Who knew a half-mile track could tear up THAT many cars. Oh wait, it wasn’t the track that caused all the damage, it was the #18!
The race kicked off with a bang (literally) on Lap 2 when Kyle Busch in the #18 got loose and out of the groove. His Toyota wiggled and door-slammed the #12 of Ryan Blaney. Busch spun after contact and created a road-block on the front straightaway which collected Bubba Wallace, AJ Allmendinger, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, and others. Wallace and Allmendinger were done for the day, while Busch was heavily damaged and went to the pits. He cleared the damage-repair clock and left pit road 3 laps down, but his day was far from over.
The intensity grew as drivers looking to make the playoffs made aggressive moves to get to the front and gain valuable points. Luckily, there weren’t any major wrecks before the stage end, just very close calls. The competition caution flew on Lap 60 to check tire wear after a rainstorm blew through the area the night before. The stage ended after a back-and-forth battle between Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick, with Blaney taking the stage victory by a mere 0.003 seconds over Harvick.
During Stage 2, the caution flew for the #38 who spun around on the backstretch on Lap 192. Fans were treated to another great battle for the lead when Chase Elliott and Joey Logano put pressure on each other and completed slide-job after slide-job as they swapped back and forth for P1. Eventually, coming out of Turn 4 to end the stage, Logano pulled ahead and picked up a much-needed playoff point.
With 70 laps to go, the cautions came fast and furious, averaging one yellow flag every 23 laps. Through all the cautions and stage-breaks, Kyle Busch incurred some much-needed wave-arounds. That plus his speed and determination, he slowly clawed his way back onto the lead lap. And despite that his car looked like it had been crushed by the Hulk, he was somehow making great lap times and managing to remain competitive. He even made it into the Top 3. At that point, Busch’s crew chief Adam Stevens came over the radio to say that they would be 7 gallons of fuel short and wouldn’t be able to make it to the end of the race. Pitting under green at Bristol means going at least 2 laps down. Busch clearly needed a caution and took the liberty of creating one when he came upon second-place Martin Truex Jr in the #78 and turned his Toyota teammate. Truex spun off the nose of the #18 slammed hard into the inside wall before bouncing back and collecting the #7 of JJ Yeley in the process.
Twenty laps after the incident, the yellow flew again for the #2 of Brad Keselowski who spun in Turn 4 after he blew a tire.
The final caution came out on Lap 481 for, you guessed it – Kyle Busch, who was racing incredibly hard to get back to the front and was bumping and banging almost everyone in his way. Coming out of Turn 4, Busch on the outside took it 3-wide with Jimmie Johnson on the inside and Chris Buescher in the middle. Busch turned down in an attempt to push Buescher into Johnson. The plan backfired when the move cause Busch’s right-rear tire to rub and eventually blew. Busch spun out, much to the crowd’s obvious delight. They cheered loudly as Busch limped back to pit road and went on to finish 20th.
On the restart, teammates Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch battled for the lead. Soon, Bowyer fell back and Busch drove off to break a 58-race winless streak with his first win of 2018.
At least one of the Busch bros had a good night.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has a weekend off before the Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Don’t miss the throwback paint schemes and great racing. Get your tickets HERE