NASCAR

NXS: Kyle Larson Gets Breakthrough Bristol Win

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Victorious in the Food City 300 — for the first time in his career, Kyle Larson is a winner at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Leading 202 of the 310 laps run — the scheduled distance was 300 laps — Larson collected his fourth win of the season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and amassed his eighth t0p-10 finish in the nine races.

“I haven’t started looking for a broom,” said Larson, referring to a potential sweep of his races this weekend. “I got half the job done. It’d be awesome to get two wins here this weekend.

Earlier in the evening Larson qualified his No. 42 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 on the pole for Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. Between the NXS win and the MENCS pole, Larson may have the most momentum he’s had all season.

Kyle Larson drives around the rim of the race track during the Food City 300. Photo by Jonathan McCoy.

The current Joe Gibbs Racing prodigy, Christopher Bell finished in second. He was Larson’s biggest challenger throughout the race and his finish made him the highest placing rookie of the race. It’s his 14 top-10 in 22 races.

“I needed to not lead Jason (Ratcliff), my crew chief, down the wrong path there on the second to last run,” said Bell. “I told him I couldnít afford to be any looser and that was probably our best run speed-wise and he tightened me up and I just got a little bit too tight. On top of being a little bit too tight, I had the wrong restart line and just lost some track position and never could get it back up there. We got the good restart when it mattered, so thatís all that counts.”

Bell has stated this week he intends on running for the NXS championship, again next season, but he’s also made it apparent that he’s ready to race with the stars. Like Larson, he has an affinity for dirt racing. He battled Larson for the lead during this year’s Chili Bowl before Larson was regulated by a souring engine.

“Iíve been waiting a long time for that Ė me and Kyle to race. It seems like whenever weíre dirt racing, weíre racing each other a lot, but we havenít really got to race each other on pavement yet. It was really fun to be able to race really hard with him.”

Bell leads Elliott Sadler down the back stretch. Photo by Jonathan McCoy.

“The biggest thing that he was able to do today was that he was just risking it a lot more than I was,” said Bell. “On the top side he was forcing the rubber and pushing the marbles up and using the wall a little bit. I never really got comfortable enough to do that and then there at the end I was back in traffic and never got to the opportunity to need to use that to run him down. I felt like I had a little bit more in the bank whenever I was chasing him because like I said, he was using the whole race track, he was using the wall, everything and I was leaving myself a little bit of a buffer and I just never was up to him at the end to use it.Ē

Bell led the race for 18 laps and was the only driver to pass Larson for the lead under green flag conditions. The 20-year-old may not have won the race but he was relishing every bit of the action on track. “I was smiling inside my helmet so big,” said Bell, this is the first time Iíve gotten to run the real Bristol where the top rubbers in and you get going around there pretty good.

“That was the most fun Iíve had in a stock car man. I love lapped traffic and Kyle (Larson) loves lapped traffic too. We grew up racing without spotters where lapped traffic was a huge factor of the race and then you go to 90 percent of the NASCAR tracks that are big enough and spotters have enough time to communicate and they just kind of get the lapped cars out of your way. Here at Bristol, thatís not the case, you have to navigate the lapped traffic and thatís what makes this place really fun.Ē

The other well known Kyle, Kyle Busch, started the race by leading 69 laps, but would retire from the event after being the reason for caution on lap 71. Busch was running the outside line of the race track when his No. 18 slipped up the race track and glanced off the SAFER barrier. Soon after he cut a tire and pounded the outsider wall.

ďJust rubber on top of rubber. The rubber build up that was happening,” said Busch. “I just got into the corner a little too hot and just got up into the fence a little bit and then I donít know, two or three laps later it blew out.Ē

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