MENCS: Busch Beats Prodigy, Completes the Triple


BRISTOL, Tenn. — In a classic short track duel Kyle Busch won the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race - it’s said three makes a trend, with his three race sweep of the Bristol weekend, Busch’s dominance is now undeniable.

Wednesday Busch displayed he had the goods needed to win, Friday night he showed he could continue to put things together, and Saturday he ate his proverbial cake.

Not only did he win the races, he won every single stage. No one seemed to have a chance to beat him in the Camping World Truck Series and the win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series was something slightly more difficult than a walk in the park. Erik Jones; however, wanted his name to roar in Thunder Valley.

Leading the field to the green flag, Jones never faltered, always staying within striking distance of the leader if it wasn’t one of the 260 laps he led. Busch was more than a hundred laps shy of this total and Kyle Larson was nearly 200 behind the mark. Larson was among the drivers contending for the win, but the show was between Busch and the one man worthy of being his prodigy, Jones. The veteran/rookie duo swapped the lead amongst themselves ten times.

Kenseth leads the way into turn-three. Photo by Jonathan McCoy.

The Bristol night race may have featured the best passing for the lead NASCAR will see all year. The addition of VHT/PJ1/zMAX Formula — whatever you call the sticky stuff — created a bristol capable of bump and run’s and three wide action. The best route around the half mile concrete oval was generally the bottom line, utilizing the syrup like substance NASCAR laid down to enhance the racing. Many drivers speculated the lower line would lose its muster within the first one hundred laps, but the groove never wore out. The high line only became fast once tires were severely worn.

The lower line “was where our car was best,” Jones said. “I went up top a few times in the middle of race, just couldn’t really find a lot of speed up there.”

“When I moved up to the top, I was a little worried knowing we were tight on the bottom as it was. But we found good speed. We eventually burned the top in enough and got it high enough to where I felt like we had decent speed.”

The first stage ended with a bit of a thrill. Larson went around Busch for the top spot with seven laps to go in the stage, Busch kept on his tail as they worked through a heavy section of lapped traffic. In turn one, coming back around to the green and checkered flag, Busch nudged Larson up the progressively banked hill.  The bump and run gave Busch his seventh NASCAR national series stage win in a row, if you count the last segment of each race as the third stage.

Larson held no grudges after the race, actually he complimented him.

Seven of the ten lead changes between Busch and Jones came in the second stage. It was no wonder Busch noticed Jones’ talent on the short tracks at the beginning of the decade. To a certain degree Saturday marked the end of the rise of Jones, sure he still has to get that first win but tonight he cemented his ability.

A caution with 17 laps left in the second stage left Busch with a decision to make: to pit under the caution so he’d be out front to begin the back half of the race, or to stay out and fight for an eighth straight stage win. Busch elected to drive No. 18 Caramel M&Ms Toyota to his pit-stall, and considering he won the race it wasn’t a hard pill to swallow.

“It would have” meant something to Busch to win the stage. “We forfeited that stage, essentially,” said Busch.

“That’s not going to weigh on me too much here. I’m not going to worry about that. People aren’t gonna — they aren’t going to put it on that big banner here, ‘Kyle Busch sweeps the weekend and all stages except one,’ so I’m not worried about it.”

The third stage ran to the end of the race; it started off with a 98 lap green flag run, Jones led each one of those. Drivers were saved from their wearing tires when Trevor Bayne’s rubber ran out, he blew a tire and gave the turn one wall a shunt. With the field re-condensed two more accidents occurred with 103 and 83 laps left in the 500 lap event.

Jones held point to begin the final run but with 56 laps to go Busch took command during a ferocious three way battle for the lead, he and Matt Kenseth went around Jones. Jones wanted to make sure they both had to look back, using their rearview mirror. He and Kenseth dueled for awhile but eventually the rookie prevailed over the veteran he’s replacing next year.

It was hard racing, bumpers banged – Jones showed his technical prowess and willingness to be aggressive. He did this so well he was asked about his respectful bumping after the race, but with Kenseth seated next to him he was unable to hear the entire question over Kenseth’s bit.  ”I was asking Erik how you run into somebody respectfully,” Kenseth said.

Matt Kenseth and Erik Jones battle in the waning laps of the Bass Pro Shop NRA Night race. Photo by Jonathan McCoy.

Upon further conversation it became evident Kenseth wasn’t aware of the contact. Kenseth asked Jones, “did you hit me?”

“Just barely,” said Jones.

“Didn’t remember. Shouldn’t have brought it up, now I’m mad” chuckled Kenseth to a room full of laughter. “Takes my ride and runs into me.”

For a man without a car to drive next season Kenseth seemed rather content, his all smiles attitude was nearly uncanny.

Jones charged after Busch, coming as close as a couple of tenths from the lead. In typical bristol fashion, whomever passed lapped traffic the best had the advantage.

“It just seemed like Kyle and I were trading lap times,” Jones said after the race. “He would catch traffic, we’d run him down. I’d catch some traffic, lose him a bit. Every time I got close to him, I would get my tires too hot. I just had to run it way too hard to make any lap time. I was just right on the edge of it the whole time, which is not what you’re looking for in a great racecar.”

Jones didn’t have enough to catch Busch as the laps left clicked to zero, leaving Busch to complete one of the hardest feats in NASCAR for the second time in his career.


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About Camden Lazenby

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1 Comment

  1. Mary Hamilton

    August 20, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    he cheats and the sooner nascar makes sure of that we will all be satisfied

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