restart and went through to claim Stage 1, with Allgaier in second and Joey Logano in third.
He did not have the lead to start Stage 2, however, as he sped on pit road during the first round of pit stops and had to go to the tail end of the field. Busch was joined at the rear by Joey Logano, Brendan Gaughan, and Ty Dillon, who were also too fast.
Allgaier went back to the front to begin Stage 2 and held that position for 31 laps, until Brandon Jones got loose out of Turn 4 on lap 123 and hit the inside retaining wall. His spin brought out caution No. 5 of the race.
In that time, Kyle Busch drove from 29th to ninth. Life got even worse for Joey Logano on the next restart, as he suffered a flat tire as soon as the field went back to green.
Allgaier went back to the front on the restart, but this time had to fight off the No. 20 of Daniel Suarez in order to hold the lead. Eventually, lap 149 would mark the moment where Suarez got back to the outside and took the lead away.
While Suarez was busy wrestling the lead away from Allgaier, Busch drove back up past all of them and made sure that Suarez’ time up front was short-lived. The No. 18 was back up front by lap 157. Busch would go on to claim Stage 2 as well, followed by Allgaier, Suarez, Sadler, and Austin Dillon.
Suarez and Allgaier beat Busch off of pit road in between Stages 2 and 3, Brendan Gaughan and Tyler Reddick were the unlucky drivers caught speeding on pit road that time around, while Busch restarted third to begin the final stage.
Elliott Sadler was the winner of the ensuing four-way battle for the race lead off of the restart, which was nothing short of a battle royale between the No. 1, Suarez, Allgaier and Busch. But Busch, true to form, raced his way around all three and got the lead back on lap Jamie xx.
Busch led until the seventh caution came out for Tommy Joe Martins’ accident in Turn 2 on lap 217, after his lower control arm broke in the middle of the corner. Most of the field came back down pit road during this caution for four tires and fuel, with Elliott Sadler the only driver who lost spots (four, to be precise) in the exchange.
Ty Dillon took advantage of the restart that followed to jump to second, and Allgaier fell from third to eighth. Suarez was then able to get back to second a few laps later and restore Joe Gibbs Racing’s one-two run at the front of the field.
What looked like it was going to be a green-flag run to the end was cut short by Brendan Gaughan, who brought out the final caution of the race on lap 283 when he smacked the wall hard after getting tagged by Jeb Burton.
That would set up a nine-lap mad dash to the finish, which Busch handily control from the start to take the checkered flag on lap 300.
Brennan Poole came home sixth for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates after a strong run on the final restart of the race. He was one of the drivers who came down on the final yellow for tires and the fresh rubber paid off handsomely for his DC Solar team. “We just tried to take advantage of the situation and see if we could gain a couple more spots,” he said. “We seem to keep gaining momentum each week and we’re headed in the right direction for the playoffs.”
Daniel Hemric finished seventh for Richard Childress Racing after his pit crew got him up towards the front of the field on the penultimate pit stop. After the race, he quick to give them credit. “That’s two weeks in a row that my pit crew has really really risen up when it was time for the money stop, and I’m really proud of them. We’ve had some hurdles in that area all year, and we’ve all been trying to get better as a whole on pit road, myself included. I think we really showed that tonight and that’s what put us in position for the finish.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. made a rare start in the XFINITY Series this evening, but he was marred by a meeting with the outside wall out of Turn 2 on lap 152. He would finish 13th.
The NASCAR XFINITY Series returns to action next Sunday, Aug. 27, with the Johnsonville 180 from Road America (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM).
About the Writer
James Pike is a multi-faceted reporter for Race Chaser Online and an analyst on the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Pike is the lead correspondent for Race Chaser Online’s coverage of Australian Supercars and also covers regional touring series events in the Carolinas, including the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and the CARS Tour.
He is a graduate of the Motorsports Management program at Belmont Abbey College and currently resides in Winston-Salem, N.C.
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